Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Yuyuan Lu Fashion Plaza

Beijing Lu is a large-ish street immediate to my apartment. I've heard it called the Northern Barrier of Shanghai - although really it's about in the middle of the city, a cool foreigner has no use to ever go north of it. I'd love to be so cool, but being cool would just be too much of an imposition on me. All the better restaurants near my place are on the North side, I'd probably end up eating McDonald's everyday. Near Jing'an, one block south is Yuyuan Lu. It's a bit of a foreigner-centric area, at least during the day: there's also a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a Burger King, and Malone's, a popular foreigner pub that my friend insists I only call "The Vietnam Veteran Bar."

On the same street, somewhere past the Burger King but before the Vietnam Veteran Bar, lies the Yuyan Lu Fashion Plaza. There's always a few food stalls in front of the plaza, offering a bunch of cheap snacks. In the last few months it's become more crowded, I theorize with vendors who used to sell their food on Wujiang Lu. There was also a pretty decent Xinjiang-style noodle shack that closed around the same time they all moved in.

The actual plaza is a series of small booths, with a high tin roof that half-protects the structure from rain. I imagine if the roof was more solid, it'd be harder to brace from the wind. This is one of about five rows of shops. There's a food counter to the immediate left - it sells spicy soup.

Half the business of Shanghai boils down to hair. Not far from this plaza, it's normal for young girls on the street to be harassed by trainee hairstylists aggressively pushing cut-rate haircuts. For that matter, there's also a nearby "hairstylist" joint with red lights and girls in not so much clothing. Anyway this picture shows a bunch of extensions, and I really wish I knew a girl cool enough to pull off aqua blue hair extensions. There's a small beauty shop nearby.

But of course the main attraction is the clothes. The clothes here are nothing fancy, they're often laid out one after the other. In fact the whole plaza feels something like a huge bargain bin. The prices reflect it: the prices on these shirts are marked 29 kuai, which is something like $3.75, and I have to believe the price can be bargained down quite a bit.

But that's pure conjuncture on my part, as none of these clothes would fit a tall person like me, and I don't even try. Even worse is the shoes: when I tell people my shoe size, they'll initially think I'm making an absurd joke. The largest shoe size that can normally be found is maybe a size 9.

I don't have to say that cheap clothes plus China equates to a bootleg item or two: a lot of the clothes have the brand names on them - I believe those are fake Converse above, and certainly Disney didn't approve these shirts.

Of course Chinese English on clothing is vaguely amusing:

I could go on and on with racks of clothing, but that gets old pretty quick! There's also a few interesting stores selling things unrelated to clothes, like toystores, or froo-froo house decorations.

Out front are a few old ladies with sewing machines, who make on-the-spot alterations to the clothing, pretty cool! This sewing machine looks like it belongs in some kind of museum, I believe it's a foot-crank model. Some of the other sewers use electronic machines though.

And for all the workers, there's a few boilers that dispense hot water, mostly it's for making instant noodles, or for tea - the leaves stay in the jar, and the water gets added a number of times. And people drink hot water plain in Shanghai - it's such a basic thing but the concept never even occurred to me before I arrived in China.

Update 11/4/2008 - This place has been knocked down, it's currently a pile of rubble but a 5-star hotel is sure to come up soon.

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