I started exploring the various markets in Changchun almost immediately after arriving here. It was out of absolute necessity that I became a regular visitor to the various markets in this city; well to put it simply: I needed stuff! One of the reasons I was excited about coming to China, was to separate fact from fiction and to see if what I had heard about this country was true: Was China cheap, really cheap or ridiculously cheap?
I had heard about the underground markets in Changchun before I arrived, (Ren Fang, Hongqi Jie and Chongqing Lu) which were originally going to be used as bomb shelters but I was told that they sold fake this and fake that, so I investigated more. I was told that the answers to my questions would be found at Guilin Lu, Bainaohui, Bei Fang and Anhua Markets.
1) Guilin Lu Market 桂林路市场 View In Map
Working in China means you have to surround yourself with some home comforts, whether this is in the form of a new laptop, TV, comfy couch or a good piece of beef that vaguely resembles a steak back home. Now when you’re a foreigner, a bit green and your Chinese ability is zero, any market in China can be a bit daunting, so I nervously started mooching around in Guilin Lu Market. I was told by my Chinese colleagues that the market was a bit of an Aladdin’s Cave (so on your first visit, take a GPS or compass), but it had everything I needed from a coffee plunger (French press) to some descent multi-vitamins to keep my immune system fighting fit.
Guilin Lu Market (access from both Guilin Lu and Guilin Hutong) has a huge assortment of small kiosk style shops, where traders specialize in clothing, toys, stationary, footwear, bedding, seafood, meat, fruit and vegetables. The frustrating thing about dealing with these traders is not the fact that they don’t speak Chinese, but that many of the things you are actually looking for are merchandised in such a way that you would have to be psychic to know they were on sale there.
If your Chinese is limited to a random collection of useless words like ‘piju’, ‘xie xie’ and ‘ni hao’ and you actually manage to successfully communicate with the shop owner, then you’ll have a much smoother shopping experience! It should also be noted that despite not looking like the most hygienic of places, to this day I have never been ill and I buy chicken, beef, fruit, vegetables, snacks, eggs and Chinese fast food from Guilin Lu Market almost every day.
Add: 28 Guilin Lu, Chaoyang District, Changchun
Opening hours: 09:30-16:30
Bainaohui. Photo: meizumi.com
2) Bainaohui 百脑汇 View In Map
If you want fresh fruit, vegetables and meat this market is highly recommended. Bainaohui on Gongnong Dalu is unquestionably a computer geeks paradise. If you have any interest in consumer electronics and your pulse does not start racing the moment you set foot inside this multi-storey electronics market, STOP!! Go and put on a your favourite cardigan, put your feet up and drink a nice glass of dry sherry...this place is gadget heaven. Laptops, PCs, video cameras, digital SLRs, Ipods, mp4’s, hard drives, USBs, mobile phones, portable speakers, gaming consoles and all the software and accessories that anyone could ever need, is available here.
If you have any intention of making a purchase here and your Chinese is, well..a bit rusty, take along a friend or a colleague to handle the delicate negotiations. Some of the sales staff do speak English, but as many of the items on sale are important to foreigners’ sanity in China, it helps to know what has been said.
Add: 1313 Gongnong Dalu, Chaoyang District, Changchun
Opening hours: Daily, 09:00-18:00
3) Beifang Market 北方市场 View In Map
If you are looking for gadgets of any kind look no further. Located on Ziyou Dalu, Beifang Market is pretty close to Changchun City Stadium. What is so good about this market is that it is the best place I know to go if you need to furnish your apartment, buy some blackout curtains for when the sun starts rising at 3:00am, or get a ‘snazzy’ business suit tailored for around 400 RMB.
This huge market has a really good selection of kitchen utensils, glassware, furniture, bed linen, bathroom items and textiles. Many of the furniture items can be delivered straight to your apartment. If you want a coffee table, coat stand, (or for you insomniacs, some blackout curtains) this market is a suitable destination.
Add: Ziyou Dalu, Erdao District, Changchun
Opening hours: Summer: 8:30 -17:00; Winter: 8:30 - 16:30
4) Anhua Market 安华市场 View In Map
My absolute favourite market in Changchun is Anhua Market, which is pretty close to Renmin Square, Walmart and the Shangri-La Hotel. It is actually on a pretty small side street called Guangming Lu and it is not as easy to find as other markets in this city; some taxi drivers do not even know of its existence. This is one of the least known markets to foreigners who live in Changchun, but is a bustling, noisy, unfriendly place to get a new or used mobile phone.
The first floor sells authentic (fingers crossed) Motorola, Nokia, LG, Sony Ericsson and Samsung mobile phones. The kiosks also sell the well known Chinese brands Lenovo, Oppo and TCL, but it is only when you go up the escalator to the second floor that you really experience something unique. The first time I went to Anhua Market I had nothing against duct tape; if anyone had accused me of having an aversion against tape of any kind, I would have been found not guilty in any court in the land. But once you start walking around browsing the blatantly fake iphno’s, motolola’s and mokia’s, your concentration is invaded by incessant taping. I have never seen or heard taping as loud, or so comprehensive in my life and the demand for iphno’s in Equatorial Guinea or Uzbekistan must be absolutely massive!
My colleague and I were there to purchase a phone, to replace the one he left in a taxi on a ‘night out’. But the particularly unfriendly sales lady’s distain for us was pretty clear when she refused to show us her Ferrari mobile phone, but luckily our concentration was broken by the crescendo of numerous boxes of phones being rapidly taped up and despatched. As we stood and admired the speed and skill that the staff at this market had acquired, the taping symphony reached its climax; the ripping/taping sounds forced us to find an exit and head outside for some fresh air and car fumes.
We re-entered the market 10 minutes later, painlessly purchasing a nice little Nokia for about 350 RMB and we both laughed at the whole incident. It is this kind of experience that makes me happy I came to China. If you want an iphno, there is simply no better place to go.
Add: 336 Xi’an Dalu, Chaoyang District, Changchun
Opening hours: 8:45 - 17:30
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Keywords: Markets Changchun computer market Changchun mobile phone markets Changchun exploring Changchun’s markets
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