Trip to the Fabric Market

Keeping ourselves in decent clothing is a challenging. Except for Hope, we are not the shape of most Chinese people so few shops, and no inexpensive shops, carry clothing that fits us. When we go to America we stock up on new things, but by the time we have been back in country for a year, most of those are looking quite ratty. I’m not sure why our clothing seems to wear out so quickly but a few reasons come to mind – public transportation is quite dirty so anything light colored gets dingy fast; we rarely have more than a week’s supply of reputable looking items so those are worn and washed often; the polluted water with which we wash clothes is not pristine so they never really get super clean; and we have never discovered good quality spot cleaners in GZ. Whatever the reasons, our year anniversary of being back in China passed in February, making us now overdue for some replacement clothing. What’s a tall, overweight, or differently proportioned foreigner to do? (Differently proportioned translates to someone who actually has thighs or hips!)

After a number of years here, we finally discovered that we could go to the fabric market, buy cloth, and get a tailor to copy the clothes we already have which we like or duplicate clothing from a photo out of a catalogue. Isn’t that expensive? Well, it didn’t used to be! Now it’s costlier than purchasing items at WalMart or on sale at other stores, but similar to paying full price at mall shops. Prices aside, it’s just what we have to do to have decent clothing, so we do it!

Going to the fabric market is kind of fun. We usually set aside a full day to do it because even if we’re only there a few hours, we’re exhausted when we get home since the market is four or five stories high in two different buildings! It is a feast for the eyes and the senses! These pictures are in order as we came to the shops. If they seem kind of random, that gives you a better idea of our shopping experience! One can find linens in an amazing array of colors, patterns, and qualities…

Probably fifty stalls have Chinese silk. The ladies stand out in the openings of their stalls and when we walk by they say, “Silk-a, silk-a!” (Excuse the photo quality- they are cell phone pics!) There are silks from all over China. On the right of the sales lady you see dark greens, maroons, browns… Those are Guangdong silks. They are soft and luxurious feeling- good job Guangdong! The ladies offer us cigarette lighters to try to burn the edges of their silk. If it’s the genuine article it won’t burn.

But not everything is silk-a! We call this the “tacky shop”. Taken individually, some of the cloth is quite pretty, but altogether it looks as if the flower fairy overate and regurgitated here!

These ladies sell all kinds of trim and decorations. The selection is mind boggling!

Each little stall is independently owned and operated. Prices vary wildly and are higher until the vendors realize that we actually live in China and have some sort of a clue about the norm.

Here and there throughout the market, tailors have set up shop. They make some clothing “on spec” as you see hanging in the back and tailor for others to your specifications. Those prices vary wildly, too, as does the quality of the workmanship. 

We were looking at some fabric in the “Beautiful Flower and Fashionable Cloth” shop when Joy and I decided to try a little experiment. We had carried along the clothes we wanted duplicated and the lady assured us that the fabric we were looking at was perfect to make Joy’s skirt. (The fabric we look at is ALWAYS perfect! Apparently we have immaculate taste.) Anyway, I whispered to Joy, “Ask her if it would make a good pair of pants.” So Joy says, “What do you think, would this make good pants?” “Oh, YES! Very good!” “How about a bathing suit? Would it make a good bathing suit?” “Very comfortable swim suit! Very good.” “What about a nightgown? Could I use this to make a nightgown?” “Of course! This would make a perfect nightgown? So very comfortable!” “Hmmm. Or underwear? How would it work to make underwear out of it?” (Straight face. Slight pause.) “Very comfortable underwear!” Joy and I quickly dodged out of the shop before she caught us giggling! Seems we had found the perfect all purpose cloth- skirts, pants, night wear, swim suit, unders…. We hope the sales lady had as much fun that night recounting the tale of the crazy foreigners who wanted to make underwear out of linen as we did!

As you can see, the choices are almost limitless.

Button, button, who’s got the button? Why, the owner of this shop, of course!

Some of these vendors are very eager to sell their wares, but others not so much. Once at the fabric market we approached a stall similar to the one below. Deep in the recesses of the mess was a lace we were interested in for our daughters-in-love’s wedding gown. We asked the attendant, “Would you please get this ream down for us so that we could look at it?” Said he, “Not unless you will buy it.” Said we, “How do we know if we want to buy it if we don’t look at it up close?” “Not my problem. If you won’t pay for it first I won’t get it out.” “Well, how about we get it out ourselves?” “No. We’re not getting it unless you buy it first.” “We’re not buying it unless we can see it.” “Mei banfa (No solution).” Ok, then, well… We went on our way without his fabric wondering, “What in the world?” Go figure!

These little stores, as you see, are jam packed with fabric, small, and crowded. We were looking in this nook when, surprise! This little lady peeked out at us from between the patterns on the back wall! At another place, suddenly feet descended a hidden ladder from the ceiling where the shopkeeper had gone to retrieve something. Never a dull moment at the fabric mall!

Imagine floor after floor of small cubicles chocked full of linens, cottons, silks, laces, polyesters, nylons, rayons, blends, suiting, buttons, beads, spangles, bows, zippers, elastic, snaps, threads, needles in every color of the rainbow! Maybe that’s why it’s so tiring to go- the senses are almost overwhelmed! But for the seamstresses and quilters among our readers, I imagine it would be great fun for you. Come visit, we’ll take a day and go wandering. Fabric anyone?

And for inquiring minds, this is what we bought minus a few pieces we’ve already had made into clothes. Lots of dark things that won’t get ruined right away.

Chime Long International Circus

The Chime Long International Circus is considered the number one tourist attraction in Guangzhou by Trip Advisor ratings- and with good reason! We had never gone due to the high price tag of this 1.5 hour show, but after hearing so many great reports, we gave ourselves circus tickets for Christmas which we finally redeemed just last week. We borrowed Jeremy’s high quality camera with which Joy caught some great shots. Nothing, however, could quite capture the fast pace of this creative, colorful, quirky, and entertaining show! But….come to the circus with us and we’ll walk you through part of the experience!

Caleb was so excited! He could hardly wait for it to start, but he had to! We arrived an hour early in order to get good seats which are first come first served within boundaries.

With no introductions, the extravaganza began with a laser light show, singers, dancers, people spinning on wires suspended from the ceiling, and LOUD LOUD music!

You will quickly notice that not all the faces are Chinese. In fact, our assessment was that the majority of the players were from outside China with a large contingent from formerly Soviet block countries. The second act was trick riding, during which one flexible and bold young woman hung backward off the horse, then crawled underneath the belly and back up onto the saddle from the other side. Eek! 

For some reason, this act featured a large Atlantis-like shell on which reclined what appeared to be a fake lion and a real tiger (not sure the lion was fake- just a guess). Don’t ask me what the shell had to do with anything, but the riders were excellent. Forgive the heads. In our seats, it was impossible to shoot around everyone sitting, standing, or walking around in front of us.

Angela’s favorite performance was the aerial ballet. The music was quiet, the mood serene, the lighting muted and romantic. During this, she tapped her Aunt Joy on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, excuse me! I have to dance!” Unfortunately, no photos of that but suffice it to say she was the cutest performer in the show, and probably the most modestly dressed!

That was followed closely by the trapeze artists. They did have a net, which I appreciated. It made it much more relaxing for the audience! 

As soon as one act finished, the next came on. In this photo notice the clowns already onstage as the trapeze-ists (trapezoids? swingers?) take their final bows.

We were amused by the wide variety of animals who appeared in the course of the evening. If you have an aversion to trained animals, this circus is not for you! We guessed that this troupe takes advantage of the safari zoo next door- thus the strange assortment of creatures that took part including this hippo and these… guinea hens? Meanwhile, the clowns did magic tricks/comedy in the background.

And the monkeys and mama pig with piglets!

Following the clowns was a group of springboard performers among which was this guy on stilts…

Then back came the clowns with trained bears who could ride bikes and motorcycles, push wheelchairs….

and walk tightropes!

Of course, there was the obligatory elephant performance.

This shot was taken at the end of this trick, but the elephants turned a jumprope with their trunks while this man jumped. It was pretty cool!

Afterward, six South American dare devils rode small motorcycles in this globe. Though the set is a bit tacky, their riding was incredible and they did some amazing tricks.

Then we saw more aerial performers in this “Sky Dance”. Notice the giraffes at the bottom of the second photo following. I didn’t even notice them because I was looking up. However, afterward when we asked Caleb what he liked best at the circus he answered, “The giraffes.” Go figure! But this act also included trained deer, camels, a zebra, and some swans.


Then another horse act, voted by our family to be the most underwhelming part of the show.

While setting up the stage for the next big event, these acrobats put on a quick paced, fun, show in the runways around the stage. They moved so fast that this was the only pose we got a clear shot of, but we hugely enjoyed watching them.

Following them was this Wheel of Fire- our family’s favorite performance of the evening. A very fit young woman walked in the middle ring steadily throughout their act, to keep the wheels in motion.

The four buff men in pink did various tricks in, around, and on top of the wheels, keeping their own wheels spinning as well. Here they jump rope.

Then they did it blindfolded. They must be NUTS, buff nuts, but still… (That man is not falling, just doing a stunt.)

This was a great shot, though we just missed the guy’s head. These folks earned their applause with constant action, creativity, and heart stopping antics.

The girls were enthralled.

The ensuing parade around the ring included flamingos, mountain goats, and a gazelle, among other things!

Then, lo and behold, the little river running around the stage which had featured lights, smoke, fog, and fire turned out to have a deep enough section for diving! This act had divers, trampolinists, and even a slip and slide portion.

The final feature was an American man shot from a cannon. The actual shooting had so much light and smoke that the photos didn’t come out, but Joy got a great shot of the guy’s shadow in the lighting as he flew!

And…just like that, an hour and a half later with no breaks, no intermissions, split second timing…the show is over and it’s time for the last parade and final bow!

The pictures really don’t do justice to this, the largest permanent circus in the world. They put on a really stunning show which cannot be fully appreciated in only one visit. As I looked at the pictures Joy had taken I realized how many facets I had missed. It was well worth the expensive price tag and made a great family memory.

For those coming to Guangzhou, the Chime Long International Circus costs 250-280 yuan for adults, 125-150 for kids or shorter adults from 1.2-1.5 meters tall, free for children less than 1.2 meters one per adult ticket. VIP tickets are available for an extra 200 yuan. These allow you to have premium, reserved seating.

To get there, take subway line 3 to Hanxi ChongLong; take Exit E; and take the ChongLong shuttle to the circus.

The circus begins at 7:30 but opens at 5:30. If you arrive early, you can get very nice seating without paying the extra price. The better seats are to the left and right of VIP seating down by the “river”. If you are seated in any of the rows along the river you will have access to the many stuffed toys, etc, they throw to the crowd. We arrived at 6:30 by which time those seats were taken.

The facilities include food kiosks, souvenir shops, and so forth, and abut the ChongLong Water Park, Amusement Park, Safari Zoo, and hotel.  All are similarly priced and offer good entertainment for longer term visitors to Guangzhou.