China - Yiwueeooeeooeeoo Edition

Oh Yiwu. What are we to do with you. 

Yiwu is a small town (about 600k people - so roughly the Chinese equivalent of a dilapidated shed in the middle of the Outback) we visited for one quick night in order to see the very thing it is oh so famous for. 

More on that later on.

First we leave Suzhou, but on the way out visit Monash University! Home sweet home. Turns out Monash has a brand new campus right here in Chinaland, and we got to visit. 

Waiting for our bus. Their suppressed rage is hilarious.

Ain't that a joyful sight. 

So we rocked up - it's 40 degrees again, hahahahha - the campus is basically empty because it's Summer, and everyone is out doing more fun things. 

Except badminton. There is always badminton.

We sat around inside, which seemed to bend the laws of thermodynamics and be even hotter than it was outside, waiting for the bloke who was going to present to us.

Twist: he forgot about us and, with breathtaking irony, had travelled to Australia only a few days earlier.
Well then.

Our visit was not a waste of time however, as we met several industrial design masters students, who, like the rest of their country, people and culture, exhibited a ridiculous depth and breadth of talent to make me feel like that talentless bag of snot yet again.

They took us through their inventions - yes, inventions - from product conception to prototype, in perfect English; they were pretty incredible and v interesting from a marketing perspective.

A special tech spoon that tells you nutrition info of what you're eating and talks to your other devices. I think it has a phone or something in it too.

A robot dude that picks up rubbish at the beach.

Super lake boat.

This is important. Somehow.

This one was a favourite - a device that's simply a door handle until an earth quake occurs: as you're running out the door, you dislodge it as you walk pas, it becomes a torch and when you get to the shelter, you store it along with those of all the other families; this way you know who's out safe and who's not. 

Their workshop - 

No one ever said genius was neat.


So the little needle there is slowly building the design of the product on the computer there, layer by layer. What. 

Clever student shares how she builds the concept of her design for a special pod for blood donors on a graphic design computer.

Time to literally run from the building to the bus because the heat is getting ridiculous.

Sit tight kiddies, because it's a five hour drive to Yiwu! Which, funnily enough, is also the maxium amount of time one would ever want to actually spend in Yiwu. 

Also, the trip wasn't a complete waste, as I finally plucked up the courage to actually use a drop toilet. Mainly because we were not in the middle of batshit nowhere, so that was the only choice. It was an improvement upon the last time I was confronted with the drop toilet, where I eventually gave up because I had no idea what was supposed to happen short of spontaneously becoming male. But I eventually worked it out, things went where things were supposed to go, and success all round!


More random China things, and more construction, so much more construction.

It was a very long bus ride. 

With some singing entertainment at intermission.

Sunset on Yiwu.

It's about a tier 5 city, or, depending on your world perspective, a tier 50 city. It kinda looks like a rundown Beijing.

Ooooh, hot stroke treatment.

MFW someone makes a sexual innuendo. MFW someone makes a sexual innuendo.

On that note, we ended up going straight to dinner from the bus, without going to the hotel.

Yi overseeing all things gentlemanly again.

The Arab restaurant we were supposed to go to had, uhh, closed randomly since last time apparently, but we got hotpot, which is up there with Peking Duck as Official Chinese Eating Things I Want To Try.

So for those not in the Cool Chinese Cuisine Club of knowledge, hotpot is when you get your very own pot of simmering soup, with a heap of raw things in the middle, and you cook each mouthful by dipping it in the soup right before you eat it. You make your own sauce, with rice, and it's not only delicious, it's also extremely fun. 

So you dip wafer-thin slices of meat in for just a few seconds, for example, and it's cooked and then you nom.

The next morning was our time to explore the reason we were here in the first place, before we left for our last stop for the trip in the afternoon.

Yiwi is known as the International Trade City. You know how China is known for and stereotyped as the place where all the cheap shit comes from? Well this is the city in China where most of that cheap shit comes from. 

How can I put this in perspective. This is the only reason people come to this city, and a lot of people do. It's their specialty. The shopping centres here only do wholesale; you go in to a shop and say you want twenty thousand of [literally any demand good you can think of that exists] and they'll sell it to you. The idea is that people from everywhere around the world come here, bulk buy things for dirt cheap, and sell it onwards to anyone, anywhere. 

There are five districts. 
And by district I mean an unfathomably huge 5 storey building that tends to look like this;

Yiwu International Trade City - District 1
District 1 (not mine)

Yiwu International Trade City - District 2
District 2

International Trade City - District 3
District 3

Yiwu International Trade City - District 4
District 4

Yiwu International Trade City - District 5
District 5

In all, they hold over 70 000 shops, over 10 million products and see 150 000 visitors each day. Each day.

Each floor of each building sells a different category of goods; so it can either look like this:

Yiwu International Trade City - District 5-f1

Or, at its most extreme, like this:

Yiwu International Trade City - District 5-f2
An entire floor (this thing is at least 2km long) for bedding. Bedding.

Shops in here are all about, I dunno, maybe 6m squared, tiny stores, all selling the exact same thing. The stores don't have names, or advertising, or sales, or any other differentiating feature. So for us, the idea was too look at how a consumer environment works with a complete absence of marketing.

So. Y'all know how much I love shopping (clue for newbies: I do not). Here was my chance to spend hours lost inside kilometres of thousands of  dodgy shops selling the same thing who refuse to sell you anything, all in the name of education!

Oh gosh why couldn't they have just described this place to us?

Armed with the company of Yi, Wai Sin, Jo and Kim, we entered.

I'm riveted already.

My sentiments exactly.

Fun times ahead: we got lost in the frakking hardware section. THE HARDWARE SECTION.

Translation: rows after rows after rows after rows after rows after rows after rows of bolts and drills and torches and welders and nails and oh dear god in heaven.

I said they sold everything here, and I meant it:

Dog collars.


Phone covers.

I lasted ten minutes. 

Then I went back to the hotel by myself and had a cup of tea.

We're on the home run now folks, until next time.

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