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. You can take a train from Shanghai South to Yiwu. If you want a soft seat it will cost you around $20 and the trip will take two hours and ten minutes. You could take a coach from Shanghai and ride in comfort for about $10 and take in a movie on…
You could take a coach from Shanghai and ride in comfort for about $10 and take in a movie on the way and it’s a pleasant four and a half hour journey. It is 312 kilometres to Yiwu, and the train is fast IF you can ever get a ticket. Don’t even consider politely queuing to pass through the turnstiles and show your ticket. When the train arrives it is a free for all. Babies are thrown over heads to perhaps be caught (or not) while barriers are jumped by bent old ladies and the best way to get onboard is to simply lift your feet off the ground and be carried by the jostling crowds to the nearest empty seat.
Coach travel is less frenetic and your ticket gives you a seat number and a comfortable airline style ride.
On the train, once settled, the passengers break out their packages of Pomelos, thrusting pieces of these giant sweet grapefruit like fruits into any clutching hand. Food is shared on the trains and if the parable of the feeding of the five thousand with loaves and fishes bears any truth, it is proven on a train journey. Do not expect to tidily wrap your leftovers neatly into a bag and store it for disposal. By the time you arrive in Yiwu, the train is knee deep in discarded rubbish. The passengers are either commuters to the Commodity City, or Shanghais business people travelling to stock up on their market wares or product for their Shanghai shops.
The business people are identified by their trolleys and huge empty bags which, on return in the evening will be piled several feet high with products to be sold in their shops and market stalls. Many of the commuters squat and talk, breastfeed their babies, or break out their laptop computers and mobile phones. The noise is incessant and strangely compelling.
The coach however, is quiet and restrained, with bursts of laughter from those watching the onboard movies, usually a Chinese romance, or a violent blood and gore kung fu style video.
An enviable trait of most Chinese is the ability to sleep instantly and deeply at the drop of an eyelid. Everywhere you go, people are sleeping. Construction workers from the country, whose present life is living on the sidewalk outside the construction site, shop workers, food stall owners, all able to instantly drift into sleep, over a table, or in the middle of a crowded pavement. Equally as if by some invisible wave of a magic wand, the sleepers wake simultaneously, stretch, and return to their labours as if those moments of unconsciousness have completely replenished their souls.
Yiwu is a Commodity City unimaginable in the west. A single trading building (one of several of equal or bigger size) houses thousands of traders making and selling fashion jewellery, bags, soft toys and a vast range of fashion products destined for the shops predominantly in Shanghai. A single building covering over 300,000 square meters, where shop traders and market traders from Shanghai and other cities wheel trolleys around from one small manufacturer to another until the trolleys are piles several feet high with merchandise. Money changes hands at an alarming rate, and the “bargain” you the tourist believes you get on your visit to Shanghai will net the shop or market trader ten times its purchase value, and still you will marvel at the bargain you negotiated at the shop or market in Shanghai.
If you decide to take the exciting and worthwhile visit to Yiwu be prepared to spend at least five days just to view the products available in a single one of these buildings.
We buy for our business in Australia. Our two girls shooing us out of sight negotiate terms and place our orders. The goods will be sent directly to Shanghai, and then on to Australia. We do not need to carry anything with us. Nor do we wish to be seen as the purchasers. There are several levels of pricing in China, and particularly in Yiwu. “Tourist Price” is eight to ten times the next level which is “Foreigner Price” which is eight to ten times that of “Visitor Price” which is eight to ten times that of “Local Price”. Shanghais with their local dialect, and the nerve to play the game hard always receive the Local Price. The same criterion exists in Shanghai when you want to shop at the markets or in the stores. You want Local Price, you use a local.
In Yiwu we purchase jewelery, evening bags, fashion bags and soft toys. Soon we will go to Hanzhou and Suzhou to purchase silk. Hanzhou and Suzhou silk is some of the finest and most beautiful in the world. But that is for later. Take care now. Don’t forget to upgrade our antivirus, keep your registry clean, and come back soon.