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Hongqiao New World Pearl Market

Shanghai, China

A little under tourists’ radar for the time being, the Hongqiao International Pearl Market is a shopping complex in the Minhang district of Shanghai. It is noted for its pearl and jewelry market but has other knick knacks such as souvenirs, replica clothes and bags and great variety of cloth that you can get tailor made to your specifications. A fun way to spend some time in a city that can easily be a shopaholics paradise.

The approach to the market is not very straightforward with no subway station in its immediate vicinity. Longxi road subway station is the closest with a hectic 15-minute walk across a busy motorway to Hongqiao Pearl Market. Buses and taxi will serve tourists much better by dropping them off right next to the complex. The set timings are 10:00 to 21:00 but shop owners work with their own schedule and may close earlier. It is better to not take the risk and visit in the morning to catch the market at full swing. Since it is not a major market, it is never over-crowded. Besides the corridors and layout is spacious and the sellers are not as aggressive as those at APAC plaza or other touristy shopping areas.

There are a few general rules that apply to most such Chinese markets. The first is the need for bargaining since display prices are mostly inflated and respectful haggling will get tourists better value for their money. Another is that no matter what the seller says, big brand items (whether shirts, shoes or bags) are mostly replicas and never first-hand originals. Counterfeit laws are relaxed in the country allowing abundant production of all qualities of replicas of prestigious brands’ items. When out and about in China, make sure to carry the local currency because locals might not give out a favorable rate for the dollar/ euro. And cash can get better discounts then shopping with a credit card. Most importantly though, whenever making a purchase the caveat emptor (or buyer beware) warning applies. Inspect purchases thoroughly for defect and quality and buy only when satisfied. In the case of pearls, a simple way to detect a plastic pearl is to scratch a bit of the surface with a scissor. If a powdery grit comes off it’s a real pearl. The vendors are willing to help you with this too.

Pearls and jewelry are the best buys in Hongqiao. There is a lot of ready-made stuff on display but buyers can have their own unique pieces made in minutes from loose pearls and accessories of their own choosing. Tourists can do a lot of souvenir shopping around the place since prices are reasonable enough. And when they are all blissed out with shopping, there is a big food court in the basement for getting a refuel. A big expat community thrives here and the Laowai street (Foreigner street) across the Hongqiao Pearl Market has good bars and restaurants selling international fare that might delight home sick travelers.

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