I could quite happily go ferretting around antique markets every weekend of my life. An ideal Sunday for me would consist of early morning coffee at Baker and Spice on Anfu Lu, then a cycle through the old town to the Ghost Market , followed by noodles on FangBang Lu, then a really thorough going-over at the Dongtai Lu Antique Market.
Of course, there aren’t that many real bargains to be had, but the fun is in the searching, and the haggling. There are plenty of ‘new’ antiques too, easy to spot because every second stall has the exact same genuine ming dynasty celadon bowl, actually made last week in Ningbo and buried in a mixture of soil and ash for an instant lived-in look.
You’ve got to bargain real hard, and at the same time pretend you couldn’t care less whether you walked away with that Chairman Mao teaset or not. It works best if you have two people involved in the transaction, a double act like Laurel and Hardy. Or Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott. Here’s how to get the best price possible.
Kevin: (in fluent mandarin) Excuse me laoban, how much for this delightful Communist-era knick-knack?
Laoban: 6 million kuai. Very cheap! Best quality, only one in Shanghai!
Tony: He’s ripping you off mate. Walk away.
Kevin: I can see it’s well-made…..
Laoban: How much you pay? Verrrry cheaper for you. How much? How much?
Tony: Mate, there’s one over there for 50 kuai!
Laoban: OKOKOKOK, you friend, give you verry cheaper price. 5 million kuai.
Tony: What the…..?!
Kevin: Yes, things are a bit tight this week, there hasn’t been much GST coming in since Fiona left the country….. OK, how about 3 kuai?
Laoban: OK, 3 million kuai. Very good price.
Tony: Not 3 million kuai! Three kuai! Quick, walk away! Walk away!
Kevin: How about four? Four kuai?
Tony: Mate, that was just insulting. Keep walking!
Laoban: (as they walk away) OK 2 million!……OK OK 5000!……Wait mister! 400!…….. Wait! Last price! 130! …………Friend! 20!
Tony: (turning back) 5 kuai. Final price.
Laoban: OK OK. 5 kuai.
Kevin: Thanks, Tony. That was extremely impressive.
Tony: It’s all in the walk away, mate. It’s all in the walk away.