"If there is a look of human eyes that tells of perpetual loneliness, so there is also the familiar look that is the sign of perpetual crowds."We decided to spend our last few hours in Lijiang exploring the markets of Lijiang Old Town.
- Meynell, Alice
Mercantile aspirations are the barometer to measure the health of a community. Here, we got to see it at the local level. The soul and heart of a community are definitely in its markets. Amidst the economic hustle, we get to see social interactions; forces of supply and demand bringing communities onto common ground.
The Chinese obsession with meat is well-documented, and it plays an important role in all of the Eight Culinary Traditions of China. Yunnan is home to a mixture of Sichuan cuisine and neigbouring South-Eastern Asian/Tibetan cuisine, so it was no surprise that most of our walks were in the vicinity of meat.
The journey through the markets was fascinating, a trip through Chinese eccentricities and traditions. They seemed to eat everything that moved, which would obviously be an over-exaggeration. But the Chinese are known to be efficient. They are already practising what the world will eventually practice many decades down the line - eating every part of every animal. I would love PETA to start a campaign in China (if they can get through the Chinese censor machine), and watch how the Chinese react to all the crazy talk.
Utility certainly trumps western concepts of yuckiness, and it makes life interesting for tourists like us.
|P unsuccessfully attempts to decipher the spices.|
The other major ingredient of Chinese cuisine are the noodles. And here we finally got to see the different varieties of them. I now understand the difficult job chefs have to deal with when it comes to cooking. There are just so many versions and types of ingredients out there in the world, it does take an artist to put them all together and create beauty; almost like choosing between the infinite shades of colour, except here it is taste and texture.
|The railway station with an endless courtyard|
And we Indians pride ourselves on our trains. We had trains run by the British exploiting our countrysides when large parts of the world were still galloping on donkeys and asses. But the Chinese trains were something else altogether.
To start with, the trains were double-deckered. And they refused to make any sound. No sound. Not one bit. We didn't feel like we were in a train. It felt too comfortable. And too clean. At 10 pm sharp, they switched off the lights. And the train uncomplainingly went to sleep. We were woken by the gentle murmur of the Chinese at 5am, and proceeded to head to the Kunming airport for the plane back to India, via Thailand.
After many long hours of waiting at the various airports, as we ate 'Hindu' food in the Thai airlines from Bangkok to New Delhi, we were reminded of the reason we had chosen to escape India - our own Indian brethren. We watched the passengers get drunk on the complimentary alcohol, and proceed to have loud altercations that had to be broken up by the only Hindi-speaking steward. I would be honest in saying that I spend the night huddled up in my blankets, smiling apologetically at the scared and bewildered Thai hostesses.
And I cannot wait to escape it all once again. There are just too many empty places in the world, and just too many of us in the cities out here.
There's just way too much to see out there.