The address of this little market is 261 Changhua Lu, near Kangding Lu. Look for a small entrance to the alleyway (above). I was the only foreigner there and everyone stared a lot (not surprising, but always a bit uncomfortable!) You can read another article about it here.
One of the things we did on my friend Suzy’s shopping tour was tour a silk factory. Suzhou is famous for its silk, but few people know that there is actually a silk factory in Shanghai too. “Factory tour” sounds very boring in itself – it wasn’t though!
As soon as the receptionist saw Suzy, she went back to get an English-speaking guide. They had silk worms and cocoons preserved in jars to show the stages of their development.
There are two types of cocoons – single and double. The sing cocoon has just one silk worm in it. They soak the cocoons, find the end of the silk string and this machine unravels the entire cocoon in one long thread of silk!
The double cocoons, which have two silk worms in them, aren’t able to be unraveled like the single ones. They are soaked, then stretched wet, let dry, and stretched by four people by hand to make one layer of a duvet.
The girls let us try to stretch one…. but we didn’t get it even at all! The silk was incredibly strong. A silk duvet is made of hundreds of these layers, all stretched out by hand.
A silk quilt is never stitched. The silk layers just don’t move – they don’t bunch up at the end like a normal duvet. Our guide folded and shook out this one to prove it, then let us try to get the filling to move too. It didn’t happen.
There were all type of quilts, bed covers, and a huge amount of clothing for sale. It was all very nice. It made me realize how ripped off we got when we bought our duvet cover at the fabric market. Suzy also taught us how to tell if something is real silk. I thought if it caught your fingers it was real, but now there are types of super-smooth silk, so that method doesn’t work anymore.
I’d seen a lot of people carrying the silk duvets around at train stations (especially Suzhou) and I thought it was so strange that they’d bring a blanket when traveling! Now I realize they are silk duvets and they are quite special.
My friend Suzy does custom shopping tours (Shopping Tours Shanghai), both for tourists and locals. Last week, I went on one of her tours. Wow, it was a FULL day!
We started off at 9:30, and managed to hit eight different places to shop. I was surprised she had so many different places to show us. We were driven around town in a mini-van, which was very convenient as we could leave all of our purchases in the van.
Cindy, an American from Texas, and Robyn, an Australian from Melbourne, were also on the tour. They’d both found out about the tour on TripAdvisor. Shopping Tours Shanghai is the number 1 rated thing to do in Shanghai! Suzy said that if there are more than 6 people, she brings her partner so they can split up to give everyone more personal attention.
First stop was the fabric market. Suzy really has the timing down for her tours – I have never seen the fabric market so empty. Right after it opens is definitely the best time to go. Suzy gave us a cheat sheet to her preferred vendors, but told us we could buy from anywhere and she would help us negotiate. The people on the list were people she’d worked with before and she would personally guarantee the quality and fit.
Suzy said the men are the worst at the fabric market, because they all want suits and shirts and there are so many choices! She recently had a client order 5 suits and 20 shirts! (I can’t imagine picking fabric for 20 shirts!) When they were delivered to his hotel, he was so pleased that he ordered 2 MORE suits on the spot.
Cindy getting measured for pants.
Cindy managed to find a leather jacket that fit her perfectly, so she didn’t have to wait to have it made.
The next stop was a pottery store. I thought I knew what Chinese pottery was… just vases with those blue designs, right? Wrong. We went to a very modern design place. It really reminded me of Swedish design – cool, clean lines. I have my eye on a set of vases modeled after different Kung Fu poses and a vase that hangs on the wall. I really wish I would have known about this place when we moved to Shanghai – it would have been so much better to get our plates and glasses from here than IKEA!
We were ahead of schedule, so we stopped at a store that sometimes has overruns of name brands. I bought a short black dress that can be strapless. It seems pretty short for a dress, but that’s how the Shanghai girls wear them…. I think I need some tights to go with it.
Every time we were in the van, Suzy explained some of Shanghai’s more interesting history and information about daily life here. It was nice to get a bonus city tour!
Next up was a store with Chinese gifts, such as business card holders, address books, photo albums, DVD carrying cases, etc. It was down an alley, and up on the 5th floor of a building with a scary-looking elevator. I have no idea how Suzy managed to find this place. I bought a few “male” gift items… it is so hard to find good guy gifts! Girls are really easy to find stuff for as there is an abundance of pearls and purses here. On the way back to the van, Suzy took us through a local market – very interesting if you’ve never experienced it before!
We visited a home furnishing store that had cool lamps & furniture. Cindy bought a few tiles with traditional Chinese scenes in them. There was a really cool jewelry case that was like a wardrobe. Suzy had a very tall friend that had one custom-made for her height and shipped home.
The next shop had peasant art, gifts, furniture, embroidery, and many other things. I bought a few of the Chinese opera mask bottle openers. They are great “guy” gifts and Jon and I always keep some on hand for gifts. I also have my eye on a wine cupboard there. It looks like a traditional piece of Chinese furniture, but the door spins around and has a wine rack and glasses rack inside.
Here’s an example of “peasant art” or folk art. If we ever have children, I think I’ll decorate the nursery with it. The bright, bold colors would be great for children and would still be appropriate for adults too. Better than Barney!
Lunch was at an upscale Shanghainese restaurant. Robyn had been on a city tour the previous day, and could hardly eat anything because she was allergic to seafood. Her husband said the food was very bland anyway. Robyn said she had resigned herself to the same unappetizing food today, and was astonished at how good the food was. She really just gushed over how delicious the food was for most of the meal!
Suzhou is famous for it’s silk and has a lot of silk factories. Well, there is one in Shanghai too! We stopped by for a tour. It was really interesting – interesting enough that I’m going to do a separate post on it.
The final stop of the day was the pearl market. Suzy said when she began giving tours a year ago, she didn’t have a place that she recommended to get pearls. One woman didn’t take Suzy to bargain for her and was really ripped off, so after that she made sure that for each market on the tour, she had vendors she could trust. She showed us the only stall at the market where you can’t bargain (though if you buy several things she will give you a little discount.) I bought a pair of Victoria’s Secret Pink pajama pants for me and a Harley Davidson shirt for Jon. They are real – factory overruns most likely. Robyn and Cindy bought a few gifts, DVDs and purses. A previous client had asked to see the highest quality copies and ended up buying 11 purses! (Somehow I don’t think my husband would be very happy if I came back with 11 purses!)
During the ride back to the hotel, Suzy wrote down a few sites she suggested to the visitors. She also wrote down where we could find more bargains – Cindy and I were interested in jeans, so she told us the market to go to, the name of “her lady” and how much we should pay for them. I can’t wait to check it out; it’s so hard to find jeans that fit, even at home.
Satisfied customers with some of their purchases.
I was exhausted at the end of the day – we’d went to so many more places than I ever thought we would on a tour. At most places, the ladies asked if I’d ever been there. At all but the two markets the answer was “no.” I was almost embarrassed to admit to it since I’ve lived here over two years! The shopping tour certainly took me to places I’d never have found on my own. There was no pressure to buy anything – Suzy doesn’t get any commission. No commission is the whole principle her business is based on. She told us that when the concierge at a hotel arranges to have guests taken shopping, his commission is 800 RMB. I can’t imagine how much the shops gouge those people if they can afford to pay the concierge $120 USD!
I think this tour is one of the “hidden secret” ones. She doesn’t really advertise; just has internet information. If you’ve found my blog because you are moving to Shanghai – I’d advise you to have Suzy help find all of the things you need after the move right away. For those visiting the city – it’s definitely a great way to get your shopping done , save money and see the city. The tour has gotten rave reviews on TripAdvisor.Note: If anyone has an interesting place or thing to do in Shanghai that you’d like me to check out, please leave it in the comments. I have a whole list of things I want to do and I’m going to blog about them too.