In past trips to Beijing I’ve always stocked up on all my shopping in Silk Alley Market which is jammed packed with fake this and fake that, but it requires a lot of energy, patience and even more ‘back and forth’ nonsense with the calculator. This time, however, I decided to change tactic and give ‘Hongqiao Pearl Market’ a go and although it doesn’t look much from the outside, I’m definitely glad I did!
It was a far more pleasant experience as they’re not as tourist driven and desperate as the Silk Alley crowd, which allowed one to actually shop in a moderately peaceful environment and be able to interact on a slightly more human level with the sellers.
You can, and probably will, spend hours wandering around this shopping haven snapping up bargain after bargain … and be sure to barter hard as they will accept about 35% of the original asking price … you just need time, so make sure you allow for this as it’s all part of the buying process. And if you run out of dosh half way through don’t worry, there’s a few ATMs conveniently dotted around! They think of everything, this lot!
A brief taster of what you can expect to find … a ground level floor literally stacked, packed and racked full of electronic gadgets from iPods, iPhones, iBooks, Lady GaGa speakers, BOSE earphones, dvd players, mp3 players, cameras, camcorders, batteries, portable tvs and every electronic accessory known to mankind! Followed by row upon row of pashmina’s, Burberry scarves, wigs, make-up brands such as Bobbi Brown, Clarins and Channel, perfume, Mont Blanc pens and all the latest designer watches from Hugo Boss, Omega and Police to the more desirable Tag, Breitling and Rolex and on to sunglasses’ …. all shapes, all designs all colours and all fabulously fake!
Next up, it’s the stairway to heaven to the girlie section where you’re met with isle upon isle of Guchi, Prada, Fendi, CK, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace, Channel, Louis (to name a few) designer bags, wallets and luggage … then it’s on to the SHOES where this section spanned the whole spectrum from impossibly high Jimmy Choos, studded courts, peep toes and metallic low-top trainers to ballerina pumps and genuine fake UGGS, all neatly delivered in identical boxes to that of the real thing. Then be prepared for stores and stores of t-shirts, polo shirts, jeans, coats, North Face jackets, leather coats, baby clothes, lingerie, I even spotted a rubber mask … curious!
If it’s real Chinese local goods you’re after like teapots, chop sticks sets and bowls or general ‘tak’ such as cushion covers, bags, boxes, runners for tables, table cloths, place mats, fans, coasters, paintings, pots, mini terracotta warriors then be sure to make your way up to the third floor and head right towards the back where you’ll find the sellers quietly chatting amongst themselves or even possibly dozing off if it’s been a slow day for trade!
After that, if you’re not too exhausted, you can raise the bar another level and enter pearl city – a Santa’s grotto of pearls, pearls and more pearls, bracelets, necklaces, broaches, earrings and rings, precious stones galore and enough bling to send you blind … all fun stuff though I have to say I’d started to pegged out by then! So after a quick scout around admiring the ‘Bond Street’ and ‘Hatton Gardens’ of Pearl Market I grabbed a drink and headed back outside to, wait for it … yes you guessed, negotiate a cab ride back to the hotel!
So Pearl Market versus Silk Alley … in my opinion this is the preferred choice for the savvy shopper … you won’t miss out on a thing and it may even rate as one of your highlights!