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.

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