Optical City

Searching through dozens of websites and forums in search of final must-visit destinations scattered throughout Shanghai, the San Ye Optical Market was consistently cited as a eye glass haven for both foreign travelers and locals. Stories of unfathomable deals and reassuring reviews of quality and build, I couldn’t help investigate this peculiar marketplace. Armed with an opened forum post and my elementary Chinese vocabulary in optometry, I ventured into the unknown.


Arriving at the eyeglass market, I was immediately met with 3 floors of glasses of hundreds of styles. Equally overwhelmed with merchandise as the fabric market, the atmosphere had an eerily empty feeling to it. I was the only customer wandering the 3rd floor as concerning thoughts filled my head. I settled on a store with a large variety and sat down as the shopkeeper brought me dozens of pairs of glasses to try on as she helped me hone in on my ideal style. An hour later and I was wearing a new pair of glasses with two more in my pocket. The speed and quality, combined with price resulted in many recommendations to friends. Equal quality lenses and a week long waiting period will cost an average consumer 3 times the price that I paid for 3 pairs of glasses.


The eye class market located alongside the Shanghai Railway Station metro stop was another pleasurable, yet daunting experience. However, I was glad to be able to explore on my own and test my Chinese in various environments. In the 3 or so months spent in China, I have felt that inclinations to explore, experiment, and leave familiar comfort zones has left me with a new cultural experience and many new relationships.