Saturday, May 19, 2012

Long Wander Saturdays

I love junk. I think this must be a tendency I get from my mom, for, as my dad will gladly tell you, my mother is up to her eyeballs in junk. I go in for a slightly different kind of junk than her, which is good, since there are fewer Wal-Marts here in Shanghai and they have distinctly different merchandise, but I can't deny the fact that I do like buying stuff. And on the streets of Shanghai, usually here in Hongqiao along our very favorite road, Hongmei Lu, on blankets spread out on the sidewalks, you can buy a wide assortment of junk. And somehow, until today, it never occurred to me to wonder where the purveyors of all that crap got it from.

Today I found out.
Last week I paired my trip to the fabric market with a long wander around Tianzifang (which I still haven't written about, but I will before I leave Shanghai, as it's one of my most favorite places here). It was a nice chance to stretch my legs and kill some time before a friend's housewarming party, and I decided to do the same thing after this week's fab market run (in which I had to have one tailor work some more on the cashmere skirt they made me, and ordered 3 more pairs of corduroy pants from another tailor, who totally nailed the ones I ordered a week ago). I decided that after I would walk from the fabric market to the Peach Garden Mosque via a gritty, local area (gritty as in: I've learned how to tell which eggs are the delicacies with chick embryos in them...they have a slightly green cast. I know because at least one of them was cracked open at every stall selling them so you could see they were selling you good, fertilized eggs. Yum). There wasn't a lot to see at the Peach Garden Mosque, so I went onward to the Confucianist temple on Wenmiao Lu.
Now, you might rightly ask exactly how many temples I've seen in my travels abroad. And you might rightly ask exactly how different they can all be, even if we are just limit our talk to Asia. The truth is, not that much, and yet, I have been to a fair number of them. But I'll let you in on a little secret. Sometimes, in Shanghai, you forget that you're in Asia (well, apart from the tons of people crowding around you speaking Chinese). Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that there are things here that are different, in a nice way. Like so:
And thanks to the rain today, it was even less crowded than anywhere in Shanghai has any right being. It was nice. And hey - your 10 kuai admission price came with a tea ceremony.
Little caveat for you, though - the girl preparing your tea will make six or seven different kinds, and will go on making you as many kinds of tea as you like. It's a nice way to rest your feet, but if you haven't scheduled any bathroom breaks on your wander you may find yourself in trouble later on...
I finished checking out the temple, then went on my way toward my ultimate goal: the Dongtai Rd Antiques market. However, I forgot to orient myself and when I came to a major road I started following it, thinking I was on Xizang Lu when I was on Renmim Lu, and went a block or so too far. This turned out okay, because while I was figuring my problem out I realized I could stop by the Bird, Fish, and Insect Market. If you are starving to see some wildlife, like, perhaps a squirrel or chipmunk, this might be the only place in Shanghai to do it. Of course, though, these aren't exactly wild. And I warn you, it's not for the faint of heart. This place wouldn't exist in the states because it would get PETA all up in arms...but we're not in the states. And the most amazing thing about this place is the crickets. The photo above here? Those are cricket cages, and they're all filled up. That bit in the movie Mulan about the lucky cricket is true, and it's not a thing of the past. The sound alone is amazing. And these are not our friendly little tiny American crickets - these crickets could beat the snot out of a grasshopper.
So I finally had my fill of crickets and other assorted living things, and crossed the street over to the antique market. It really was a treat.
You can buy everything from silver "Tibetan" jewelry here to ceramic Mao statues to paintbrushes, hardware for doors....all sorts of crap.
If I hadn't blown all my spending money this month at the fabric market on leather pants and Chinese style winter vests, I might have done it here. As it it, when I get paid again I might come back here and get some crap for my nearest and dearest. Best part of buying souvenirs here? You'll never have to worry about taking off the "Made in China" sticker.