Friday, 16 November 2007

The rain, the fabric market and Times Square

Part I : Fabric market

Well as if the cold weather wasn't bad enough it started raining this morning! Ah, if there is one thing I despise as much as cold temperatures it's the rain. It's funny because ever since I was fairly young I can remember telling people I hate the rain and they always say to me "I love the rain, I love the smell of the rain." Maybe I'm weird but give me blue skies and sunshine any day!

Back home we are having droughts and water shortages because it doesn't rain enough and everyone welcomes the rain (fair enough). I don't think it rains here that much either (the grass is not that green, or maybe it's just the pollution covering the greenness ;) ) so anyway I've been told that the rain washes away the pollution (if only for a short while) so I guess that's a good thing.

I was feeling particularly gloomy to go with this gloomy weather and finally decided to make my trek out to the fabric market. I have been to both of them and not once have I ever gotten anything made for myself! I was missing out... wasn't I? Anyway I actually wanted to get some cushion covers made for our couch since I've only ever seen hideous patterns in the shops. Well that was easier said than done!

Since they specialize in making clothes they pretty much only sold dress fabrics but in the end I did find a store that sold cotton fabric with various prints, designed for the export market so they weren't too hideous, tacky and Chinesey ;) like the ones I saw in the stores that sold fabric for making bed sheets and quilt covers.

I had been planning to get a nice winter coat made but I was still umming and erring about the colour. I don't look that great in black unless it's black pants or a black top (but not both at the same time), but a black overcoat just makes me look totally blah. I already own a nice dark grey one but that's at home. I have a red wool/cashmere one which I brought from home, and a camel one which I bought in Shanghai last time I came (and I brought it back 'home'!) and my other non wool/cashmere coats/jackets are blue and dark khaki green/brownish colour.

The colour I wanted was white/cream/beige which I think really suited me. But the practical side of my brain kept saying "Noooo, are you crazy?! It's going to get sooooo dirty! esp if it rains, when there are crowds, when the underside of your sleeve rubs against a table or something, etc."

So although I had collected various pictures on the internet I didn't print them out and bring them today because I wasn't expecting to have any coats made today because I still wasn't 100% sure of which colour to get.

So, as I am roaming the three floors of this building (the Dongmen Lu one, not the Lujiabang Lu one) I came across various coats that had almost exactly what I was looking for. I wanted white/beige cashmere with a black trim. I just got this idea into my head and that's what I wanted and to my utter shock and amazement there were samples there with that colour scheme! I saw at least 3 shops with coats in this colour scheme. I felt the fabric and was tempted to try them on but nah.. I was getting sidetracked. Back to cushion covers...

... But wait! What is that? Is that what I think it is? OMG it is the most perfect thing ever. I have to stop at this stall to try this coat on. OMG. The cashmere is so soft and so thick and mega warm (and has an interesting texture to it) and it has a lovely black satin trim on the lapel/collar and black satin covered buttons, just gorgeous. I ummed and ahhed for ages and managed to knock almost 200RMB off the price (don't know if that is good or not) and told her the changes I wanted - double breasted instead of single, buttons all the way up to the top, concealed pockets also with the black satin trim, the vent at the centre back, shoulder pads,... I think that's it. I am very particular. So I pick it up in 10 days time, fingers crossed it (and the cushion covers) turn out!

PS - if you are a fashionista the fabric market is a dream come true. Floors and hundreds of stalls of fabrics in oodles of colours all under the one roof (with escalators and toilets! ha!) Samples at every store of potential creations. Bring your own pictures or view their samples or their books with colour photos. All tailor made to fit YOU and all at a bargain price! Due to the rain and the fact that this market is lesser known and that it was a weekday it was actually pretty quiet (just the way I like it and why I think I got a good price) but I still saw a few foreigners walking around, and walking out with big bags of clothes!

* Shiliupu (ex Dongjiadu Lu market)
Dongmen Lu near Zhonghua Lu

* South Bund Spinning Market
399 Lujiabang Lu

Part II: Times Square

I've been past there a few times but have only been inside twice. Both times I seem to have some kind of bad luck there. The first time I went (about two months ago) I wanted to go to Slice Deli to pick up some pies. While I was there I thought I may as well have lunch there. So I ordered my smoked salmon bagel thing and found a table and got some magazines to read while I waited. I waited, and waited, and waited.. almost 30 mins later (no exaggeration) I was totally starving (think it was almost 3pm) and asked them where my order was. Would you believe they 'forgot' about it and had not even started to make it? I was fuming on the inside be remained calm. They tried to placate me with some home made sweet potato chips. Hmm... Not only that, you are not allowed to smoke inside that cafe and these stupid locals were puffing up like no tomorrow and they let them do this for a while before finally telling them they couldn't or had to go outside.

I had heard of this great bookstore, Chaterhouse which apparently sold a large number of English books. So I went downstairs and checked it out. Large selection? Yeah if you like fiction! Hmm... The only thing I wanted to look at was a Lonely Planet (or other brand) travel guidebook on Japan. They actually had a great selection of English travel books but NONE on Japan. There was one on every single country on the planet but none on the one country I was interested in. I asked the very unhelpful saleslady why and she just said "It's a very popular country." Hmm...

So then I went to Cityshop. After all my time in Shanghai it was the first time I had been to this foreign-goods orientated supermarket. Although this store was quite small I was pleasantly surprised by the range of goods. It even sold Australian muesli bars and biscuits!! Woohoo! I bought some lovely bagels from there and made something out of them and my husband complimented me on them and that's a rarity given how rarely I cook! The reason I am mentioning the bagels is soon to come.

Then I went back to Slice to pick up the pies. They charged a whopping 5RMB more just to have a hot one instead of a frozen one. Why would I go all the way to this deli (pay 55 RMB for lunch which is about the same price as I'd pay for something similar in Australia) and then bring home a frozen pie?? Ridiculous! So of course I had to get the heated ones (esp. given we have no oven at home). They were delicious but too small and expensive I think (typical expat pricing).


First I went to Zara to see if a bag I saw in the Superbrand Mall store was there as I was still keen on it. I looked over the two storeys and it wasn't there. The only thing I wanted to see and it wasn't there. Actually that's not entirely true. I think the stock must get sold out heaps quicker in the Times Square store as the SBM store had other stuff that I guess was sold out at TS too.

I went to Slice Deli again (glutton for punishment I guess) and ordered something different. I wish I hadn't though. The bread was rock hard and it was cold. Not just the bread, but the fillings as well. Everything was cold. And hard. So hard I could not for the life of me cut it. So I asked them to heat it up for me. So it was better, but still impossible to cut. I actually had visions of something out of a movie - of the bread flying off my plate, across the room, and landing on someone else's table (or worse - their head). Then I realised why, the knife was a butter knife (blunt as anything). I only got through the top layer and then gave up and ate it with my hands.

Then I went to Cityshop to get these fantastic bagels again and they had sold out! I couldn't believe it. The one thing I wanted in that whole supermarket was sold out. They had every other type of bread there, just not the one I wanted - ARGH! OK so I pushed the cute little trolley around and picked up random stuff that caught my eye. Then I went to queue up. There were only two people in front of me (each buying only a small number of goods) so I didn't think it would take long. While the guy in front of me was being served, this man out of nowhere carrying some onions just pushed in front of me and dumped his onions on the conveyor belt.

Ok, ok, ok... another day, another time he may have gotten away with it (especially since he only had one item and I had about 7 or 8) but given my mood, given this crappy weather, given that I constantly have polite Japanese people on my mind.. he was not going to get away with it! I said to him in my very basic Mandarin, "There's a queue you know? Do you think you don't have to queue?" I actually thought he would argue with me but he didn't say anything. He just kinda sighed and huffed and moved back a bit, but didn't give me enough room to actually get my trolley next to the conveyor belt. Hmmm... To my amazement the guy in front of me actually smiled at me and applauded me and said, "What you did was right." I couldn't believe it. Only in China, right?! Ha!

P.S. I can't believe I was wearing 5 layers of clothes today. (it was 14 degrees).

P.P.S. I also went to the Pu'an Road Children's market today to get some socks. Since I didn't bring over that many from home and never wore them during summer, my wardrobe seems to be suffering a major sock shortage. Plus I'll soon need to wear two pairs. This place is the best I've come across for buying socks. There is a store near the entrance. You go down the stairs go in, and turn to the right and it's one of the first stores there that only sells ladies and kids socks. Socks of every description and colour. As much as I like the cutesy ones they are all too short. I just got plain black (how boring). Ankle length, knee-high length, and also some black tights. 7 items for 60 RMB. Now my tootsies are prepared for winter!

Pu'an Lu Children's Market
10 Pu'an Lu near Jinling Lu (and near Times Square on Huaihai Lu)
普安路10号 近金陵路

P.P.P.S Today I came across the friendliest taxi driver ever. I dunno how long it took to get to the fabric market (but it cost me 30 RMB to give you an idea) but we talked the WHOLE way there. Crazy! Me and a taxi driver! He basically asked me all about my family (as every local seems to love to do) - where they come from, blah blah blah. And I asked him where the fabric market stallholders get the clothes made. Cos I was thinking wouldnt it be a lot cheaper for us if we could just go to the factory ourselves and get the stuff made there? He told me that most of the fabric and the factories are located in Suzhou or in the outskirts of Shanghai in the Songjiang area (interesting!) We also got talking about Australia, and wool, and he said he had heard of some tourists who went to Australia (from China) to buy some 'Australian wool' clothes, came home and looked at the tag and it said "Made in China" and felt very very jipped. I told him it may still have been Australian wool but the labour would've been done in China. Baaa!

No comments: