Hello Uncle Foreigner

May 22, 2012

Southwest Trading Center of China

Time for shopping

Way back in October, we got on a bus that we educatedly guessed was the tourist loop - one of our fellow teachers had mentioned that there was a good tourist bus (with a very specific look that she described) that went all around the city.

Something obviously was mangled in both translation and interpretation, because this turned out to be a regular city bus that took us out to the edge of the city and dumped us out in the middle of this construction site. (We’ve since learned that buses here don’t loop, they just pendulate from one end of their route to the other.) There were two other people on the bus with us, and they were just as confused as we were. I’m sure our teacher didn’t mean to send us to a construction site, but we never resolved what she really meant when she told us to get on that bus.

But, anyway. Recently, ads touting the finished product of that construction have popped up all over town. It’s called the Southwest Trading Center of China, and it’s a giant mall! Some of the ads even show an Ikea! Last weekend, we went and checked it out.

The bus ride was way more populated this time, but it still let out at the edge of the city. Only now we were confronted with the biggest mall complex I’d ever seen. It was seriously giant. It was also still under construction, even though there were posters celebrating the grand opening on April 29. But some stores were up and running.

All of the stores somehow related to home building, which makes sense because a quadrillioin apartment buildings are going up here every day. Can the local economy support such construction? Beats me! But STCoC is ready to supply everyone who needs its wares. (It could possibly supply every home builder in Asia.) Each giant unit of the mall had a different focus. There was the ceramic tiling unit, with 30 different stores selling tiles; the bathroom fixtures unit, with western and Chinese toilets; the kitchen fixtures unit, which made us salivate with envy because our kitchen is so badly designed for our big, western bodies; and so on. Everything on sale was shiny and new and expensive-looking.

Like I said, we weren’t the only ones to make the ride out there, and I got the impression that the other people weren’t really shopping either. Like us, they were there to get a gander at the flashy new city (basically) that was erected right outside our old one. We didn’t spot an actual Ikea, which was disappointing but expected; it’s common practice to use clip art - sometimes clip art you don’t actually own - in making advertisements. (The other day I spotted a McDonald’s ice cream cone in a sign for a mom-and-pop scoopery.) But in a few months, we’ll go out there once more to see what we see. And I’m still hoping for an Ikea, if only to see if Chinese Ikea still serves Swedish meatballs.