Yesterday was so much fun! I went with Robin, the wife of a guy Hubby works with, to the city of Jinan, which is the capital of this province (I think I got that right). It's a much bigger city than Taian. We met up with a couple of other ladies, Ella and Shirley. Shirley speaks Chinese, so she was able to help us when we got to the market.
The market (I think it was called New World Market) is a giant building filled top to bottom with little stalls selling everything from cheap toys and loose tea leaves to candy and clothing. In fact, the entire second floor is a maze of clothing stalls. Many of them were pre-made, off-the-rack clothes, but many more were stalls selling fabric. When you find a fabric you like, you show it to the tailor. Then you choose the style of garment you want, either from one of the displayed items or by bringing a picture to show him. Then they measure you and give you a time to pick up your custom-made garment.
Shirley told me a friend of hers got an entire suit custom-made for about $75! And these fabrics - you wouldn't believe how gorgeous! They had everything from silk to wool, with the most beautiful patterns and designs. I would have loved to have a skirt made from several of the different materials I saw, but I didn't have that much money with me and in a place like that, there's no such thing as credit cards.
I did find a beautiful off-the-rack skirt that just screamed "Take me home!". The lady wanted 120 Rmb for it, but that would have been all my money. She even told Shirley they don't bargain there. But when I started to walk away, she gave it to me for 100. That's about $15. You could never find a skirt that nice for $15 at home.
After lunch, we went to another market, which was more like a giant flea market. It had a roof, but was open to the outside. This place was so huge, we only saw a tiny fraction of it in the hour we were there. They had every type of clothing you can imagine. Some of it looked to be of very good quality, but much of it looked about as cheap as the prices. I didn't buy anything, but I did see a couple of things that looked nice. After a while, we were pretty tired and headed back to Taian.
I had a lot of fun and actually wouldn't mind doing it again next week, armed with more money this time. Of course, I haven't shopped around here yet, so maybe there are equally great deals waiting for me in the local shops. I'll let you know!