The Lotus Market

19 Dec

The first thing you notice about the Lotus Market is the crowd. Chengdu’s a big city, but it has a long way to go to get the sort of “seething mass of humanity” feel like Beijing. The Lotus Market is the closest I’ve been to that sort of massive crush of people. The cheapest way to the market is the north-bound 55 bus; the end of the line is the Train Station stop and the warren-like streets around the station make up the Market. People are everywhere, the wide streets narrowed with stalls and stands and tiny little tables full of merchandise. Walking in a group of three is an effort, weaving in and out of the steady stream of humanity.

The Silk Market of Beijing is a tourist trap full of goodies and fake leather bags, cheap Prada and Gucci knock-offs, and enough panda paraphernalia to make the WWF blush. The Lotus Market of Chengdu is nothing like it. This is where the locals shop, where the locals do business. I have seen exactly two other foreigners there. No one speaks English at you, everyone assumes you have a rudimentary ability to converse in Chinese and the normal “laowai fee” isn’t too high.

I bought some gloves this weekend. I know, it’s not exactly a glamorous purchase, though I did buy some cheap pearl earring studs, in the rare chance I might tire of my silver hoops. Katia and Ann bought some Christmas presents. I was exceedingly happy that I’ve already got my present-situation covered. It’s been a nagging thought at the back of my mind for two months so when I sent off my Christmas parcel it was a blessing to finally get rid of that worry.

I like visiting the Lotus Market, provided I have already had my preemptive aspirin and that I am thoroughly caffeinated. Unfortunately, yesterday I did not manage to drink any tea or coffee in the morning as we ventured out and so I got steadily grumpier as time went on. Katia and Ann deserve medals for putting up with me. (I think they’ll settle for chocolate, though.) I really, really don’t like the sound of horns or cars beeping, which is a staple of China in general and the Lotus Market in particular. The streets are a de facto pedestrian area but there’s always some asshole in a Mercedes who thinks they can drive through or the scooters piled high with merchandise in a rush to deliver on time.

Visiting the Lotus Market is an exhausting affair. After two or three hours, even the brightest of spirits have flagged in the open-air chill. The temperature might be in the forties, but it is a bitter , wet cold that goes straight through your coat and sits in your bones. It is a dishonest cold. So, moderately triumphant, we left the market with our spoils and decamped to McDonald’s for hot chocolate and french fries. Any day that ends with hot chocolate is a good day.

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2 Responses to “The Lotus Market”

  1. Karen December 20, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    It sounds like you should buy some long johns and a thermal vest. It’s a lot colder there than it is here. Should I send you my Eddie Bauer 40° below zero down jacket? Of course you are hardier than me at this point. I don’t like being cold. Your outing sounds like an exciting experience. Did you take some photos? I love hearing about your adventures.

    • Jane December 21, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

      Heh, no worries. Dad just sent off my pink coat, which should get here in a week or so. And I have a couple hundred kuai ear-marked for a buying splurge at UNIQLO. Their “heat tech” stuff is kickass.

      I took some pictures, but they didn’t do the Lotus Market justice.

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