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We had no Chinese address for this place. The paper note in my hand was meaningless. So we find ourselves at the end of the line in a dockyard neighbourhood, full of smashed factories, trees, and nobody speaking English. I just have Tongbei Seafood Market scrawled on a post-it.

At the subway, we took an exit at random. At least here there were only 4 exits, not like at People’s Square, where you have something like 22. That’s metro roulette for you…

We kept walking and didn’t see a single fish. But the road was right in front of our eyes all along. We only needed to look up at the street signs.

We took Tongbei Road, trying to catch a drift of fish in the air. Some vague directions I’d found online told us to follow the smells of barbeques… We could definitely smell something, but I couldn’t name it.

We came to a junction with strange little shops and streetfood stalls, and spun around and there it was. A weaving passage through mountains of fruit and veg, and I suspected somewhere in there – was the seafood.

Laowai, gringo, falang. Everywhere you go in this world, there’s a name that precedes you. In China, laowai translates literally to mean “old outsider”. So on entering that market, nobody was looking at anything but us.

Rainbows. Cherries. Aubergines. And Water lettuce all diverted our attention. The stalls were covered in blue sheets, which kept off the intense sun of today.

People jumped, nodded nee-how from behind mounds of yellow snails. There was one guy desperate to be photographed, and he jumped right in front of my camera and began waving his money around gansta-style.

This was a bad time to come. It was around 2pm so most of the stalls were being put away. Fish arrives at dawn from the larger Tongchuan Lu Fish Market and local coastline towns. At night the market is meant to come alive again, and you can buy your fish fresh and have it cooked in the local restaurants.

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Tongbei Road, near Pingliang Road (通北路, 近平凉路). Closest metro stop: Yangshupu Road (杨树浦路) Line 4.

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4 thoughts on “In the Depths of Shanghai’s Seafood Market

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