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Eye for a bargain

On a recent trip to Beijing, I was told that the Eyeglass Market was the place to go to get inexpensive prescription sunglasses.  I asked the hotel tour desk to write the name and directions in Chinese for the taxi driver. She knew of the market, and said I was in for a treat. Off I went to the fabulous Beijing Eyeglass Market.

Can you see yourself getting excited about shopping for prescription glasses? Did you know that Beijing, China has one of the largest optical markets in the world?  Located near the Panjiayan Market, the Eyeglass Market, (official name is Ming Jin Yuan) is an experience to be treasured. 

Situated in a three-story building, in the middle of a block, from the outside you don’t get much of a feel of what’s inside the building.  The interior walls hold 60-100 individual shops.  Each shop has between 1000-5000 different styles of glasses and sunglasses.  Each style then comes in a variety of colors.  The frame prices are stated and the frames appeared to be arranged by price.  The inexpensive ones range from $8-10 on up to $80 for designer frames.

The time involved here is tremendous, so allow yourself at least an hour to pick out your frames, lenses and to negotiate your price.  I suggest you walk the first floor and second floor peering into the various shops to see your choices and what is available before entering a specific shop. Then pick a shop, any shop, they are all similar.  I started trying on the $20 frames and then went down to the $8 frames and then up to the $80 ones, before settled on some frames around $12 – $18. Next, I had to pick the color. With frameless lenses, you can pick the shape of the lens. So, if you like those frameless, green-zebra frames, but don’t like the rectangular lenses, they can make the frames oval for you. 

Bifocals are available, Polaroid lenses, lenses made of glass, and various colors and tints, for your glasses or sunglasses.  Bifocals were approximately $2-$8 more, large Polaroid lenses were $35 additional; glass lenses and shading were included in the price.  The sunglasses I picked out were the new large, bug-style and the Polaroid lenses required a day to order the lens.  I opted for regular sunglass lenses. 
Prices are negotiable.  After you pick out your frames and lenses, then ask for discounts especially if you are buying more than one pair of glasses.  Bring your prescription from home with you and prescriptions for your friends.   There are opticians in the shops, so they can give you an exam if you forgot to bring along your prescription.   There always seemed to be at least one person in each shop who spoke English well enough to understand what I wanted.

All glasses were completed within one hour.  This included a fitting, a hard case and soft cloth to clean the lenses.  While you wait, there is a 3-story antique furniture market just next door that will ship anything you may purchase.

I highly suggest you write down what styles and colors of frames you want, and what your friends want, especially if you have reading, driving and sunglasses to purchase.

I bought a total of 6 pairs of glasses for $85 and can not wait to go back to Beijing to buy some more fabulous designer glasses.

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