The Shanghai Marketplace
Ultimately I’m back to blogging. I’ve just finished my first assignment. It’s raining outside. And I can’t just describe how heavy that downpour is. It’s completely dark outside, cars running with headlights on. From the 9th Floor, at 3:00PM, I can’t see the roads clearly. The Shanghai skyline has also been blurred completely.
I did my lunch with KFC burger once more. I’m now doing it for a couple of days, after the initial adventure with pure Chinese foods. I am yet to launch cooking operation at the apartment. This weekend I am planning to visit a few ‘Indian’ places nearby. We’ve got a restaurant at our target list – named Tandoor. Also, I’ve seen a restaurant named Salaam nearby, maybe I’ll also visit it. However, if the prices are exorbitant, I’ll refrain myself from having food at those. It’s foolish to run behind Indian foods where I have so many things to explore with such a little time in hand.
Yesterday, I went to a retail food store (similar to a Food Bazaar) and thought of buying some vegetables to cook. But, the prices prevented me to really buy anything. After taking the trolley, the first thing I was looking for was the chicken. I saw a semi-prepared chicken body (similar to Arambagh’s chicken), priced almost at 4 Rmb/100gm. I calculated it to be 220Rs and the idea of buying chicken was dropped instantly. Then I moved to other markets – to compare prices of beef and pork. But, they were no better. However, all these foods are a kind of ‘packet-preserved’ food; the prices for these kinds of foods are higher in India also. I thought that I should buy meat from a street-vendor, might I get a better deal from him. There were many different fish items kept at a place – all freeze. The point of surprise was the egg-section. There were so many kinds of eggs present there – off different sizes and colors. I am so habituated with seeing white eggs of a particular size (poultry and on a few lucky occasions – duck), I took time to adjust to the situation. Most of the eggs were dark yellow and faded red. Some of them were even ash-colored. Sizes range from 2 times a poultry egg to a normal egg-size. However, the biggest surprise was the absence of simple white eggs – can you believe it? I guess they are not at all popular in China. If you have so many options in eggs – do you think poultry-chicken industry can survive in China?
Next I moved to an electronics section of another retail shop. Looking at a tiny iron, I asked the price. It was marked in clear English – 218rmb. I was really stunned; I didn’t expect prices would be so high in Shanghai when we all know that it’s a low-cost country. I searched on the internet to get a view of the Chinese pricing structure. Actually the price is higher because of taxes. In India, prices are same at villages and cities. But the cities have the infrastructure. So, people flood into the cities. Here, in China, to prevent flooding of people from countryside, they have imposed high taxes on each item in cities. Of course they efficiently control the flow of goods. People, who live in cities, pay more tax to get better infrastructure, that’s why cities are cleaner and less-congested than Indian counterparts.
After the dinner (again with same burger), I went out to buy a headphone. It was an irritating absence since I was not been able to listen to the songs (Chinese songs yet to be explored and added to my favourites) and was not able to chat online. I started at around 8:30 PM and soon I discovered that a lot of stores are already closed. I crossed the busy crossing and entered a less posh area, to get a view of how Chinese items are priced at ‘real’ market – where from the local people buy things. Unfortunately, after walking for a kilometer, I could see only restaurants beside me!! There are so many restaurants in that area – from a small one to a big, decorated one, there were just too many variations. On the footpath, under a tree, a person was shouting with some black packets kept in front of him. It took a while to understand that he’s trying to sell those – and some people are coming to buy those. Do you know what they were? Octopus!! The buyers were probably the local restaurant owners. Indeed octopus and squid is popular food item in Shanghai.
After a crossing, I saw the market pattern got changed – now there are a variety of stores. The dominant one among them was the real estate. The prices were displayed outside and people go inside to see the model and the sample interiors. I saw prices generally ranging from 8000 Rmb to 15000 Rmb (per sq meter) for different places. A shop also had a map of Shanghai with different pins pointing at their different real estate locations. I heard that real estate price are not that high in Shanghai as in Indian cities, but I think it’s not the case. I have to ask a few people to get it confirmed.
There were a few cloth-shops as well. I entered one and quickly realized that it’s better to come with a Chinese colleague to help me. The shop was run by an old woman, who probably had no idea of English. When I was looking for the price tag, she took her calculator and typed in 1078 to let me know the price. She was intelligent enough to understand that I did not like the price (why should I? It comes to 5500Rs!!), hence she quickly multiplied the figure with 70 and divided by 10 (took 70%) and reduced the price to catch an attention. Yet, it didn’t come under my budget. So I left for the next shop. The next shop surprised me – it was written in clear English on top of shop-entrance that “Nicco(shop name) provides excellent post-sell services. Please don’t ask for abnormal discounts to bargain with our staff.” I understood their pain – the prices are indeed exorbitant. May be, they want to prevent entry of the poor by the message – who come inside and bargain.
I went into a darker ally beside the road, to see how the shops look like at that place. Most of them were wine-shops, selling beers and other drinks. One was a tailor-shop. And there were a few barbers’ shop as well. To the contrary of Indian experience, only the tailor-shop was run by a man – others were all women.
After another crossing, I decided to come back. So far I didn’t see any electronics shop – may be after a few crossings they are present in a series. I had no time to blindly look for those. Next I stumbled upon a small shop. It has everything – from pillows to knifes, from nail-cutters to nice pots and wooden racks. Nobody is inside; people are going in, picking up things and paying a woman while coming out. The woman is having a series of notes in between her fingers – in a fashion similar to bus conductors in Kolkata. I also gestured her whether she keeps headphones as well – the answer was negative.
Just after getting out of the shop, I had a head-on collision with a Chinese boy. In India, I could have avoided a similar one, but in China I couldn’t. I noticed him (and vice-versa) before the critical time one should take to avoid a collision. But, as a natural step, I took my left. Unfortunately, he took his right and we collided. I understand the difference of right-hand and left-hand driving system has lot more to do than we think of. May be in a crowd-less disciplined streets of USA one cannot feel it, but I bet, in Shanghai, one will. When our natural step would follow the left side of the footpath or to avoid close collision, the other party will move right. It’s not really my fault, but it is called diversity.
Once more, I have managed to write up a lot on my experiences, hopefully people will enjoy these episode also. Of course, I’ll keep everyone updated on my China visit. The rain has stopped, I need to go now. Bye, see you!!