Yi WU takes up two large multi-storey buildings and it's filled with individual shops and booths. This picture was taken with my little cell phone camera looking down from the second storey (children's toys, clothes, stationery) to the main floor (clothes). Those are large tables of snacks in the lobby there.
Escalators in Yi Wu go only one way -- up. The third floor is furniture, hardware and housewares. The fourth floor, or as I like to call it, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire floor, is dry goods. Tucked into unexpected corners are furniture stores and stores selling jade, jewelery, pearls, household shrines, massages, eye glasses, and on and on.
When I went to YiWu a few times a month during my first months here, I would sometimes picture the day when I'd bring Ross to this place and I hoped that, even though he's not a big shopper, he would enjoy it as well. Well, yes he does. There is something about the vibe of the place that is like a laid back swap meet or something. You don't have merchants chasing after you the way they do at the Silk Market in Beijing.
Everyone tells me that YiWu is a place for haggling. I think the merchants take a sterner line with laowai, figuring that we Westerners have lots of money and why should they trim their profit margins? And, fundamentally, I agree with them. I doubt these merchants are going to have the chance to travel as I've done, or enjoy the Western lifestyle I enjoy. Why should I beat them down on price? If I think the price is fair, I don't haggle. For example, Ross just bought a carved wooden walking stick for 30 yuan. That's $5.19 Canadian. Why should we try and force the price down another few yuan?
Even back at home I used to have trouble navigating the biggest shopping mall in town. I always felt like I was in Harry Potter's Hogwarts School -- surely corridors were shifting as I passed through and I'd always end up where I didn't expect to be. Yi Wu is even more so -- every time I enter, I find a new corner I hadn't seen before, selling merchandise I didn't know about. Finding my way back to a stall I've been to before is very much hit-and-miss. But, I've decided, that is part of the experience.