I sometimes wonder at the stupidity of planners. Do they never do any homework before they take decisions? I’m referring (in this case) to the recent closure of Yashou market – a mecca for tourists and expats alike where you could get fake Armani, fake Paul Smith, fake Feragamo … in fact fake anything, I guess… and where beating the sellers down to less than 25 percent of what they originally asked for was all part of the fun of the place. Alas, it has now been converted into yet another upmarket brand store and the once buzzing building which boasted standing room only has turned into yet another ghost town. Do they never learn?
Not that I’m that worried. What most expats in Beijing haven’t discovered yet is the Guanyuan market, not 50 metres away from Chegongzhuang (exit H on line 6) which has a much better selection of rip-offs at half the (starting) price – and there’s hardly a laowai in sight.
Or for those more adventurous, how about the massive (correction, that should read MASSIVE) market within spitting distance of Yuzhilu right at the top end of Line 8. Never been there? Do yourself a favour and put aside half a day to explore its charms.
But I didn’t mean to go on about these markets in this blog. No. Instead, I wanted to celebrate one of Beijing’s more unusual markets that I only discovered a couple of weeks back. To say it is tacky would be an understatement. Cheap and cheerful are other adjectives that sum it up admirably. And I simply love it.
It’s called Tianyi market, and it’s a ten minute walk from ChegongzhuangXi station, practically on the corner of Fuchengmenwai Dajie and Zhanlanguan Lu.
You can hardly miss it. It’s like Disneyland has come to life; a weird concoction of castle turrets…
... liberally (and I use that word advisedly) adorned with plastic and plaster animals of all descriptions peering over parapets, out of windows, and stuffed onto every available ledge that the builders could manage to squeeze in.
Golden zodiac animals rub shoulder to shoulder with Cinderella and the seven dwarves,
while tigers and zebras play peekaboo with a small army of penguins, bears and bambi deer.
There’s even an African wildlife assortment standing guard over a giant screen featuring Bugs Bunny and other worthy notables, courtesy of a BTV kids channel.
If you’re one of those families that like to adorn the place with Xmas wreaths, then you surely won’t want to miss out getting one with a cow’s head stuck in its centre … will you?
But I can feel you getting impatient at my blathering on about inconsequential things like plastic animals guarding the entrance. Let’s go in, shall we, and have a look…
If you were in any doubt that it’s the Christmas season, you won’t be any longer.
Dozens of stalls sell everything your heart could possibly desire in the way of tacky ornaments, baubles and sparkly wall hangings;
not to mention cards, crackers and place settings.
At the top of every escalator is what looks like an Afghan Father Xmas, complete with burqa and heaven-knows-what inside his little red bag. How come Santa was never this appealing back in Europe?
Of course, it isn’t Christmas all the year round, even in Tianyi; so the canny merchants also sell many other must-have products such as tasteful Angry Birds underpants…
while those who love furry appendages for their key rings and smart phones will find no shortage of ideas here.
Or how about some tacky plastic flowers to brighten up your tacky apartment? Hey… this is even better than IKEA!
Fake (plastic) jade and onyx you’re after? You’ve come to the right place.
In fact all six floors present a veritable cornucopia of wonderful products.
Not that it is ALL tack, you understand! I mean if you are a serious serial handbag collector, then you might find plenty to whet the appetite.
But in-your-face colours and bling are never that far away, just in case you should get withdrawal symptoms for even a second.
But please… When you’re wandering around, spare a thought for the poor shopkeepers…
… many of whom work their fingers to the bone, and are always ready to greet you with a welcoming smile (he IS smiling, isn’t he???)
I can guarantee that once you have visited this wonderful market, it will be top of your wish list to come again and again. Let’s just hope the planners haven’t yet thought of making this a branded upmarket palace of tack. (Mind you, what is an upmarket brand of bling? I must confess, I have yet to find out.)