The Detour from Yuyuan Gardens


The Eye of a Needle, Sewing Shop Taupo, Fabric Shop, Sewing Supplies
  • August 8, 2017

The Lonely Planet Guide rates the Yuyuan Gardens & Bazaar as a ‘thing to do in Shanghai.

‘With its shaded corridors, glittering pools and whispering bamboo, the Yuyuan Gardens are a delightful escape from Shanghai’s glass-and-steel modernity.’

We had been in Shanghai 5 days and felt like we had found what we were looking for business wise. Shanghai is such a busy place. Everything is chaotic. The traffic, millions of people, scooters, bikes, buses, taxis, pedestrians all at fast pace, day and night. It’s a city that never sleeps. It is the economic/business centre of China and up there in world finance realms, so it stands to reason that it’s ‘all go’ in a city this size all the time.

We’d had enough of the fast pace with 2 days left before our return home, so we decided that a visit to a quiet tranquil garden with lush green leaves and trickling water would be just the thing to soothe the soul on another 40-plus-degree hot Shanghai day.

Once you leave the comfort of an air conditioned hotel foyer – you’re up against the heat – so we would wait for our taxi inside the hotel foyer and the ‘seasoned-to-the-heat’ hotel staff would hail the taxi driver. This day we had a 10 minute drive to the gardens. The driver gave us directions once he dropped us off – to go up to the lights and turn left, and the gardens would be right there in front of us.

Maybe our driver was an angel in disguise. Before we even made it to the lights I was in heaven on earth as every shop between our drop off and the lights was some kind of haberdashery shop. A button shop. A lace shop. A zip shop. It was actually quite overwhelming- like I’m in this zip shop and how many zips do I want to buy on the spot? We moved on, with gardens in mind, but as we crossed over at the lights what should be right in front of us but this little wee cluttered shop loaded with hessian, and string ‘everything’. You have to understand that when I am in any kind of sewing shop I go a bit la-la but this was something else. Every kind of piping cord or binding was in this tiny little space; hessian bags, hessian tape, strings of every thickness & texture, piping cord, linen tape, more linen tape all different widths and lengths. I could have gone crazy in there…well I kind of did go crazy because there was just a smorgasbord of every kind of binding possible. I actually had to pull my head in and ask myself ‘ What do I really need?’. I wanted the whole shop!

Given that we have invested in linen, and our vision is getting a lot more fine tuned towards stocking our shop with all things natural fibre and linen, it was like God plonked this little shop right on the street corner just for me and said ‘What do you think of this?.

So I had to think very strategically. If I went to Spotlight, what would I buy? Obviously this little place was a whole lot cheaper than anything I would find in Spotlight, and the fact that I could buy in bulk was extremely tempting.

Communication was a little bit of an issue as the young man who served me didn’t speak any English and of course I didn’t speak any Chinese. There were plenty of hands waving around and fingers pointing at the tape measure, and nodding as he would ask me ‘how-long-do-you- want-this-piece-of-string’ typed questions in Chinese. The Google translator app on my phone came in very handy at this stage, and somehow we came to an understanding that I was serious about doing the business!

Every time I would pull out a roll, the lad would ask how much did I want, so in the end it was easiest to say Yes, I’ll have 20 metres of this, and 20 metres of that, 50 metres of this one, and I’ll take 20 of those bags please. I think he ended up having as much fun as me. Helpers seemed to emerge from nowhere to measure out 20 metres of tape here and there, roll it up and add it to the hoard I was gathering. It almost became like a ‘Quick -cut it before she changes her mind’ type scenario. I’m sure the very helpful young man probably earned his weeks’ wages in 30 minutes flat with all my purchasing!

Of course in the midst all of this, my dear friend Fanny had to make her appearance, as it was so jolly hot! When I get too hot, my decision making can become somewhat random and illogical, so it was imperative that I had a cool, clear head to make these big decisions.

However, we did come to a point where we decided we had bought enough, even though I would have been quite happy to bring the whole shop home.. We had made plans earlier that morning to buy an extra suitcase, as our shopping throughout China was putting our 23kg bag limit under serious pressure. After this shopping expedition we were glad of that decision, and really could have done with the extra suitcase there and then to carry our goods home.

We stood and watched the owner of the shop (probably Dad) tally up my purchases, and it was then that I realised I would need to find an ATM as I didn’t have quite enough cash on me.Using a NZ Visa in a shop like this was not quite the way foreigners trade in China. Another young lad who was hovering around took me on a trail past many other market stalls to eventually reach a secure ATM. By the time I got back to the shop I was once more all hot and bothered. David had stayed at the shop to oversee my purchases getting packed, and once the money had changed hands, all my goods were handed over in a rather large plastic bag.

Now picture this. It’s 40 plus degrees, my love is carting at least 7kgs of cord and string in a plastic bag, and by this stage all we wanted to do was get a taxi out of there. Forget the gardens. This place was actually more of a bazaar than a garden, and we were actually over shopping and markets at this point. We stood in the heat for 20 minutes trying to wave at taxis and were getting just a tad annoyed at other Chinese tourists who kept pushing in front of us as a taxi would come around the corner. We learned to get quite aggressive in China. Basically if you don’t push in, you’ll get left behind. So in the end, once a taxi was secured in aggressive fashion, we bundled ourselves in with our very hot and heavy plastic bag and headed for a cool cafe.

I have to say that everything that the Lonely Planet guide recommended in China, gave us a very positive experience. Somehow we missed it on this one. As much as our desire to chill out in the garden didn’t really happen, that experience was forfeited for what I have to say is a stunning collection of tape and binding! And dare I say it, that if we head back to Shanghai any time soon, I will be making a bee line for the same little shop, probably with a list in hand. Perhaps we will take a little time to see what the gardens really have to offer a keen tourist. Who incidentally won’t be planning a visit any time around the month of July.

There are a fair few cushions that can be piped, and my tuffets creations will all be graced with beautiful linen tape and binding, so next week the real work must begin! Our focus is clearer regarding what we will stock in our shop, and we want to focus mainly on linen products.

We have made some very positive contacts in Shanghai and Beijing, so now we just need to wait for everything to fall in to place so we can start trading as shop owners. There are lots of things to think about; it’s coming together slowly but surely. While we wait, the sewing machine will be on auto and I hope to be churning out piped linen products in all shapes and sizes in the weeks ahead.

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