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The Ghost Market, FangBang lu

Another great treasure to explore! I had heard that 457 Fangbang Lu, previously known to me as ‘dull five-story building near Yu Gardens selling all the usual tourist tat’ is actually home to the fabulous and secret antique Ghost Market on weekend mornings. It’s called the Ghost Market because it sets up in the dark, around 4am, and then all the stallholders disappear before the clock strikes midday. Or maybe it’s called the Ghost Market because everything it sells once belonged to someone who is now deceased. Either way, it’s packed with amazing old finds.

The market occupies both the 4th and 5th floors. You will know when you’re in the right place, because you may be able to just make out the stallholders, with their wares displayed on blankets or newspapers spread on the creaky wooden floor, through a dense haze of smoke from hundreds of cheap ChungHwa cigarettes. There will also be a lot of loitering buyers in the stairwells, sucking back a few last dhurries before deciding what to offer the seller for that precious cicada-shaped redwood box. For sale are small antiques of all kinds – jade, porcelain, ceramics, wood carvings, prints, paintings, jewellery, and the odd fossil. 

If you know your stuff, you can really pick up some bargains. If you don’t, it’s a great way to find out what you like and what you don’t, and how much you might have to pay for it. I for one, have no interest in the small jade carvings that Shanghai men spend hours poring over. And no, they’re not that kind of carving either. But I do love all the  simple and elegant shapes of celadon porcelain in their various pale and subtle shades.

Lantern Festival Market, Nanjing

Alongside the Lantern Festival was a daytime market selling my two favourite things – food, and lanterns. Also crazy balloons…….

Toffee fruit on a stick…

Sculptured pineapples…..

And this little set-up selling hot, home-made silken tofu, ladled steaming out of the wooden bucket, and topped with chopped pickles, soy sauce, sesame oil and chives. If you don’t like tofu, it’s because you’ve never eaten it freshly home-made like this – don’t scoff, it’s amazingly delicious.

Back in Shanghai and shopping already…..

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.

The Wet Market, Julu Lu

I love wet markets. Wet markets are the opposite of supermarkets. They’re called ‘wet’ because most of the produce is wet, and they get hosed out at the end of each day. Come here to buy the freshest fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, fresh noodles, tea and 58 kinds of tofu. I am tired of things bought in plastic wrappings, totally devoid of their origins and already a week old when you buy them. Enter the aisles of my supermarket and view the produce on offer…………

The mushroom sellers – fresh shitake, enoki, oyster, straw and button mushrooms.

Fresh winter bamboo shoots. Larger and a little tougher than the autumn shoots. Delicious stir-fried with pork and ginger!

Bok choy. Beautifully arranged. About 5c each.

And now on to the meat aisle. Viewing on an empty stomach not recommended.

The chickens are attractively displayed feet first. The feet are, after all, the best bits. The black skinned chickens are commonly used in soups.

And the site of the Great Julu Lu Fish Massacre……….you should have seen the fishmonger.

Please refrain from lighting your cigarette until you move away from the piglets.

After all that excitement you may need some calming tea…….pick up 100g of oolong and struggle home with your various bundles. Try to ignore the twitching coming from the fish bag……..