The new mall
The most famous modern building in Suzhou is probably the pants building, thanks to its curious shape and also because it is the highest building in the city. Its construction lasted longer than expected, it was said the builder had ran out of money and that the units were not being sold as expected due to their high price, then there were rumours stating that its foundations were damaged during the subway works. It seemed the day would never come, but finally the pants building was finished. And then an even more long-awaited event happened: the mall under the pants, suitable named Suzhou Center, opened its doors.
It happened on November 11, a very auspicious day because it’s the day Chinese people go crazy shopping. Yes, it’s mostly online shopping, but in the last years brick-and-mortar shops also joined the craze. And this year November 11 was on a Saturday, so it was perfect. Suzhou Center opened that day and hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the inauguration, as if they had never been to a mall. I read that, within its first 3 hours, over 400,000 people had visited the new mall.
If you have never been to Suzhou, you might think this mall opening was a very important event because maybe there are no other malls in Suzhou. However, that’s not correct. I have 5 malls within 20 minutes walking distance from my apartment and there are dozens of malls in this district. It doesn’t matter. Every time a new mall opens it’s the same: people need to go check it out immediately!
We didn’t have anything to do yesterday so we went to check the new Suzhou Center… what a big mistake. The general rule of thumb with new malls in Suzhou is: don’t go until the hype is over, i.e., around 6 months after the opening. Unless you enjoy crowds and queues, then you can go as soon as it opens!
This new mall is HUGE. Probably the biggest mall I have ever been in. The advertisements say it has 300,000 square meters. We walked up and down for two hours and didn’t see half of it. There are hundreds of shops, some of them new to Suzhou, others the usual chains; restaurants and cafes; and lots of entertainment options, including a skating rink (which we didn’t find), a baseball training place, a snowboard simulation and A PONY CLUB. Yes, a pony club inside a mall.
There were millions of people wandering inside, but I noticed that not many were carrying shopping bags. The businesses with the longest queues were the milk tea stalls; all of them (and there were many) had a line of over 30 minutes. At 4.30 pm, the restaurants also had long queues of people waiting for dinner time. People here always complain that “there are just too many Chinese people” (yes, they complain of themselves, hehe) but they love being in the middle of it all. They could have just gone anywhere else outside of the mall for dinner and avoid the lines…
I didn’t care much for malls when I was living in Spain, but here in China it’s a different whole story. When outside it’s too hot or too cold (i.e. almost always) or the pollution is too high, going to a mall where you can have lunch, window shop, drink coffee and go to the cinema or the ktv doesn’t seem like too bad an idea. Just don’t go to new malls when they just opened…