Tag Archives: market

Hualien at night

An eerie cycle along the Pacific boardwalk after a vege buffet. Nightime is less hot. I wouldn’t say cool. Sporadic lightning flashes light up the ocean. Dim silhouettes of parked scooters, their owners having a nightime fish or a romantic tryst. Mysterious crenelated lines of concrete shore defences give way to sand and brush and deeper gloom. Black dogs linger by the wayside. Others chase me barking threateningly as I coast through a somnambulant hamlet. Indifferent locals in dimly lit doorways.

Rainbow market at the centre of hualien is a bemusing low-key carefree criss cross of cheap snack stalls and busking singers; aboriginal Taiwanese and disabled in wheelchairs. The spirit of the noble art of archery lives on confirming Confucian teaching: couples chancing their eye and luck at bursting balloons pinned to boards a couple of metres range. If there is a prize, a cuddly toy nobody is winning. The rifle range and pistol shoot are the same set up. To the south of the square perform locals – and mainly those taking a break from serving snacks, still in their aprons and caps – with gusto, emotion and passion to karaoke local pop songs, their stage being the plinth on which stands a retired mig fighter jet. A small appreciative crowd clap along and wiggle their bodies. A father reads to a child sitting in the aimer’s seat of an anti-aircraft gun; more dogs lollop around and doze underneath the couple of tanks to the left of the jet. An eerie cycle along the Pacific boardwalk after a vege buffet. Nightime is less hot. I wouldn’t say cool. Sporadic lightning flashes light up the ocean. Dim silhouettes of parked scooters, their owners having a nightime fish or a romantic tryst. Mysterious crenelated lines of concrete shore defences give way to sand and brush and deeper gloom. Black dogs linger by the wayside. Others chase me barking threateningly as I coast through a somnambulant hamlet. Indifferent locals in dimly lit doorways.

Rainbow market at the centre of hualien is a bemusing low-key carefree criss cross of cheap snack stalls and busking singers; aboriginal Taiwanese and disabled in wheelchairs. The spirit of the noble art of archery lives on confirming Confucian teaching: couples chancing their eye and luck at bursting balloons pinned to boards a couple of metres range. If there is a prize, a cuddly toy nobody is winning. The rifle range and pistol shoot are the same set up. To the south of the square perform locals – and mainly those taking a break from serving snacks, still in their aprons and caps – with gusto, emotion and passion to karaoke local pop songs, their stage being the plinth on which stands a retired mig fighter jet. They hurry back to their stalls after their cameos. A small appreciative crowd clap along and wiggle their bodies. An elderly man dances gracefully trancelike his moves evidently rooted in tai chi. A father reads to a child sitting in the aimer’s seat of an anti-aircraft gun; more dogs lollop around and doze underneath the couple of tanks to the left of the jet. It’s nice to be in a place where people have fun without having to get pissed up.

Thankfully there is no repeat of last night’s torrential rain.

Day 11: 20 January, HK

This is my last day. I’m not sure what to do, and almost accidentally I end up getting off the MTR in Sham Shui Po, which is north of MongKok, and has a large street market. There is a mall full of little stalls selling a myriad of computer components and technological paraphernalia. I find a shop that just sells tofu. The blocks of bean curd are stacked between layers of wooden boards which are weighted down. It looks deliciously fresh and soft. I have  cup of soya milk here.

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In the side streets are metal recycling sheds: compacted tin, copper, aluminium squeezed onto racks.

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Through a doorway a group of hand workers catch my eye. As I venture into position with my camera, one of them calls out in a friendly way. we chat about the weather in the UK. They are fixing zippers. The shop is full of racks and shelves of different types of zippers. This is all the shop sells.

On a street corner I spy what looks like a squatter camp: A low sprawling structure covered by assorted coloured plastic sheets and tarps, the outside festooned with banners. I venture inside. It is a labyrinthine market, dark, with narrow alleys, each rammed almost as high as the low ceiling with stacks and rolls of fabric. This is a fabric bazaar. As I explore cautiously, not sure if I am welcome, a lady called Margaret, sitting at her sewing machine calls out and proceeds to chat. She spend the next hour filling me in about this place, its history and its future. This is Pang Jai, the last remaining bazaar of its type and it is due to be demolished by the council who have sold the land for redevelopment. She gave up an office job abroad to come and take over the family business here. She says this place has become famous and and go-to place among fashion designers, students and costume makers in the film and theatre industries all over Asia. The traders have been campaigning for several years by running a number of events involving teachers, designers, school groups and communities to keep this place in the public eye and attempt to sway the decisions of the planners. She shows me some of her designs (which tend to be canibalised denims onto which she has stitched shells and beads and badges and slogans, meaning each of her garments has a story) and what she plans to wear at Saturday’s event: interesting PVC flower printed designs with Japanese undertones. I say I will attend the event, even though I can’t. Somehow this shows a loyalty to the cause.

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KK has texted me, and it’s late in the afternoon. I had more or less given up on seeing him before I leave. We have about 30 minutes together on a wall in a noisy MongKok square, which is not the best way to part. Both of us have one eye on other appointments that we have made. He suggests next time we don’t meet in HK…I’m inclined to agree.

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In the evening I meet up with Tom and we go to the buffet at Fortress Hill: to my surprise it’s really really busy. On my previous visits, I had enjoyed the slowness and quietness of the place.  We talk about career and his family situation. At 9.30 we have to leave. I go and pack my small bag ready for the long long trip back home tomorrow.

 

Day 7: 16 January HK

I dither around Oil St for a while and have a wrap for breakfast. Follow the back streets to Tin Hau MTR and sit on the square outside watching an elderly couple at a charcoal fired chestnut and sweet potato stall. Some kids are chasing pigeons. A sad lonely woman sits opposite.

I meet Marco at Prince Edward station. He is bigger and less cynical. I haven’t seen him since the Railway Bell in Brighton 4 years ago where we regularly met to watch football. I missed him when he left. We go to a down at heel Dim Sum place and sit not very comfortably side by side. The tea is nothing special, Marco attempts to order vegetarian dim sum but one of the greasy snacks is topped with bacon. We talk a lot about HK. I’m surprised at his lack of knowledge about the student leaders of the umbrella uprising, even though he graduated in IR.  When we part he says we should meet again. We don’t. Kind of sets the tone for my visit…

After we part I wander past Yao Ma Tei market towards temple street. Back to an area that fascinated me before. Around the temple are little tables with people reading palms and tealeafs, and curious karaoke tents where seemingly limited to the elderly, some with wonderful voices, some atrocious, singing songs from bygone times. In and around are very crusty scabby homeless people. This seems a closed little world and I really don’t know exactly if these people are busking or if I should pay them for sitting and watching.

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I have dinner in a busy place that I went to before. Last time it was starchy and dry and the same again. Looking at what other people have ordered I feel sure I chose badly from the big menu again.

Around temple street I buy a juice and while queuing am accosted politely by a guy who, he informs me, is a taxi driver who has lost his licence for speeding. I give him a few dollars to get rid of him. I take the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui and the mtr from admiralty back to my little cell.

Xingping day 17

I can’t accept that guy’s views on meritocracy, and if this is the reality, so much for so-called communism. Even though his father is a cook, his mum does the cooking at home. Makes no sense really. There is a noticeable division of labour in Xingping. The women man (how did this verb originate) the handicraft stalls and sell the vegetables, fruit, chickens. The men are the delivery and tuk tuk drivers. They are the ones who sit in the shade smoking and playing cards. I’ve taken a lot of pics of kids. It’s just occurred that kids are much more visible here than in the uk. Is that a consequence of climate, perceptions of safety among strangers- it’s interesting that mothers are quite into me taking pics of their little ones, even though they might personally turn their head away. Could you imagine that in uk? Imagine the protests, anger and controversy. It’s also nice to see that mobile culture hasn’t permeated society here, and there is definitely no Pokemon go. 

The town is lovely and still at 7am. In fact I almost tiptoe through the alleys as people are waking up and throwing open their wooden doors. As I have breakfast I notice a sudden change. Enter the groups of colour coded baseball caps, at their head is a guide carrying a same coloured little pennant. This how the Chinese do tourism. Straight to the river, maybe snapping pics of guesthouse a on the way, ignoring the locals, getting a generic boat trip, buying a generic souvenir, group lunch then back on the bus.

My morning is spent poking around the market again. Here’s a sight from there.

  

Nakhon Si Thammarat

14 hours of train to get here, and now I'm having a few days off!

The city is exclusively Thai. Barely a sign in English, and I've only seen 2 non-Asian faces. There is a Chinese presence, however. Finding vege food except for fruit and banana fritters is proving a bit tricky. My hotel is like a luxury business hotel, with huge room and an expansive view from my 9th floor window, but the prices the cheapest I've paid for so far! The hotel is on Alitalia market lane and on the corner of the main drag. There isn't much going on. It's quite quiet here. I have managed to explore about 4 blockes, as I've been held back by the bursts of heavy rain, that's been causing flooding in the province, and which was evident from the train. It's been great for photography, so I'm quite happy!

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Phi mai

Phi mai at night. It’s a small place. A central crossroads where there is a sports fields (conctrete) with a stage at one end, and behind that, on a mound, the remains of a laterite chedi overlooking the town. At the cross roads is the foods market selling fresh vegetables, fish, jasmin, lottery tickets. I buy some sweet fried dough things and some banana fritters dipped in flakes of coconut, and a sour orange and lime shake. I sit under the central tower where roosting birds are chattering loudly. The market slowly winds down. Trying to work out what all the kids uniforms mean. Some boys where an almost military cadet uniform. All tan with Shoulder insignia. Other boys wear blue shorts and white shirts, others coffee coloured shorts and very pale pink shirts. They all look so smart, clothes well pressed and clean. In spite of being poor, dressing their kids for school is something parents obviously take seriously. Thai kids look so cute. Simple hair styles, simple clothes, they are sociable. They don’t have smart phones to play with every second of the day.

But…Don’t Thai kids have homework to do? How come they’re out on the streets now? Maybe with their mothers buying the food for dinner. I see some climb aboard their mothers’scooters. Some hanging around their mothers’ stalls, waiting for them to finish work. Young teenage boys and girls hanging around the tower. All still in uniform at 7.30 pm. Very different from uk, that’s for sure.

The phanom phi mai is literally opposite my guest house. It opens at 7.30. I really want to catch it in the morning light.

Suddenly there is a loud bang and a terrific flash…what the fuck was that? Some of the lights have gone down behind the tower. There’s no screaming, no hysteria, no confusion. Everyone pauses than carries on…I look to see what the source is..but there is nothing obvious, and it wasn’t a bomb… Back at the guest house they tell me it was something to do with the electricity supply!

Khao sok day 3

Trying to get all this down.Blog is becoming out of date owing to business spending time with people, no electricity, no Internet combinations.

Ingo and I rented a couple of motorbikes, as did Elizabeth and klaus, and even though we weren’t travelling together we kept catching up and bumping into each other on the same road. We were trying to get to the dam on the lake. The only accessible point by road. We. Discovered this as we tried in. Vain to cut through the jungle, only to keep looking back onto the main road. The ride. Was great, lovely winding road through the mountains with not too much traffic. We made a coupleofentertaining roadside stops meeting very friendly locals with no more than acoupleofwords in English. At. The roadside fruit stall a ladywantedto pose clutching a bunch of huge green legume looking thingsthenwantedmeto photograph her friend’s dour and dumpy little girl, who kept. Her thumb in her mouth the shoe time. We stopped late rattle phanom junction where therewasalarge temple. Though it itselfwasntopenwewitnesseda funeral gathering behind it andafodand clothes. Market where we bought some juice.

After passing a checkpoint where ingo was asked to put his impossibly small helmet (broken) over his huge thick dreads. As if it would save his life….we rode a bit further and finally got to the dam and the viewpoint above which gave a vast panorama of the lake and surroundings.hereelizabethand klaus found us once more and we decided to do a boat trip together. It wasn’t exactly cheap but it was a. Good 2 hours of. Speeding and drifting past limestone outcrops, drowned trees. The lake is artificial with the dam only having been built in 1982. The lake was beautiful, but thefactthat it was man made irked a little.ididnt swim. With the others, fearing deep water, but it looked fun..they swam out for the boat and around a limestone mountain, ingo climbing into a small cave. The sun was beginning to set as we returned and the water looked shimmery and metallic. Beautiful.

 

The ride back involved a lengthy stop over. A the market again, where things were in in full swing. Fried bugs which ingo tried, a bingo tent,and a concert, which we were denied entry to by some security guards who tried hard to make us buy tickets. There was a stall selling very tacky holographic pictures of Buddhist and royal themes. I was tempted, but didn’t buy,ingo did. The ride from there was in darkness and the road was a bit hairy, unlit in most places, broken hard shoulder and. My back light wasn’t working. My workaround of suspending my torch from my back worked well, as after that passing pickups gave me a wider berth.

Oh, I forgot. On the way out we also came across the temple that I didn’t find the day before!

 

Day 2 arrival in KL

First day in kl. a bit of a blur. Checked into lehotel again. Room with a window and wifi rightin the centre of petaling market. All very familiar. The same guys trying to sell me DVDs, failing that, games, then software then porn. The hot chestnut stall, the soya milk stall. I bought a much needed cover for this iPad then toured the stalls, getting bored, finally ending up looking for a vege place to eat in little India. I have only a rough sense of direction in kl, but always manage to somehow find myself back on the same streets. I find a pure vegetarian restaurant and get the sought for masala dhosa and mango lassi. And lo and behold on leaving realise I’m on the same street as the woodland restaurant where I went last year, and the year before. It’s getting dark, I scout around the mosque and the river that’s hemmed in with concrete embankments and cross over to visit merdeka square. If memory serves, this is the field where independence was declared from the British. Bizarely it is a cricket pitch, with that coarse shrubby tropical grass with a massive flag pole on one side, a row of black and wHite timber framed buildings on another, a gathering place with pools and benches and some kind of mini rally on another, and on the side fronted by the road, which is being casually dug up, a vista of Islamic grandeur with ululating colour changing floodlights, backgrounded by the kl tower and rows of sky scrapers. On the way back to the market I stop by the Hindu temple, where a wedding is just getting going. Drumming and horn blowing, saris and garlands, small children dressed up, and a hired posse of camera crew complete with lighting set up. I watch for a while then consider going to fetch my camera, which I do, but first shoot some pretty poor pics around the market. By the time I get back to the temple I have missed the action, and the photos are being taken whilst the guests queue up for the meal. Back at the market I buy a bag of rambutan and shoot some flaming clay pot cooking. As I get back to the hotel the clouds burst and we are treated to 2 hours of sustained tropical rain. Fortunately I’m falling asleep and my day or is it 2 days are ending as my eyes unavoidably close.

Day 16 – On the brink of getting out of Vientiane

i was planning to get the daytime bus to Luang Prabang and got up at 7am to sort myself out. But, the prospect of arriving there in the middle of the evening and having to search for a room put me off. I bought a ticket which means I will miss the passing countryside, but I hope I can see it on the way back.
After a chat with a guy from Singapore called Mervin I walk across the sands of the Mekong to sit by the water. and it really is like a beach with fine sand…and nobody there.
My novice friend and I have a chat by SMS (so weird when you think about it) and I get him confused when I mention my orientation. Either unheard of to him or just doesn’t get what I mean. I guess sometimes it’s better avoiding those issues.
Anyway I decide to spend my day on foot for a change and go to the veggie buffet place and am the only customer. It’s another 2 juice day, the best one coming at the end: lemon and mint…wow it really punches the thirst.I also devote some time to my book The Redundancy of Courage by Timothy Mo. Oddly it’s the second book I’ve read this trip on the subject of war. This is a satire on civil war in South East Asia. It could be Malaysia or Indonesia.
I spend most of the afternoon watching everyday stuff at the big central market, which was originally housed in a pair of temple-like cantilever-roofed houses.

The space between them has now been taken up by a newly constructed and unfinished modern shopping mall. There are a few shoe and belt stores on the basement and the first floor has a couple of jewellery stalls which seem to be being kitted out.

Other units are empty. The top 2 floors are reachable by escalator and there is no security to stop you wandering the acres of empty spaces and looking through unglazed spaces onto the roof of the old market and the haphazard overspill mess of corrugated roofs and tarpaulin covers.

Under these is a maze of stalls selling everything from washing machines to books to dried fish to yards of fabric. This is also where the hairdressers are. The smell of heated hair mingles with tossed threshed garlic and offal.

Women crouch on their stalls chopping meat, an old lady lounges among her baskets of oranges.

Porters wait to be called to wheel their handcarts across the broken concrete floor full of bags of goods. I am the only falang there.

This is not Tesco’s. Shopping is noisy smelly hot work, and selling looks exhausting. Brand presence? There is none.
Outside the new market (mall) there is a pick-up. On board is a Buddha statue, it’s a kind of portable temple. A young orange-robed novice sits in there cross-legged tying orange strings around the wrists of supplicants. An old man in regular dress sporadically bangs a gong hanging from the struts of the pick-up.

Now 45 minutes until my pick-up for the bus to Luang Prabang. Finally moving again.