Zanzibar Day 4 >> Another Zanzibar market trip

Another trip to the Zanzibar market. This time, to practice my newly refined Kiswahili. After all, there’s no better way to practice a new language than to barter with shop keepers at a local market.

Zanzibar Market 1

Zanzibar Market / Local Oranges

Zanzibar Market / Narrow Alleys

Zanzibar Market / Butcher

Zanzibar Ladies

Zanzibar Market / Selling Fish

Zanzibar Market / A Giant Marlin

I’m the proud owner of several new kintenge (local batik-printed fabrics) and a few more spices to add to my shelves. Also, a bunch of bananas, but those were a little more short-lived.

Saturday Series / NO. 2

Vegetable Market

07’20’13 >> I caught a cold this week (no worries, it wasn’t Malaria) and spent the better part of the week indoors, resting. We got the rest of our shipment, from DC, so the week was also spent nesting. I did manage to run out a few times this week for errands – here’s a snapshot from my run to our neighborhood vegetable store – yes, this week was full of excitement…(sarcasm doesn’t fare as well online, does it?)

Lingnan Plant Market

One of the many markets that I only recently explored was the local plant and flower market. Located just across the river from my home, I’m surprised I hadn’t ventured out sooner.

It’s too bad, because there were aisles and aisles of potted plants and flowers, from as little as $5-$10 for a fern that reached my height. I could have definitely spent a pretty penny at this market, getting some plants for our house. It’s actually probably a good thing I discovered this market so late in our tour.

Of course being in China, you can’t go to a market and not see a fire hazard. For example, this light, that was hanging down the middle of an aisle, dangling by a wire. Things like this used to scare/anger/annoy me, but now make me smile. I’m actually going to miss this stuff!!

Granted, this market wasn’t as exciting as say, the kitchen market, or the jewelry market, or the leather market. After all, they’re just plants. But as with all outings in Guangzhou, it’s interesting just to walk around and see the quantities of stuff being sold, advertised, and packed. Watching the locals go about their daily business is also akin to people watching at the airport- it provides a surprising amount of entertainment and amusement.

It was plenty hot by the time I was out- and being the middle of the day, business was slow. Shirts were off, cards were being played, women were sitting back fanning themselves. People were lounging like lazy cats all over the market, with ample amounts of shade created by the large overhang between the aisles. Where there was no overhang, there was plenty of plant shade to be found. I guess there’s definitely some benefits to be working at the plant market.


Watch market

This weekend we made a trip to the watch market to get the DiploMan’s watch fixed and see if I could find myself a spare watch (among the errands we were running).

Finding a spare watch was probably not the best general statement when wandering around the watch market in Guangzhou- there were literally tens of thousands of watches to choose from, displayed in counter after counter of glass cases. Watches piled upon watches, upon even more watches. Shockingly, I was able to find one that I liked pretty quickly, and after an unsuccessful attempt at bargaining (vendors generally don’t bargain here, at least not until you buy more than fifty of what they’re trying to sell).

Interestingly, when laid out on display, the vendors have fake fakes (yeah, you heard me.) – brands that were specifically designed to showcase the style and design of the watches, but not to sell. Once a watch is chosen, the real imitation is dug out from the back.

After a very confusing five minutes of me almost buying the fake fake, our watch lady finally explained that if caught even displaying a counterfeit brand, a vendor would receive a 30,000rmb penalty. She stealthily uncovered a counterfeit logo on the underside of the watch strap, taped over to hide from anyone ready to fine her. Not exactly the most ingenious of disguises, but it worked- after all, we didn’t even notice the little strip of camouflaged tape hiding the watch’s true fake identity.

Why she showed this to us, I have no idea. What if we were undercover?


Every weekend we swear we’ll go out and get stuff done, and most weekends we end up sleeping in, eating lunch at 3pm, catching up on our blog feeds, watching movies…does this sound all too familiar?

Well, this weekend we lived up to our promises, and spent Saturday scooting around a very humid Guangzhou, finally scratching some key items off our “To Do” list.

Now, here in Guangzhou, there is pretty much an independent store that exists for any service you may need. Sometimes it’s not even a store, sometimes it’s a lady posted on the sidewalk with a sewing machine who will hem your pants for a few kuai (bucks). Okay so that’s just one example, and most are indeed actual stores. Unlike anywhere else I’ve seen, and contrary to a logical business model, each store is located next to tens of other stores that sell the exact same products, or provide the exact same services. For example, the store that sells goldfish will be located next to ten other stores that also sell goldfish. The place to go to buy medical furniture will be next to the all the other medical-furniture warehouses (yes, these places actually exist and do legitimate business). Though you would think this to be convenient for a shopper, these clusters of stores are spread out in pockets throughout the city, making it so the task of running your errands can literally take you running- from one end of town to another. More than that, planning an afternoon of errands takes more than just making a small “To Do” list, it also means google-mapping the approximate location of every market and its cross streets, writing the Chinese translations down in case we get lost, mental-noting the side streets to take, making sure we have appropriate canvas bags to take things home, and making sure we have good recommendations or business cards from our friends who have done the same exact thing.

One thing down on our list this past Saturday was to visit the framing market. No, there’s no Michael’s or Aaron Bros. here in Guangzhou. I know, shocking. So to get anything framed, logically a Guangzhou resident would take a trip to the street where ALLLL the framers are located. Spanning one stretch of a large street combined with a big mall full of little shops dedicated to framing artwork and Chinese scrolls, the framing “market” was just as overwhelming as every other shopping-type experience I’ve had in Guangzhou.

We finally settled on one- not because its products were superior, or that it had evidence of good work, but simply because the people looked friendly and there were a lot of samples of frames hung outside. Is this kind of like choosing wine based on the label? Hm, maybe.

Altogether we brought with us seven items to be framed- the smallest ranging from 11×17 and the largest 15×35. After spending a few minutes picking out the frames we wanted and laying everything out on the table, we were quoted a price. Now, we had heard this market was cheap, but when she quoted us a final price- 270 kuai for all seven pieces, I thought for a second she was quoting the price for our largest poster. And then she held up her calculator for me to see the final price, nodding her head and smiling as if to say, “Yeah, it’s good, right?”. I re-calculated in my head just to make sure I did the math right. Forty bucks to get our pieces matted (if we chose), with Plexiglas panes, and brand new custom-built frames? She might as well have told me they would do it for free.

We picked up our pieces 24hours later (after visiting the “Coney Island Hot Dog” shop…but more on that later this week!), partially afraid that we were about to pick up all our posters framed onto one giant plexiglas. But as usual, my fears were quickly dispelled. And let me close by saying that after coming home and hanging up all our beautifully framed new works, we’re now looking to see what else in our home can use a good framing.

update 6/10/11: Here are some images, below, of a few things we got framed- really cool mod-style Star Wars themed art, an Ork poster, a Williams print I received while working at an art gallery a few years ago, and oh yeah- a super offical certificate signed by a couple of important people!