There are tigers all over town this week, what with Chinese New Year approaching. The traditional tiger is a cute little fellow, with a stylized face that looks more a muppet than a man-eating carnivore. I was intrigued by this massive version at Yu Yuan. What is it made of? What is it for? But as I came closer I realised it was a delicious blend of traditionalism and capitalism. Pepsi anyone??
Near the Yu Gardens on Fuyou Lu is the kind of market it should be illegal for me to go anywhere near. What a place! Commonly known as the ‘Commodities market’ it sells every bit of cheap plastic tat your heart could desire. From the outside it’s a fairly non-descript peach concrete building, with a few lantern stalls near the entrances. But the thousands of motorbikes, scooters and bicycles parked outside, and the teeming hordes of people coming and going suggest that this is not your average peach concrete building (certainly plenty of those in Shanghai). It’s five floors of noisy, cramped, packed, busy, bustling shops selling plastic bags, rubber bands, mittens, lanterns, fireworks, party poppers, wigs, underwear, wedding trinkets, and children’s costumes.
Need a USB hub shaped like a cow? It moos every time you connect it! And how can you resist when it’s only 20 yuan??
Year of the Tiger undies? Here they are!
A word of warning though – bring your sharpest Shanghai elbows, leave your personal space at the front door, and if you smell smoke………bolt like hell. The combination of all that plastic and fireworks with five thousand smoking shoppers could be quite explosive.