Saturday, September 24, 2016

Shazhou Night Market....In The Daytime.


Yim and Sal have been pretty much the ones who are coming up with ideas on where we should go and what we should do.  You cannot believe how incredibly grateful and relieved I am to be able to take a back seat.  Usually, I'm the one having to make the decisions and it's not often an easy task. So I thank them and graciously just tag along.

We spent this afternoon wandering around the part of the city that is encompassed by the Shazhou Night Market which is located just a few blocks walk from our hotel.

Dunhuang is a very pleasant city in that the streets are wide, traffic is light, the sidewalks are very clean, and there are plenty of shops and restaurants.  It's also very walkable.


We stopped inside a shopping mall....looks like any shopping mall in the US so Yim and Mal could pick up some items from the drugstore, not the pharmacy but a Western style drugstore where you can buy items other than medicines.  We strolled through the mall for a bit before heading back out to the main street.

Shazhou Night Market is the largest night market in Dunhuang and as you might expect, popular with both locals and tourists.  During the day though, it is a very quiet place....deathly quiet.


The market is divided into zones.  When we entered, we were obviously in the dried fruit and nuts zone given the number of vendors who were hawking these products.


For some odd reason and I cannot explain myself, I was fascinated by the variety of raisins for sale.  Given that we're in the desert, where do these come from and how many different grapes are there??



There were several stalls selling things that had me asking, "what??"  I know, if I could read Chinese, I would know what these things are but absent of that, I have no clue if these things are animal, vegetable or mineral?


By now, there were some stomachs rumbling so we set about looking for a place for lunch.  Apparently, Gansu is the epicenter of donkey meat in China and ordinarily, I am out to try anything but for some reason, the thought of donkey meat has not enticed me at all.  In fact, it's done the exact opposite so when we were looking for a place to eat, my only request was no donkey.  Yim didn't know the Chinese character for donkey so we just urged her to spot the character for beef.

With food choices having been so limited and everyone pretty much tired of noodles, it's become a difficult challenge finding a place to eat.  In the end, we caved in and found a Muslim noodle place that looked like it offered a variety of noodle soups.  I settled for something that looked like simple veggie noodle and for 10 yuan, was reasonably priced.


By now, we had the routine down.  Pay the cashier, take the ticket and hand to chef in the kitchen.


Poor Mal.  She's been a subject of curiosity from Day 1 and she's been graciously accepting one request after another to pose in photos and selfies.  But today, even she had reached her limit.  After we sat down, a Muslim family sat at the table behind us.  I know the elderly woman did not mean any harm but she was rude.  She basically would not stop staring at Mal.  It wasn't as if she would look at Mal for a few seconds and then turn away and a short while later look back.  Her eyes were fixed on solidly Mal. I swear she wasn't even blinking her eyes. It was impossible for Mal to notice as she was directly in the woman's line of sight.  Mal eventually made a comment and I decided to return the gesture and I stared right back at the woman until she got uncomfortable with me looking at her and she stopped staring at Mal.  Every few seconds I would turn back to look at her to see if she had stopped.  If she hadn't I held my stare which I had turned in to a glare.  Eventually, it ended.

The woman didn't put a damper on lunch however.  Since both Mal and I only had had a hardboiled egg for breakfast, both of us readily devoured our bowl of noodles.

After lunch, we wandered between the alleyways that connect the sections of the market.  It's like a ghost town at this time of day.


There's an entire section of small restaurants housed under a covered pavilion.  We made a note to come back here for dinner.


We also did a bit of shopping.  There was a nice little shop selling knick knacks.  No one bought anything though.

Somehow, we always ended up back drooling over food.  This guy was chopping up chunks of braised pork belly and shoving the meat into pockets of bread. It looked absolutely mouthwatering.  Too bad we didn't happen on this guy BEFORE we found the noodle shop.


As our luck would have it, we happened upon two coffee shops.  We just picked one and ordered some warm drinks to relax with.  The banquette seats were uber comfy, the lights were low and if not for the heavy odor of cigarette smoking enveloping us all, I would have happily stayed here for a while.  But I couldn't handle the smoke so I took the hotel room key from Mal and left the gals behind.


I made my way back to the main street that was lined with all the souvenir stalls.


I had checked out one row on the way into the market so it was a good time to walk down the opposite side.  With nothing else to do, I took my time to check out each stall.  There were also a few interesting shops so I did a bit of window shopping too.

This artist stopped me in my tracks.  His artistic skill is a Chinese art form known as inner painting also known as inner drawing. It is the art of painting and doing calligraphy on the inside of a glass snuff bottle.


The painting is done using specialized paint brushes, manipulated through the neck of the bottle.


Everything has to be painted upside down and backwards. Perhaps not difficult if you are doing images of plants and animals but it's incredibly difficult to write Chinese characters upside down and backwards.  It also takes a very steady hand.


This guy had quite a few bottles, of different sizes and designs, for sale.  I have long wanted to own one of these pieces so I had pretty much decided I would buy one the moment I saw them.  I settled on two different pieces, painted on large snuff bottles - one that had cranes painted on it and the other other with lotus flowers and grasshoppers.  The backs and fronts of both bottles had different versions of the same design.  I eventually settled on the one with the cranes.  He was asking the equivalent of about $40 USD for the bottle and I know I should have bargained him down but the artwork was so well done that I didn't have the heart to even shave off a dollar.  I can afford it and I know he can use the money!

I made a mental note to bring Yim back here as I know she will love the bottles as much as me.

Funny enough, I had picked up cold these past few days and I was sniffling the entire time I was interacting with this man who did not speak a word of English and my Mandarin is non-existent but we managed to communicate using fingers and a calculator.  He heard my sniffling and after I paid him the money, he held out an open packet of Kleenex and offered me one.  I graciously accepted.

On the way out of the market, I wandered through the produce market.  They have nice veggies here making me wonder why I had had none of this in any of the meals I've had so far.  Where are the veggie dishes??


I haven't any fruit since arriving in China and the sight of the melons made me drool.  I was so tempted to get one and borrow a knife from the hotel kitchen to cut it up.  I picked up one and sniffed it.  It was ripe.   But I didn't know if the other three would eat any of it and well, I can't eat an entire one by myself so in the end, the melons stayed in the bin.  You have to admit, they look good!



This being China, a woman was slaughtering chickens right next to the woman selling tofu :-)

The one thing about the dried fruit and nut vendors - they are always offering up a sample.  Too bad I don't like dried fruits.



I was barely in the room for a few minutes before Mal arrived back.  The ladies didn't take as much time making their way through the market as I had.

As the afternoon turned to night, we all turned lazy.  No one felt like heading back out for dinner so we all just hung back in our rooms.  Tomorrow, we are heading out to the desert to see some unique rock formations.   I can't wait!!

Goodnight from Dunhuang!