My friend Colin and his cousin Jesse were headed down to Yiwu to watch English Premier League side Arsenal take on Hangzhou Green Town in a football match on Saturday July 16th, and so I joined them.
Why Yiwu? Good question – apparently this was all very last minute, involving a cancelled tour of Japan, some uncertainty regarding the local promoter and you end up ‘near Hangzhou’ in Yiwu. Where the heck is Yiwu? Well, its about 100 km south of Hangzhou.
Yiwu is famous here in China (and probably among anyone who buys and sources stuff from China) as the world’s best small commodities trading city. There they have a GIANT (and I mean GIANT) commodities market with stall upon stall upon stall upon stall selling plastics doo-dads, paper lanterns, toys, clothes, metals bits, power tools, watches, etc. etc. and there’s lots of etcs.
We took the bullet fast train down to Yiwu from Shanghai in little over 2 hours. The only thing we knew about Yiwu were that because of the presence of the trade markets, there was a large and vibrant Arab community (and Africans) and there were lots of Halal restaurants. So we came for football . . . and lamb.
For our first meal we decided at the Baghdad Restaurant – they didn’t have what I originally ordered, so I ended up with this lamb dish served on soggy bread. It was good . . . for the first 10 minutes. But after a while, it was like slogging through a soggy sandwich at a picnic.
Interesting set of clocks at the restaurant – Dubai, Baghdad and Beijing
After lunch we journeyed to the GIGANTIC Commodities Market and just marveled at the giant amount of crap that is available for purchase for sales in any number of different countries. We all recognized products that were available in your local dollar store or money tree or cost plus or whatever.
No, we didn’t buy one. 79 RMB – without being able to feel the product? No thanks.
Outside the commodities market, we found this woman selling these egg . . .well, what, cakes? It was an egg, cooked in a hot cup form, with a little bit of pork. It was freaking delicious.
The surprisingly modern Yiwu Meihu Sports Ground hosted that night’s contest between Arsenal and local team Hangzhou Green Town
The local team was unlucky to not score 3 times in the early going, eventually getting one goal off a counter. Arsenal played around with the ball a lot, but only scored in extra time in the first half.
In the second half, the visitors changed off all of their field players and subbed in mainly bench players (except for Jack Wilshire – a regular starter). And the subs played much more aggressively, including Ryu, a 17-year old Japanese phenom. But despite hitting the post several times, the Hangzhou goalkeeper was up to the task, stoning Aresnal several times with solid saves, and even distributing the ball for several dangerous counters from Green Town.
Several Arsenal fans made the trip all the way from London to Kuala Lumpur and Yiwu, as well. Including this very enthusiastic (and loud) woman, as well as this shirtless gentleman with many many Arsenal themed tattoos.
Colin and Jesse post-game
After the game, I broke out in order to walk around the Bin Wang Night Market and try to find myself some more Arabic or Middle Eastern food.
The night market was very similar to any sort of night markets seen in Greater China. Lots of street stalls selling clothing, snacks, noodles, and fruit.
I did spot a Turkish Barber though
After a bowl of noodles and some street snacks, I was still hungry and decided to head back to “Exotic Street” where the middle eastern restaurants were. On my way there, I passed a large amount of Chinese seafood grill sidewalk restaurants – if only I was with more people, I would’ve eaten here. But it is difficult to eat Chinese food for one.
I ended up having lamb with Arabic rice, which was very very tasty (saffron and some other herbs)
I’m not sure I’d ever go back to Yiwu, unless I had a business reason to go there. The Arabic food was good, but honestly, you can get quite a good selection here in Shanghai (and probably elsewhere too). But I’m glad I went. Once.