One of the first things I noticed about the local environment was the high-rise buildings that have cropped up since I was here in 2008. Dozens of 20-floor buildings surround the QQ/University campuses. Apartments surely, but accompanied on the bottom floors by dozens of new support business, i.e., groceries, restaurants, cleaners, etc.
Last time, when I needed something more complicated than groceries and other supermarket items, it was necessary to go downtown to either WalMart (pronounced WarMar to taxi-drivers or you’ll never get there) or another downtown superstore, RT Mart). By taxi it’s 20 minutes and by bus about an hour. Now, there’s a grocery a half block away, and a superstore (Jusco Mart) three blocks away. Finally, there’s a new six-story department store just a short bus ride away (and it includes a huge grocery with coffee beans!).
The Jusco Mart is an interesting application of the enclosed shopping center. The Jusco Mart anchors each end of a 150 yard, two-floor building. Groceries and clothing are at either end on the first floor. Over groceries is the appliance/electronics store and over the clothing store is a household store.
Between the two anchor stores there are two walkways. The first is filled with specialty clothing stores. The walkway kiosks in this aisle are, apparently, all owned by the Jusco store and stock mainly sale items. The other walkway is called the “Aquarium” aisle. It’s filled with restaurants and fast-food. Yep, you guessed it. In addition to the Chinese restaurants, there’s a McDonald’s and a KFC. Which reminds me to remark that it’s my observation that the Chinese have taken to the fast-food diet. There are more kids that resemble American kids in dimension than there were three years ago. Sure, the US has a big army, but we’ll probably conquer more countries by exporting our junk foods and inducing early health problems.
Sadly, the exterior construction at the Jusco is like the construction you might expect from Tony Soprano’s cousin’s uncle’s friend’s son who went bankrupt three years ago and is just now trying concrete contracting although he has no experience in anything other than sitting on a barstool pretending to be a wiseguy. The concrete must have been pour in either (a) a monsoon, or (b) the coldest day in three years. The parking lot (and it has to be less than 2 years old) is fast turning into cement dust. It’s cracked, flaked, and plain, old grey rubble. Makes you wonder about all these new sky-high concrete buildings. Fortunately, Yantai isn’t in an earthquake zone. (But Three Gorges Dam is)
Anyway, I now have four choices for my day-to-day purchases. The MaiQianChe market, an open-air marketplace (more later), the Zhenhua market (a new, medium-sized grocery), and Jusco. All within walking distance. Since I go to one or the other every day, I can transport everything in my backpack. (At Zhenhua the other day, I met another foreign devil. He saw me with my UT baseball cap, and bared his chest to show me his Missouri Tiger sweatshirt. “Of all the gin joints . . . “)
For unadulterated fun, however, there’s nothing like the Three-Station Market downtown. It’s that typical open market place where booths are purchased on a short-term basis. It’s a shopper/bargain-hunters’ paradise. Four barn-like structures welded together by customers and alleyways, it serves the majority of Yantai residents who can’t afford Jusco and WalMart. The vendors are vociferous, wheedling, funny, and ready to bargain away their second-born to turn a sale. It’s a hoot; it’s cheap; and they have just about anything you’d want – everything. That too.