Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to Beijing I go…
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I'm really excited to head off to Beijing on Saturday for a week of (mostly) work. And, all right, a teensy bit of shopping. As you may know, I lived in Beijing for two years from 2003-2005 and this is the first time I've been back. I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and hitting my former stomping grounds (and eating delicious food! we cannot overemphasize the amazingness of Beijing food!) but I'm really excited for the shopping. (I am also ignoring the fact that it will be apparently colder and snowier there than it is here. Beijing in January? Um, not the smartest idea I've ever had.) Still, the promise of delicious gan bien si ji dou and adorable Chinese things should make it worth the journey. Here are the spots on my must-shop list so far -- a full city shopping guide will be coming after my trip:
+Spin Ceramics. It used to be there was only a Shanghai outpost of this amazing ceramics company, but they've since expanded to Beijing as well. I cannot wait: They have the most amazing, modern designs – from gorgeous glazed plates to more avant garde display pieces – and are a great, affordable resource for seriously cool finds and really good gifts. (That's a snap of their "clay wrinkle" plate series above.)
+798 complex. The art scene buzz may be migrating to more up-and-coming areas, but 798 – an old factory complex that became Beijing's first commercial art district years ago – is still worth a visit. (Er, I hope.) Interspersed between the galleries are some very neat stores (there was a great local arts bookshop and a fantastic furniture store among the mix the last time I was there) – be sure to buy a complex map at one of the galleries so you don't miss any of them. And don't skip the galleries either: The ones in 798 are some of the most major exhibition spaces in the country and often feature pioneering shows. (Plus: New ones are still popping up!)
+Ya Show market. I've always refused to go to the "famous" Silk Market (which is now a modern-looking mall – when I first moved there, it was still a string of crowded little alleys. Ah, memories.) Instead, if I want tourist-y finds or a good tailor, I hit the slightly-less-known (but only slightly) Ya Show market in Sanlitun, which has a wide variety of merchandise and tailoring options. The Chinese knick-knacky fourth floor was always my favorite, but if you've got time, you'll find good bargains on every floor. (I haven't been to my old tailor, Ya Shi at stall #3066 on the third floor, in years, but most spots on the third floor are a great place to find reasonably priced – and quick! – tailoring options. I'm planning to head over there pronto to order a little brocade silk dress myself.)
+Panjiayuan, aka the Dirt Market. This weekend flea market has always been one of my favorite shopping spots in the city for its vast selection of unique items. The best finds I've discovered here – including awesome original artwork, carved bangle bracelets, even colorful agate slabs that I use as coasters -- take some poking around to uncover, but it's such an interesting (if somewhat crowded) place that I've never minded spending half a day here. Bargain very, very hard – if you've got "tourist" written all over you, the starting price can often be ten times what the seller will actually accept.
+The new Lane Crawford store. I'm most looking forward to seeing all the new stores that have popped up in Beijing since my departure, starting with the new branch of Hong Kong's venerable luxury department store. The HK outposts of Lane Crawford are some of my absolute favorite stores in the entire world – both for their amazing selection of the most gorgeous designer clothes you could ever hope to stand next to, but also because their exhibition-quality fashion presentations – and I can't wait to see what they've done in Beijing.
The one thing I'm looking for: Just in case any of you have current Beijing shopping knowledge, I'd love to know if there's a boutique that sells local designers – especially amazing Shanghai-based Zhang Da – in Beijing yet. I want some new Zhang Da pieces! (The only place I've ever found his designs is Younik at Bund 18 in Shanghai.) Advice, suggestions, kind understanding would be greatly appreciated.