Friday, March 13, 2009

Spinning Tales

Our big adventure for today was to compare two different fabric markets in Shanghai. We had such fond memories of what's called The South Bund Spinning Mart that we couldn't wait to go back.

The return to Spinning could not be moved forward in our explorations of town because I was skedded to return to another fabric market we had visited on our first day here. Since the two seemed to be nearby, it made sense to wait and kill two spinning wheels with one taxi. As the name indicates, the South Bund area is very far south and quite away off-base for the average tourist. It is also in the midst of the area along the river that is dedicated to Expo 2010.

Many hotel taxi cards-- the giveaway that lists addresses in English and Chinese so you can communicate with your taxi driver--list both of the fabric markets, what I will now call Market #1 and Market #2, The South Bund Spinning Mart. Since each hotel has its own personal list on its card, some of the ones we checked only listed the Spinning Mart. Indeed, even according to the Internet, Spinning is the go-to place for silk, wool, linen, bedding and tailors.

We were bogged down in Friday afternoon + Expo 2010 construction traffic jams for almost an hour and found our favorite market to be, uh, disgusting. It was crammed, jammed, not filthy but not pleasant. It was filled with an international galaxy of tourists (all probably with taxi cards in their coat pockets) ; the vendors refused to negotiate. Asking prices were high and atitude was bad. We circled each floor and decided we hated the place.

It only took ten minutes to get the the other market, Market #1, which is actually located on another planet. This market is for locals and has no tourists. Called the Shiliupu Clothing Material Market, it is smaller than the Spinning Mart and much, much closer to downtown PuXi. The aisles are wide, the vendors are friendly, even when they insult you.

Example: I tried to bargain on the price of a jacket I was having made. I'd already had one jacket made and now was giving them more business, so I attempted to make a deal.
"Are you kidding?" asked the tailor, with indignation. " You are already the size of a man and I gave you the woman's price. You cost me a fortune in fabric!"

For about $30 each, I had two Mao style jackets made from embroidered silk. Sarah finally sprang for one jacket, after I nagged her to the jacket edge. I think it's the first thing she's bought for herself on the whole trip. If I had somewhere to wear these jackets, or could afford the dry cleaning, I would have bought one in every shade available-- three or four different shades of red, a black with dark purple embroidery, various hues of blues and a coral that was so Palm Beach I wanted it instantly. I still regret not buying it, but Sarah insisted it looked like a bathrobe.

Instead I was practical and bought an aubergine and a black. I splurged an extra ten bucks for a hot pink clutch to grasp under my arm with the aubergine jacket. Sarah bought beige. I will undoubtedly be the chicest woman at the HEB grocery store in San Antonio this summer.

At another stall, I spent $5 a meter for linen. I got cranberry to go with the aubergine. I hope to make a pair of baggy trousers and pray that two meters will cover my butt. There were various silks that would have been stunning with the jacket I had made, but alas, they are not wearing silk suits at the HEB this year.

I was very tempted by yet another vendor -- the guy on the second floor to the slight-right of the escalator (when you ascend to the 2F) who had the best stack of linen wound in tight bolts of sherbert colors just heaped under florescent light. I think in China it is acceptable manners to drool on fabric. I couldn't figure out which shades to pick. For $30 he makes a linen Shanghai Tang style jacket with contrast sleeve and collar linings... and frogs.

Since we have moved to the Sofitel Hyland Hotel -- one of my regular haunts in Shanghai--and we head out tomorrow for the Sofitel in Hangzhou... and since I cannot get the colors of those linens out of my mind's eye, I will have to go to sleep dreaming of frogs.

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