On Saturday we set out to go shopping. We had no real plan, apart from a visit to the bank
We wandered past Wu-mart and kept walking, and around the corner, we came upon a market.
The market ran down both sides of a side street. It was full of people and ran along the street for quite a long way.
We decided to venture down it.
There were many stalls, all very interesting and different from the markets that I know.
There were stalls selling fish. The fish were kept alive in big red square baths, with fresh water being pumped around them as they lay there twisting and flicking their tails. We did not buy any, but if we had, our fish would have been killed, scaled and gutted for us while we waited.
There were live chickens being sold. They were kept in wire and steel cages, from where they were taken out and weighed for customers. I didn’t wait around to see whether they were killed and cleaned then and there or not. We had to move on
The narrow walkway not only catered for pedestrians but also for three-wheelers and motorbikes and bicycles, all moving up and down, shopping and making deliveries.
An old man sold an assortment of brushes from his bicycle parked in the middle of the road.
The fruit and vegetables were very fresh and crispy and brightly coloured. They were all set out in rows and were very cheap, but as we planned to be out for a while we did not buy any.
There were also tables groaning under bags of spices, loads of chillies, chopped finely or roughly, piles of a yellow powder (surely it was turmeric), dried green herbs (which ones?), and a pile of light pink powder (no idea what that could be).
I recognised piles of cinnamon bark, bundles of bay leaves, clusters of star anise and bunches of fresh coriander. I guessed at what other powders could be, but it didn’t matter, as I wasn’t buying.
What I did buy was ginger. I wanted a piece so that we could cut off thin slices to put in the hot water that the Chinese serve to you everywhere and which we have started drinking as well.
Anyway – I gave too much money (it wasn’t much) and ended up with 5 huge pieces of ginger!
Shopping from markets with no language is an art that I have yet to master!
We bought some crispy little round pastries to nibble on. They tasted of oil, but they went down well, as we ate them, strolling along in the icy morning.
There were a lot of meat stalls, with the meat lying out on open tables in the freezing air. They seemed to be sold as large chunks of meat, not cut into steaks or chops or cubes or ribs. There was not much pork for sale, we noticed, as most of the stallholders at the market appeared to be Muslim, with the flat planes of Mongolia carved on their faces.
We stopped at a stall where a man sold piles of green tea. We did not have a container in which we could carry a small amount, nor do we have a teapot or a strainer. The man at the stall had a little English, in that he could say ‘Green tea’ and he gave us permission to photograph his stall, although he himself moved out of the shot.
We were beckoned over by a lady selling tofu (a lot of it is served to us in the school cafeteria). She was selling from a large bucket of chilli tofu (her husband knew the word ‘hot’) and another bucket of plain tofu. She gave us a little taster of each and so we bought a square – not so much because we wanted it but because we felt obliged to her. We did not pay much for it, and I carried it in my coat pocket, wrapped in plastic, for the rest of the morning.
We strolled on and the row of market stalls ended. We found ourselves in a rather dilapidated part of town, filled with workers, trucks and impatient men on 3 wheelers. There were little warehouses everywhere and towering flats above strung with ropes of black cable and windows caged in with bars.
I saw a small Muslim restaurant in which I glimpsed groups of smoking men talking and eating together around smoky tables.
We emerged back out onto the Main Road, having walked in a loop. We wandered into a health pharmacy, looking for some basic medication. L used our Chinese/English app to describe what we needed, as well as to read the packaging. We got what we needed, and amongst much smiling and reading of cell phone scenes, we paid and left.
Crossing Chinese roads no longer phases us, apart from the very real danger that we might look the wrong way for oncoming traffic.
We started feeling a little concerned about the tofu in my pocket, and so we headed home.