The main focus of Beidong Flower Market is, of course, plants and flowers – beautiful displays of roses, orchids that are as colorful as they are fragrant, flowering felicia, and budding bougainvillea. Flowering plants, shrubs, herbs, and potted indoor plants are all available at this Shunyi market and most vendors will deliver to your home. Be sure to haggle; the more you buy, the better the price. If you want to grow your own garden, there are hundreds of seed packets for vegetables, fruits, and herbs. You can also pick up gardening tools, hoses, compost, fertilizer, watering cans, and even lawnmowers.
If you prefer your plants in pots rather than beds and borders, you can choose from a huge selection of ceramic, terracotta, wooden and plastic pots, and urns. There are decorative bird cages for your begonias, hanging baskets galore, and stepped stands to display your potted wares. Outside the market, there are many stalls selling statues, stone carvings of lions, tigers, terracotta warriors, busts, garden ornaments, and even a gnome or two. For kids and adults alike, there are a good selection of colorful kites in an array of shapes and sizes.
Once your garden is looking pretty, it’s time to start enjoying it. What better way than al fresco dining? There are monstrous gas barbecues that can rotisserie, smoke, and griddle enough meat and fish to feed a hungry crowd of World Cup supporters.
If that’s too much, there is a very good choice of standard-sized, quality barbecues. If space is an issue, try a compact grill or tajine; if you don’t have a garden but still want that chargrilled flavor, pick up a portable picnic grill. Every accessory you need for marinating, skewering, slicing, dicing and cooking is also here. Don’t let those pesky mosquitos spoil your party; there are several devices on sale to get rid of the blighters.
Beidong is a popular place to buy quality garden furniture at very competitive prices. There are tables, chairs, sun loungers and umbrellas, in solid wood, metal, woven furniture, with or without fabric coverings and cushions. Bartering is a must; if you can be referred by someone that has purchased already, then all the better.
The tranquil sounds of water can be heard throughout the market coming from a number of stalls selling water features. Many are pretty elaborate in design, but if you long to enjoy water in Beijing that doesn’t just flow from your dispenser, then you may find something for you.
For the Home
Beidong isn’t all about outdoor furniture. One of my favorite stalls is the crockery man. I have an entire white china dinner service from here at a fraction of what you would pay elsewhere. It’s dishwasher safe, ovenproof, and so far it’s all still in one piece. There are modern styles for plates, bowls, serving dishes, condiment sets, rice spoons, tea and coffee pots, Chinese tea sets, mugs, and cups. The majority of the products are simple, white and stylish. A few have beautiful contemporary or traditional Chinese patterns that wouldn’t look out of place at Shanghai Tang.
You can stock up on wine glasses, shot glasses, and tumblers at the glass stall. The vendor also sells candles and tea lights that are infinitely more exciting than Ikea’s – and a lot cheaper.
There are several stalls selling furniture in traditional Chinese styles. You can pick up chairs, stools, occasion tables, sideboards, cupboards, wardrobes and lamps. Pieces are not as unique as you may find in other locations, but the prices reflect that.
Need something to brighten up your floor or keep your toes warm? There is one stall selling rugs in a range of sizes, colors, and patterns. If you’re into wicker, the stall next door sells baskets, hampers, laundry bins, trays, and even slippers, all made out of that woven wood. If vases are your thing, you’ll find a great selection of varying sizes, styles, plain or patterned, ceramic or tin.
There is tank after tank crammed full of fish (unfortunately), aquariums of varying sizes and designs plus everything you need to raise fish. If you’re more of a bird fancier, you can also take home a feathery companion. However, like most Beijing markets that sell animals, the longevity of your newfound pet isn’t always guaranteed.
Beidong is also host to a number of artists selling their paintings. There are oil, water and prints of modern, traditional, and abstract art. There are portraits, drawings, several depictions of pandas, and paintings of the Wall, but in amongst these you can find some very special pieces: hutongs looking haunting in winter, a Banksy interpretation, and a modern take on a terracotta warrior.
One fabulous artist is Sunny. His use of vivid colors and hues and incorporation of traditional Chinese symbols within his pieces is wonderful. You can commission one-off pieces and his prices are very good.
If you decide to buy some unframed artwork, you are spoiled for choice with framing services. Each offer a vast array of frame and mount styles, colors, and sizes. Turn-around time is quick and prices competitive.
Shopping at Beidong is thirsty work; luckily, there are two places right next door where you can enjoy brunch, lunch or early dinner. The English Tearoom, with its quintessentially British decor, cakes, and Scotch eggs. Their indoor playroom is great for the little ones, toilet facilities are clean, child friendly, and with baby changing table. Now the weather is warmer, you can sip tea at their outside seating area.
Next door is Pinotage, with its authentic South African cuisine, great wines, and cold beers. They too have an indoor kid’s play room and good, clean toilet facilities. The restaurant’s wonderful outdoor terrace and lawn is perfect for relaxing after a hard day’s shopping.
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.
Photos by Sally Wilson