Remember what your friends told you before going to Shanghai? To go to Cheap Street? Surprisingly, a lot of foreigners are starting to get familiar with Shanghai's secrets--open ones or otherwise. The only problem though is that some of Shanghai's secret spots aren't exactly tourist friendly, if not language friendly. So what exactly is Qipu Lu all about and why do locals and foreigners frequent the area?
When you hear the name and you're familiar with Chinese, you wouldn't exactly think of the word cheap unless you h already have an idea about the place. The name comes from the English word that it sounds closest to, CHEAP (hence "qi pu" or chee-poo). Qipu Lu is a booming commercial area with buildings that remind of small to mid-level shopping centers, very much like the 168 Shopping Mall of downtown Manila, or even a smaller version of Thailand's MBK Shopping Mall.
Park your bikes in the middle of the road and wait for this uncle to give you a ticket. No free parking here. :)
Watch out for speeding scooters!
It would be difficult to expect on the one-category-per-building idea despite seeing the many different mall buildings that line opposite sides of Qipu Road. If you must prepare for something, prepare to walk A LOT! There are many buildings along the whole road and they vary significantly in sizes. Also, prepare to be the most patient person that you can be as it can be daunting to communicate with people here if you didn't bring enough survival Chinese with you. Please prepare cue cards of the most significant words used in shopping , in Chinese (for them to understand) and in English (for you not to forget what the characters mean). If you must ask if there's a need for you to bring a calculator, you don't; the store attendants have plenty of them.
Again, bring lots of patience and survival Chinese for shopping.
Assortments of what and what?
Don't set high expectations when planning to go to Qipu Road for some shopping. Note what I said earlier about expecting a categorical segregation of merchandises--YOU MUST NOT EXPECT LEST YOU ENDING UP DISAPPOINTED.
There are many different things you can find here, a lot of which are useless and of the trinkets category. As for clothes, there are still a lot of buildings that showcase clothes of different kinds. I remember visiting Qipu Road during winter and I did see a few of the items Iwanted to buy: Winter jackets, gloves, scarves, boots, mouth covers, and ear muffs. The whole set would still probably cost you a lot but at least you'd be paying a lot less than buying from big name malls and boutiques.
Take this out-of-focus guy's lead. Bring a big bag to put all of the things you bought into.
Some tourists buy their take-home souvenirs here as well and there are a lot to choose from. If you're looking for Chinese calligraphy art, paper cutouts, big fans and small ones, ceramics, jade stones, etc., there's surely a store that can cater to your fancy.
A small but helpful tip when looking for bargain finds in such a bargainy-bargainous (yes, I'm making my own words) place: keep looking for the same item in other stores since a lot of the items on display in different stores come from one supplier and others may bring prices down a lot more that what was initially offered to you for profit's sake. Selling with just a small profit is still better than not making a sale, of course. Another tip would be to check out stores right at the end of the road. There are shoe stores that sell a variety of shoes (Asian size, with a few pairs that come in passable Western sizes too). The stores at the end of the street are usually small and may look like shacks but prices can be another 50% less than the ones in the shopping buildings nearby.
For your safety
Qipu Road is nowhere similar to West Nanjing Road (Nanjing Xi Lu/南京西路) and East Nanjing Road (Nanjing Dong Lu/南京东路) where brandishing a high-tech mobile phone is relatively safe.
Qipu Road is a place where cheapness is the beat, and you know that where things are cheap deprivation is prevalent. Be extra vigilant when you're here if you're a foreigner and a first-timer as it is still possible to get lost. Do not chase after a barker who promises you better deals than the ones you'd see in the shopping centers in the area, unless of course they're directly standing in front of their store which doesn't appear suspicious.
If you must, wear a serious and intimidating look. This kid's close to pulling it off. Good job! :))
I've heard of incidents involving pickpockets targeting both tourists and locals so be at ease to know that you're nothing like a single sheep walking through a valley with wolves, there are several other sheep walking with you in that valley. Haha. But you're practically safe if you don't bring unnecessary luxuries and keep to the shopping malls.
Take Line 10 of the Metro and get off at Tiantong Road station. You'll find yourself near Qipu Road and saving yourself the trouble of walking...Like what happened to us. Boo!