A Trip to a Small Chinese Shopping Mall – What Did I Find?

Here’s a photo blog from my trip out to Ningbo’s Grand Mall.

Geographically speaking, it’s quite near my school. The catch is that it involves a bus ride which is always an adventure in itself in China.

The bus has to cross under the river to get to the mall. Ningbo has too much traffic and way too few river crossing points, so these can be huge bottlenecks.

Here I am on the bus crawling through the tunnel. Thankfully there are no accidents in the tunnel on this particular journey.

I was used to catching the bus when I lived in Guangzhou. In Ningbo it’s somewhat harder. The bus doesn’t have any English announcements, unlike in Guangzhou.

The Grand Mall is an impressive building and the first time I saw it I thought there would be hundreds of really useful stores. In fact the main building is actually a furniture and home furnishings showroom. There’s nothing of interest to foreigners there, unless you actually live in China and happen to own your own apartment.

Of most interest to foreigners in this particular mall is a branch of Auchan. This is a French supermarket with many stores thoughout China. It’s a little like Carrefour. However I now prefer Auchan. The food I’ve bought from the local Carrefour has had problems, like beetles in pasta and melted chocolate on biscuits.

Auchan is really good and arguably the best place in China to buy high quality chocolate at affordable prices.

As it is nearly Chinese New Year here in China, there’s a lot of New Year tat. It kind of reminded me of pre-Christmas in the West.

As well as food, Auchan is a good place to buy essentials and non-essentials for your teacher’s apartment. I bought a really good food blender there for 99 RMB. I use it to make soups and smoothies – mango works really well.

Pick of the non-essentials has to be these cute little guys:

More little guys outside Auchan. Are they chipmunks? Cats? Bears? They look kind of faded and creepy.

The mall itself has a walking street where the main non-furniture related stores can be found. There are 3 levels of stores, although the upper 2 floors mainly contain restaurants.

Here’s an alternative view. Like just about everywhere in China, it’s largely deserted during weekday afternoons. If you’re an English teacher then be sure to do your shopping on a weekday. Never go to a supermarket on the weekend – that would be insane!

China has just claimed to have a 6.9% GDP growth in the previous year. But it’s always hard to imagine that given how empty many malls are. There’s a big turnover of stores as well. I guess a significant part of that GDP growth comes from building malls.

Here’s a flower shop with a dog in it. I need to write a photo blog of cats and dogs who own stores. I’ve got quite a large collection of related photos now.

Highlight of the trip to the mall was this sighting of a coffee shop.

Just another coffee shop?

Not quite!

This is actually a clone of Maan Coffee, which has branches in Beijing, Shanghai and Ningbo. So it’s a fake coffee shop!

I’ll visit this coffee shop clone sometime as I’m a big fan of the original. The fake one sells the same ice cream and waffle desserts. It even has crappier versions of the bears used as table numbers.

Whenever I visit Maan Coffee I’m always impressed by the number of Chinese people ordering ice cream waffles for lunch.

This is a more manly lunch – a Fashion BBQ:

Much kudos for apparently spelling barbecue correctly.

Which is more than I can say about this store’s pretty tragic Chinglish spelling of Ice Snow Cream. This isn’t an isolated typo either, it’s the same spelling on their menu board.

Another sign – this time just in Chinese. We Westerners like to think that Chinese characters look so cool and all that. Indeed many of us choose to get character tattooes.

The reality is that most Chinese signs are incredibly mundane. They just say boiled fish or something.

To take an example, the two resident dogs in my school are called Xiaohuang (小黄) and Xiaobai (小白). Cute names right? Well they just mean small yellow and small white!

The escalator to nowhere? In China you’ll often find that escalators are turned off to save electricity. I didn’t get round to exploring the 3rd floor of the mall. I believe there are even more restaurants up there.

Another sign – this one for pickled fish. If you start teaching English in China and have never visited China before then you’ll soon learn the sign for fish (鱼).

Just beware that if you order fish in China then it’s often very bony. Chinese people are taught how to eat fish bones and all – we’re not! So be very careful. Last year I swallowed a fishbone and it was an incredibly traumatic experience.

Here’s a stores’s display of teeny toddler shoes. I’ve seen this a couple of times in China now – it’s so cute.

More signs – this time in English, Chinese and Korean. At least the English spelling is OK, even if they have had problems with the word spacing.

Chinese people love KTV (karaoke) and this is a two person singbox. There are quite a few of these in Chinese malls but I’ve never actually seen anyone use them!

There’s an Ironman pizza restaurant in the mall but I’m not sure how good it is. I’ll have to give it a go. The prices seem a little steep.

The Japanese eel pizza sounds interesting. I’ll have to give that a go as I do like grilled eel.

I’m a big fan of Korean food and always buy packs of Kimchi when they’re in stock at Carrefour. I love this Korean restaurant’s sign showing how far it is from Seoul right down to 3 decimal places.

I do so want to visit Korea sometime. It’s actually not too far from Ningbo. But it would be crazy to go to Korea in Winter. It’s bad enough in Zhejiang Province.

Well this appears to be a Thai restaurant. I’ll have to give this one a go some time. Hopefully it’s better than the Indian restaurant my fellow teachers took me to.

Much kudos to this restaurant for actually having a picture with English translation menu. This makes it one of the few restaurants in my neighbourhood I can actually use on my own without ordering random stuff or being refused service for not being understood.

Finally I found an 一点点, yi dian dian. This drinks store is all over the place in China. Sadly the menu doesn’t have any English so I’m not sure how easy it is to order if your Mandarin and Chinese reading skills are as basic as mine! My students love yi dian dian though.

So that was a grand tour of the Grand Mall (minus the boring furniture bits). Of course there’s also a KFC there – what Chinese mall doesn’t have one of those?

Any questions or comments about living in China, leave comments below. I’d love to know if you’ve sighted a fake coffee store on your travels.

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