I’ve read in many places that most of China’s major cities are good destinations for people interested in shopping. Of course, most foreigners who come here to buy things are interested in bargains, but along with the influx of wealth (as well as the rapidly increasing domestic wealth) comes a certain amount of upscale retail business. Which leads us to The Place.
My taxi ride to the Mexican restaurant on Saturday evening took me down a street I hadn’t seen before, though it’s not far from where I live. As we drove through the darkness, I saw a massive video screen suspended above a side street, and a giant cover over the street behind it with some sort of light show going on. It reminded me of the pictures I’ve seen of someplace in Las Vegas. On Sunday I needed to go out to buy some things in that general part of town, so I took my camera and went to check it out.
As you approach in the daylight you can see the video screen and tell it’s showing something, but not much detail.
If you walk in, there’s a block of the street that’s been closed to traffic and ready for throngs of shoppers. It’s been open less than a year, and many of the store areas have “Opening Soon” signs up.
It’s all done on a massive scale, and a poor human being feels pretty small.
Apparently all the money in the world can’t buy good English form. And I must be ignorant to have not thought of Switzerland as a center of the perfuming art.
Inside it’s a fairly typical “fancy mall” with marble everywhere and modern sculpture. There are four levels of shops in the building on the south side of the courtyard. I was a little tired and thirsty by this point, so I went in and got a beverage and a snack at Starbucks and did some quality people watching.
A large portion of the clientele were foreigners like me.
After a while I wandered upstairs and went out onto the second story deck to see what was going on outside. There was music playing from the suspended speakers (Elton John, I think – it wasn’t very loud) and patterns played on the canopy above. Several other people were taking pictures.
I went back inside and took the escalator down to Level -1, underneath the courtyard (there’s apparently a Level -2, but I didn’t see what it was). This is where the Food Court will be, and there are a few other shops down there as well, including a Beijing 2008 Official Licensed Olympic Store. These characters seem to be following me wherever I go.
There’s also an English-language bookstore with a rather odd name. Did they mean “Chapterhouse” or “Charterhouse”? I went in and found a UK paperback copy of the last book in the science fiction series I’ve been reading for the ridiculous price of ¥105 ($13 US). But it’s imported – what do I expect?
The Place is the kind of over-the-top shopping area you might expect to see in Tokyo, though I suspect that a similar complex in Japan would not have so much open space. The sheer extravagance of it is impressive, and I hope it’s not a victim of the rampant speculation that has plagued the Chinese market in the last few years, leaving many ambitious projects half-finished.
Right next to The Place is a very interesting set of buildings. The light on the top of them says SOHO, but in this town that name seems to apply to a wide area and dozens of buildings. Anyway, at night these odd-shaped towers light up with white neon along the angles, and I can see them from my apartment.
And just for the heck of it, here’s a Chinese car that looks suspiciously like a BMW.