To Market, To Market
Trip Start Feb 03, 2008
33Trip End Aug 16, 2009
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Where I stayed
Jin Niu Hotel (Kaili, Guizhou province)
To my right, an old man stands smoking a pipe, guarding some blue plastic bags at his feet. Wait a minute, are the bags moving? Yes, small pigs are trying to walk around, even though the bags keep tripping them.
To the left, a man selling sugar cane endlessly peels foot-long segments and sells them to customers young and old. The black cane is stacked as high as he is tall, in six-foot long sticks.
Behind us, people are arriving at the market, pushing through the growing throngs.
Straight ahead, women wearing the local traditional Miao minority headdress swarm around a table selling fake flowers and plastic combs
These women, wearing Western clothes-jeans, sweaters, sneakers-from the neck down, have elaborately twisted their hair into high, folded buns, and secured it with two silver hairpins. One of the pins, usually a long silver wand with one end tapered like a paintbrush, goes in horizontally, the other, usually shorter and curved, goes in vertically, from the bottom up. Around the crown of their heads, they wrap a red stripy silk scarf. In back, just under the bun and the pins, a half-moon comb keeps it tidy. Most of the women have fastened loops of white thread to the comb and the headdress, in case the comb falls out.
This hair arrangement amazes me, and I spend a lot of time trying to inspect how it is done.
The Shidong market is a big deal, it seems. Market goers have walked down muddy paths from their hillside villages or even taken small boats along the river to come and make some money before the lunar new year later this week.
On the main street, the action seems to center on the fruit sellers
Later, the driver shows us a paved side street sloping down past a small square where a crowd of men have set their pet birds' cages all together so the birds can socialize. The birds' chirping is drowned out , however by a man at a folding table nearby who has set up four TVs and a speaker system to sell pirated DVDS.
As we continue down the street, slippery with the morning's rain, I get even more excited. What we had thought was the main part of the market on the upper street was only a tiny part of the whole Shidong market. The path is packed with people, most of the women wearing the traditional headdress, or at least part of it.
A side path is devoted to traditional goods---a whole line of people selling silver hairpins, headdress pieces and jewelry. We squeeze past the sellers and buyers and look at yarn and thread in bright colors, bundles of silk and brocade cloth, a table displaying long lengths of human hair, bought to make the traditional bun higher, I guess
Down by the river, where the street eventually leads, a makeshift livestock market with hand-woven barriers and baskets as cages is selling hard. People buy ducks and chickens, tie the legs together and hang the still-flapping, quacking animals on their carrying poles. There are pigs and goats and dogs, too. The Miao often eat dog.
Near the livestock are vegetables, homegrown tobacco, bright red and yellow blankets, small chairs and wooden furniture. Jeans, shirts and shoes make up the far end of the river bank, and by the time we've reached this part, we're nearly ready to go home. The market is packed with people, every time we reach a corner it becomes a matter of squeezing through the constant flow of bodies going a different direction.
Over the next two weeks, Dan and I will travel through Southeast Guizhou province. Hours by bus from our home in Zunyi, this region is full of Miao and Dong minority villages. We plan to visit a few markets and see some festivals as China gets ready to celebrate the beginning of the next lunar year, the year of the Ox.
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WHAT IT COST:
Driver for the day: 550 RMB. Shidong is accessible by public transport, but we'd never hired a driver for the day before and we wanted to stop in some other villages along the way. Arranged by the Kaili CITS office.
Lunch at a restaurant the driver selected: 70 RMB. This caused a scene, as it's about twice the amount we thought it should be. (Plus, they added some extras that we didn't order) We were reminded of the golden rule of eating out in China-always ask the price first!