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To market to bargain your hardest

AFTER visiting Expo Shanghai, the historic Bund, Yuyuan Garden and the many charming and interesting streets, leave yourself a day to browse through Shanghai's markets where you can have a genuine local shopping experience.

Shanghai is indeed a shopping paradise as there are many market options to choose from. The local "market" concept refers to vendors selling virtually the same thing all under one roof, or on one street. Dongtai Road Antique Market is the place to buy or learn about the household items of Old China. The fabric market is where you can make your couture dreams come true. In the tea market, you can smell, touch, taste and get all your tea shopping done in one place. And there are several places in the city selling inexpensive souvenirs, T-shirts, chopsticks, cushion covers and other trinkets with Chinese characteristics.

Given the challenges of the language barrier and the difficulty of knowing where and when to go, we highlight three markets in the city worth your attention. Last but not least, remember the golden rule: bargain, bargain and bargain with intensity.

Dabutong Tianshan Tea City's top brews

An old Chinese saying contends that firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea are the seven daily necessities, so that's how big a role tea plays in Chinese people's daily life.

For tea lovers, Dabutong Tianshan Tea City is one of the destinations that should not be missed. Housed in a complex evoking the architectural style of both Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), the market has 368 stalls selling teas and tea sets. They offer various types of tea, including some world-renowned leaf such as Longjing green tea, Tieguanyin Oolong tea and the black Pu'er.

Freshly picked teas are highly regarded, especially Longjing and Tieguanyin. As one of the best examples of Oolong tea, Tieguanyin is now in season. Price varies from some 70 yuan to 4,000 yuan per 500 grams, according to variety. Pu'er tea is also very popular and in Tianshan market is sold in two ways, raw and fermented. Raw tea is loose and usually has a slightly bitter taste just like green tea.

Fermented Pu'er tea is often presented in compressed form as a tea brick, the brewed water of which looks black and tastes thick, mellow and even a little sweet after sitting. As you wander through the market, try the free tastings in various stalls and compare prices before purchasing.

Opening hours: 8:30am-8:30pm

Address: 520 Zhongshan Rd W.

Pearl City for freshies and saltwater

Located on Nanjing Road E, perhaps the city's most famous walking promenade, the two-storied Pearl City includes dozens of stalls and stores featuring pearls and accessories made from this jewel of the sea.

One variety of gem sold here is the freshwater pearl grown in mussels which are mostly from Zhejiang Province in the Yangtze River Delta, an area celebrated as the pearl-bed of China. The saltwater pearls, usually grown in oysters, are sourced from many major saltwater production areas around the world, such as Hainan Province and Tahiti, France. There is an abundance of accessories to choose from, including earrings, necklaces and bracelets.

Customers can even order their own bespoke accessories by matching the pearls and stones they like. Prices vary from some 30 yuan to over 1,000 yuan, according to the size and color of the pearl. You may get a preferable price if you persist in bargaining with some of the stores. But the trick is how to tell a fake pearl from a real one.

Here are some tips: Real pearls look cooler than fake ones. To determine authenticity, scratch the stone with a little knife - you will find powder results from a real pearl but paint flakes from the fake. Or drop the pearl from a height of about 60 centimeters. An authentic pearl bounces 10 to 15 centimeters, much higher than the fake.

Opening hours: 10am-10pm

Address: 558 Nanjing Rd E.

South Bund Fabric Market

The South Bund Fabric Market becomes a hot spot as locals and tourists arrive seeking distinctive fabrics and tailor-made garments. No matter if you're seeking a copy of a couture piece found in a fashion magazine or a tailored outfit designed by yourself, they can do it for you within only a few days.

The three-floor market is home to hundreds of fabric stalls, tailors and seamstresses. First-time visitors usually get confused and lost when navigating the labyrinths of stalls packed with all kinds of fabrics. So before you step into the building, it is wise to both ask an expert friend to recommend a good tailor and have an idea of what you want to have made. The safe way to avoid disappointment is to bring an example of your clothing for them to copy.

Usually a man's business shirt costs around 120 yuan (US$17.70) including the chosen fabric and linen pants for summer also cost 120 yuan. Be aware it is always packed with customers on the weekend. Bargain hard if you are good at it.

Opening hours: 10am-6pm

Address: 399 Lujiabang Rd


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