Monday, November 15, 2010

Tourist favourite - Panjiayuan Flea Market

Many of my clients like to visit this place for a break from the various 'heavy' historical and cultural sites in Beijing. Here you can see a lot of local culture but not much real history. The market is sometimes called "Dirt Market" or "Antiques Market", I think there is more of the former and not so much of the latter. In some ways, 'dirt' may have been a suitable description in the early days of the 1980s when it started in a hutong as a kind of black market for secondhand goods, but the market has been expanded and renovated several times and now is quite a respectable place to browse around. However, 'dirty' be a suitable description for some of the goods on sale, see below, so to avoid embarrassment don't take curious young children round those parts.

Not quite sure if this what you were thinking of for the children's Christmas stocking.

The official website (in English also) describes it as an important sight for any tourist in Beijing, along with climbing the Great Wall, touring the Forbidden City and eating Beijing duck. Here you can mix with people of different colours, languages, religions and social status. Even royalty and presidents have visited, so you don't have to feel embarrassed to be seen here. In case you do there is now even an online purchasing option on the Panjiayuan website.

The market is situated on the 3rd East Ring Road, and will be more easily accessible when the No. 10 metro line extension south is finished. So of course before then you should have a guide to take you there.....and also to help you bargain. Beware, starting prices will be higher if you have a 'foreign' face! It is open 365 days in the year, but weekends are still the best time to go, though you would be joining 60,000 others on average with the same idea. Even if you visited 80 stalls a week, it would still take you one year to visit all 4000 stalls and their 10,000 staff!

There is a huge variety of stuff to look at, great for Xmas shopping......antiques, paintings, jewelry, classical furniture, books, folk art, chops and seals, snuff bottles, stamps, porcelain, Chairman Mao alarm clocks.......And the latest addition...yes diamonds in the flea market, started by a Ms Yang in August this year! That really is going upmarket. She helps customers choose using her secret TGF method. Also, there's now even a cafe (but no Starbucks yet) so you can sit down whilst your partner takes his or her time looking around.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ready, Steady, Go.......go to Guangzhou!

Yes it's time for another major international event. Following on from the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing, World Expo 2010 in Shanghai (just finished with a record 73 million visitors over 6 months), it's now the turn of Guangzhou, which is hosting the 16th Asian Games. They start on Nov 12th for 2 weeks, and so of course the city has had a thorough facelift. I have not been lucky enough to go but my good friend Danny is there and I am grateful to him for the photo selection below.

Guangzhou, or Canton to the diehard colonialists, (not to be confused with Guangdong, the name of the province) is China's third largest city with a population of over 10 million. It's history goes back over 2,000 years. Geographically, it's located on the Pearl River and so is an ideal location for an international port. It's just a hop, skip and jump from Hong Kong (especially when the new high-speed train is built). These factors, together with a common dialect and culture with Hong Kong, have helped it to grow rapidly in the past few decades. It's per capita GDP is already over 13,000 USD, so would rank in the top 50 countries in the world if it was a country rather than just a city.

There is such a mix of old and new, local streets and large squares, day and night......the photos below are in no particular order, see if you can spot the TV tower, the CBD, the Pearl River New Town and old temples. You can get some of the best and most varied food in China there. I'm looking forward to going there some time when the crowds attending the Games have gone ....anyone fancy going with me, or even better sponsoring me?