Shanghai is a huge clash of two very different cultures and from where we have been going lately, you can tell just that.
Right around the former French Concession area, there is are a few interesting markets to check out. One is called the “Insect Market.” You can buy just about any creepy crawler or animal here.
The big thing about this place is apparently the sale of fighting cockroaches. These huge ugly things are often bought by elderly Chinese with too much time on their hands in order to compete with other ones. These competitions are an Eastern way of gambling, but instead of losing your money to a casino (the man), you get to lose your money to another old guy with a better cockroach. I haven’t seen a cockroach fight but I’m sure that they are very intense (Ha). These fighting cockroaches are also very expensive. Some poor souls pay over 100 kuai just for one, while the singing cockroaches go for well under 30.
Cockroaches aside, this market also has a huge random assortment of animals. Anything from rabbits, kittens, and squirrels to turtles, fish, and flowers can be bought and probably bargained for. They actually had some really cool looking birds:
After we went to the insect market, we hit up the tea store building. I love tea so this was one of my favorite places to shop. The tea mart as I call it has all these little shops run by different people in which you can first go test the tea, and then buy it. All of the shops are set up the same way: a table in the middle of the room with tea displays all over the walls. The most expensive teas are near the entrance of the building while the cheaper ones are towards the back and upstairs. We went to two stores, one at the entrance, and one in the back. The store at the entrance had the sweet old lady that you saw at the beginning of this article. She was so nice and probably puts up with Westerner shenanigans every day. Half of our group, which was about 12 people, squeezed into this shop and sat around a table meant for six at the most. Tea lady still served us all. We tried two kinds of tea, Ginseng Oolong Tea (人参乌龙茶）and Jasmine Tea (茉莉花茶) Both were amazing, but I didn’t buy anything from her because her prices were too expensive. She was so nice though, I felt like someone should have bought something. I think that’s the prevalent marketing scheme here; smother your customers with love so that they feel bad leaving without buying anything. Anyways, we were at that store for about a half hour trying her tea. Before we left, I wanted to check out the cheaper stores and buy that Ginseng tea since I already had some Jasmine at home. At the second place, I bought some for 35 kuai for 50 grams of it. 50g is not really a lot, so it was still a little expensive, but the little bag of tea I bought lasted about 3 weeks using some every morning.
After the tea market came the most non interesting place in Shanghai: the fake market. The reason I think it is not interesting is because all of the street vendors sell the exact same things and all the items are either junk or most likely lead filled tea kettles and cups. The only thing I would consider buying there is one of those Mao/Sun Yatsen type shirts with the distinguishing collar. I would write more about this place, but there isn’t much more to say than that.