Kunming is filled with new shopping malls and almost anything can be found on Taobao, but for some Kunmingers neither shopping experience beats walking through Zhangguanying Secondhand Market (张官营旧货交易中心) in search of a good bargain.
The market takes its name from its original location in the Zhangguanying neighborhood, several kilometers away, which is now a forest of high-rises. The market is not as easy to find as it once was — it is hidden just outside of the second ring road near the Xiaotun flyover, where it relocated in 2009.
Similar to its previous incarnation, the market is big – it's a row of 13 warehouses each measuring roughly 80 meters by 20 meters. A couple hundred small shops and a few outdoor stalls sell furniture, appliances, bicycles, tools, tableware, musical instruments, plants, DVDs and other everyday items. Strolling through the complex looking for deals can easily eat up a few hours.
With a little time and patience, shoppers can score an interesting vintage or antique item. Communist kitsch, traditional-style wooden doors, old coins and black-and-white photos of a long-gone China are but some of the offerings around the market. Should you need a pair of large stone lions, several stores can help.
Photographers searching for vintage cameras can visit a few shops that sell a variety of brand-name and lesser-known cameras. One such shop has bags of old black-and-white prints of a China that no longer exists.
Musicians and aspiring musicians can score cheap Chinese and Western instruments, amps and other equipment at stores scattered throughout the market. Turntables and old Chinese and foreign LPs, vintage radios and stereo systems can also be found.
One shop on the east side of the market has a big box filled with Cantonese pop and rock cassettes from the 1980s and 1990s. Used cassettes of music by artists including Dicky Cheung (张卫健) and Beyond (超越) are only five yuan each. Cassette players are available in a few shops, as are vintage radios.
On a more practical level, the Zhangguanying market is not a bad place to stop by if you're on a budget and need to fit out a dorm room, home, office, workshop or kitchen on the cheap.
Many of the market's shops offer used and new furniture, appliances and kitchen utensils. Tools for all kinds of jobs are available, from hammers starting at 15 yuan to secondhand jackhammers for 300 yuan. Those in search of home entertainment can find used 29-inch Changhong televisions for around 300 or 400 yuan. Used automatic majiang tables run from 600 to 1,100 yuan. New ones start at 1,500.
After an hour or so of wandering around in the warm Kunming sun on a recent visit, we were getting peckish. Luckily we happened upon a woman with a food cart selling a rather uncommon Yunnan snack: nuomituan (糯米团) - purple and white sticky rice packed around a fried dough stick.
Sweet nuomituan are given a heavy sprinkling of sugar, savory nuomituan get a spicy and pungent smearing of chili sauce and lufu (卤腐, creamy fermented bean curd) on the inside and outside. Tasty and filling, our nuomituan was a bargain at only 1.5 yuan – our lips and tongue felt the spicy tingle for quite a while after we had finished it off.
Aside from the odd food cart there is also a small group of local snack stalls on the south side of the market — the first right as you walk in through the main entrance.
Once finished haggling over prices, shoppers who do not have sufficient transportation to get their new acquisitions home can haggle with the drivers from the mess of mianbaoche (面包车, small vans) waiting in the main entrance parking lot. Given the market's pedestrian- and taxi-unfriendly location near the Xiaotun flyover, the drivers have a bit more of an advantage in price negotiations than they did at the market's previous location.
Zhangguanying Secondhand Market is open daily from 9am to 8pm. The nearest bus stop is the Jiaotong Xuexiao stop (交通学校站), 100 meters to the market's east on Puji Lu (普吉路). The stop is served by the 1, 8, 8 special line (专线) 53, 68 151, 189, C3 C10, C68 and C69 bus routes.