Wet Market and Wal-Mart

Woke up this morning feeling a bit sad, as it was our last full day in Shenzhen with Alan and Margaret.   😦

We checked the weather forecast on-line, because someone had said in Frog’s last night that a typhoon was supposed to be heading to Hong Kong and that the bridge between Shenzhen and HK might be closed if the weather was too bad, meaning we would be unable to get there and miss our early-morning flight home.  As a contingency, we checked to see what flights would be available later on.  Having discovered there was an Emirates flight each day out of Hong Kong which would go to Newcastle via Dubai, we felt a bit better as we knew we wouldn’t end up stranded, but it would cost us £500 each if we had to buy the ticket on the day.

After breakfast Margaret asked if we would like to visit the local ‘wet market’.  This is the Chinese livestock and seafood market, so-called because the fish and other sea creatures are kept live, in tanks of water.  We have come across this phenomenon before in the Far East; for example you can go into a fish restaurant and just choose the one you want for your meal from a selection of them swimming around in a tank, then a few minutes later you’ll receive it cooked and ready to eat on a plate!  I don’t think I could eat something if I’d had a chance to look it in the eye first.   😦

On arrival at the wet market it was hard to say which of your senses was assaulted first; your nose – from the indescribable  (unpleasant) smells, your ears – from the sound of trickling water to the cries of the vendors, or your eyes from the sheer sight.

Walking around the market, I found it most distasteful.  The live fish were not kept in tanks of water, but more like large plastic washing-up bowls filled with water that was flowing in from various hose pipes around the place.  However, the bowls were filled to capacity; there was no room for the fish to swim around.  We could see their gills moving spasmodically, and every now and again one would try to jump out of the bowl, its mouth opening and closing in desperation.  Some of them just lay listlessly on their sides on the bottom of the container and we didn’t know whether they were alive or dead.

As well as fish, there were tanks of eels, lobsters, frogs and turtles.  The turtles’ containers had nets over them and occasionally a turtle would poke its head out of its shell and get it stuck in the netting.  There were also bowls full of shellfish and other creatures that we were absolutely unable to identify.  We also saw packed cages containing chickens, ducks and even rabbits, and over it all was a horrendous smell of goodness-only-knew what.

There were also stalls selling fruits and vegetables and these were infinitely more pleasant than the livestock, although to be honest I don’t think I’d ever buy from a place like this.

It was with a sense of relief that we left the wet market and breathed in the relatively sweet air outside.  We decided to have a look around the local Wal-Mart, that ubiquitous US supermarket whose branches have sprung up all over the world, obviously including China.  Margaret said she could guarantee it would be quite different from any other supermarket we’d been into.   🙂

We entered the shopping precinct and went into Wal-Mart, where once again our nostrils were assailed by a horrid stench.  Looking around to try to locate its source (all we could see was fruit and vegetables) we discovered a huge display of durian fruits.  Say no more.  The durian is well-loved, almost revered in China and parts of south-east Asia, for its sweet, delectable flesh, but it is infamous for its foul stench, and indeed is banned on public transport and in public places.  It really does smell like sh*t, and it often called the fruit that “tastes like heaven and smells like hell”.

We got on the escalator to go up to the next floor and get away from the durians.  On this floor there were clothes and household goods.  The ladies’ clothes all looked absolutely tiny in keeping with the Chinese women’s petite builds; I felt like a big ungainly oaf wandering around.   😦

When we went downstairs again we found ourselves in another part of the food market.  There were ready-roasted chickens and ducks, all with their heads still on.  We had already been told by one of our Chinese guides on this trip that the Chinese eat anything with legs “apart from tables and chairs” and we’d found this to be true.  We saw the assistants preparing the meat and poultry, and I was most disconcerted to see a woman ‘dressing out’ a freshly killed turtle; she was scraping out its shell whilst its severed head and neck were just discarded to one side.  Yuk, yuk, yuk.  Horrible.  The British are far, far more fickle than the Asians when it comes to eating.  I don’t consider myself to be a fussy eater, indeed I am more adventurous around food than most, but I would be very picky indeed if I lived in China.

Once we were back in the apartment we reluctantly started packing our stuff up, leaving out only what we’d need to travel in.  We then took a shower, changed and had something to eat, as well as the usual cold beer.  Then we took a brief afternoon siesta before walking around to Frog’s for the last time to meet up with Alan.

We enjoyed a bit of a party atmosphere in Frog’s.  All the regulars were there, and some of them had their Chinese or Filipina wives/girlfriends with them.  We also heard that the typhoon wasn’t going to hit Hong Kong after all, so we’d have no problem getting across. We sat at the tables outside, and partook of a few drinks before we decided to go back to the Boat House for our dinner.

In the restaurant I settled for the Chef’s salad and it was, quite simply, the best chef’s salad I’d ever eaten.  I also shared a bottle of good white wine with Margaret while the time got closer to 10.30pm, when the private hire car was due to come and take us to the airport.

Back in the apartment, we collected our bags and Alan and Margaret gave Trevor a belated birthday card.  It transpired that they’d intended to organise a cake for Trevor in Frog’s, when everyone was there, but somehow the request had been lost in translation and the cake never materialised.  Never mind, the thought was there and the card was good; it was a Dutch one… the first card Trevor has ever had from the Netherlands.   🙂

At 22:30 hours precisely the car pulled up and we said our goodbyes amidst bear-hugs and kisses and thanks.  We’d had a brilliant time in Shenzhen thanks to Alan and Margaret and their incomparable hospitality, but now it was time to depart.

It took us about an hour to get to Hong Kong airport, where we were in for a l-o-o-o-o-o-o-n-g wait until we could check in for our flight.  We had originally intended to stay in a hotel at the airport, but the Regal Hotel was going to charge £360.00 for one night only, which was extortionate considering we’d only have a few hours in bed, as we’d need to arrive at the check-in desk about 05:00 hours.  We therefore decided we’d make the best of the benches and floors and doss down at the airport; it’s not as if we haven’t done it before.  Seeing sleeping forms strewn all over in airport lounges is a common sight, and we were just a couple more.

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