China – June 2018
Paula got to go to China on a buying trip with her boss, Victor. They are in the vending business and source their toys, prizes etc for the vending machines in China. I was fortunate enough to be invited along. I was quite tepid at first and declined, but eventually warmed to the idea of China and jumped in.
Victor has been going to China several times a year for decades, so he knows the ropes. He navigated the passport, visa, China currency and other issues for us. We first flew to Shanghai and after immigration – fingerprinting, (Paula has a story here),** we took the Maglev train (magnetic levitation) to Pudong. This a very fast train! Paula and I had been on high speed trains in Europe before and they top out at just over 300km an hour – which is very fast…but the Maglev line takes it to a whole new level. The odometer in our train car showed the speed passing 300, then 320, 380 etc and it still kept climbing. This thing goes an amazing 430km an hour – that is FAST! The ground just zoomed by. After this half hour train ride we got on a normal high speed train taking us to Yiwu. (24 hours of travel in total).
Just one of many Shanghai train stations
Yiwu is a city of about 2 million people and is the worlds largest wholesale market. This market is scary BIG! Over 59,000,000 square feet of showroom booths. To put that in perspective – West Edmonton Mall has 3,800,000 sq ft… so Yiwu is almost 20 times the size. There are over 70,000 booths selling over 400,000 types of products.
A market vendor selling fruit to market vendors
‘I can see for miles and miles and miles’
We stayed at the incredible Shangri La Hotel – they don’t skimp out on anything there. The breakfast buffet was the best we ever had!
Our hotel room
Happy Hour room at the Shangri La
Heated toilets seats!
The market is a vast labyrinth with 5 districts each with buildings 4 floors high that each specialize in certain products. You can easily spend a full day and not get out of the first building, and even then only seeing half of it. There are buildings just for toys, floors for just leather, just umbrellas, just buttons, just jewelry etc…truly amazing. There is a whole building just for socks! We spent 7 days touring this market. Paula, Victor and associates Alice, and Lucky did all their toy shopping for their vending needs. Paula and I even picked up some music memorabilia for Underground Music back in Kelowna.
Squishy’s or Mushy’s – the hottest toys in the market for us
Some workers/owners raise their children in the market
The number of buyers from around the world in Yiwu resulted in streets filled with multi-cultural neighbourhoods and fantastic restaurants. We enjoyed many cuisines: Indian, Turkish and a street BBQ in the Muslim area. One of the suppliers took us for a Chinese food lunch and we heard stories through Alice, our translator. Another supplier treated us to traditional Hot Pot dinner – it was amazing!
After the week in Yiwu, we took train back to Shanghai where Victor played generous host and showed us parts of this insanely huge city. Shanghai is either the largest or second largest city in the world – depending on which list you check out. It is roughly 24 million people.
We had a blast site seeing a Buddhist Temple, shopping districts and restaurants.
We had the most delicious and authentic Peking Duck imaginable. Shanghai’s heart is the Bund, a famed waterfront promenade lined with colonial-era buildings. Across the Huangpu River rises the Pudong district’s futuristic skyline, including a 632m Shanghai Tower and the Oriental Pearl TV tower.