I used to live around the corner from the old Xiangyang Road Fashion & Gift Market. That was the euphemism for Shanghai's famously dodgy fake market. You walked through the gates and were immediately bombarded with "You want a bag lady? Gucci? Prada?" "DVD?" "Watch? Bag? Shoes?" Guys who lagged behind their shopping-frenzied girlfriends were tantalized by vendors with "Sex DVD? Sex DVD?" It was an end of an era when the market got bulldozed and those vendors were dispersed throughout various locales including the Hong Qiao New World Pearl Market. But I always said you get what you pay for, and when my friends would arrive back home and their $20 Rolex didn't work properly, I just chuckled.
A few weeks ago, Santa (read: me) found himself (read: herself) in a dither. I needed to acquire a Nintendo DS with various games and my friends kept telling me to go to "580". The conversation went something like this:
Me: "[My son] wants a DS for Christmas. Where do I get one?"
Friend: "Go to 580."
Me: "What is 580? What does that mean?"
Friend: "580 Nanjing? You've never been?"
Friend, incredulously: "Don't you write about shopping?"
Me: "Well, yes, among other things."
Friend: "580 Nanjing West Road. Don't pay over 500rmb."
Shanghai still surprises me. Much to my shock and awe, I walked into an indoor version of Xiangyang Market. It's a little friendlier, a little less overt and the bathrooms are mildly less disgusting. And, well, you can shop rain or shine.
580, as people even more in the know than I am call it, is several floors of crap - some good quality crap, some just crap. It makes a fun stop for tourists; though make no mistake, that's what you'll be taken for. Prices start ridiculously high. A Blackhawks jersey started at 500rmb (that's a little less than $100) and we worked it down to 200. The walk-away works very well here but make sure you have your bargaining-boots on and don't get too worked up if the shopkeeper says "no way" to your pleas of lower prices. You'll find the same thing on the next floor.
I got my DS plus 4 games. (I said "no thanks" to the chip with 150 games pre-loaded as Santa just couldn't quite go there.) In the meantime, we've taken 2 games back to be exchanged (at least the vendors stand by their crap) and the recipient seems relatively happy with his Christmas haul.
Photos: above - everything you could possibly need in "silk"; below - preserved bugs you didn't know you needed until you found them at 580. © 2010 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.