Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Marketplace Labyrinth

      Strolling through the busy shopping streets that is Zhongshan Lu, I decide to venture down a less beaten path. Immediately, I am pleasantly rewarded with a colorful market street. Curiously, I walk deeper in. Both sides aligned with fresh produce and recently killed meats. Bright green melons, perfectly pink dragon fruit, and little wooden buckets filled with different types of rice. I continue down the umbrella shaded alleyway and soon find out that this path is quite beaten. Many Xiamen locals (no foreigners) frequent this area to buy their fruits and vegetables, meats and seafood. It becomes louder with each step taken deeper in. Laobans (sellers) screaming prices and showing quality to the dozens of customers. And then, I'm confronted with a smell. Seafood. But not quite seafood yet. Still just fish. Fish so fresh its still swimming. On either side of me were containers filled with water and every type of sea creature I can imagine, most still alive. Red buckets and bins crowded with swimming eels or some sort of almost glowing teal shellfish. Trays of raw squid on ice or crawling crabs, claws taped together for safety reasons, and fish heads and guts are set aside to be sold as parts.
     Fresh poultry can also be found within the Zhongshan marketplace. Littered between the fish and vegetable stands are cages of raised (or caught) pigeons, chickens, ducks, and geese. Tables of already killed birds, feathered and skinned if you like, or split open and de-organed per your preferences are also found in this area. Meat cleaver wielding stand owners chop off heads left and right and dogs linger looking for handouts or the dropped.
     However, on extraordinarily hot days (which is everyday!) this marketplace gets very smelly! The pungent fish odor becomes suffocating. I force myself to walk briskly through this never ending market. Every so often, I get some reprieve from a garlic and ginger stand, where I take this time to take in another breath to hold as long as I can. Finally, I find an exit to this rather long, straight street. I turn right onto another alley only to find myself still under the sea of umbrellas. I try to look ahead for an escape but only see stand after stand with no end in sight. No light at the end of this tunnel and no solace for my nose. Like a venus fly trap it lured me in with pretty colors and delicious looking fruits only to hold me captive in its inner windings and streets of stench. Succumbing to the smelly mess I've gotten myself into, I hold my breath as long as possible, refusing to breath through my mouth. While I pick up the pace, I have to remember to walk carefully. Wearing flip flops through a wet fish market is never a good idea. It is easy for one to flip dirty, sidewalk water onto the backs of one's legs or to flop said water onto the feet.

Finally! I see cars ahead and passing busses. The End! I'm free! As I escape the market place's fierce grasp, I gasp for fresh air like I've been underwater too long. Ah, at last. While a very neat and lively area, I will remember to only go on cooler days.