These days, when travelling, I often feel a precocious sense of nostalgia. The photos that I take could become mini time-capsules much sooner than expected. Come back in a year, and the scene may have changed beyond recognition due to hyper development, mindless conflicts, a colour revolution, and/or an invasion followed by wanton looting plus cultural devastation by a disproportional military power. The jolly marketeer in my viewfinder could become a refugee within months, for reasons beyond reasoning. Friends who have been to Syria like to reminisce how suddenly and thoroughly a beautiful and friendly country can be ruined.
Back in January this year (2016), I visited Xishuangbanna and Laos with a few travel-mates. Fortunately, these regions seem more likely to prosper rather than be ruined in the foreseeable future, though one should never underestimate the destructive power of Dark Forces.
Xishuangbanna (let’s call it XS to save electrons) is an autonomous prefecture in Yunan Province, home to more than 50 ethnic groups in south western China. XS means “twelve tribes” in Dai, a dialect closely akin to Thai. Quite a few minority communities in XS are mountain tribes. At least one of them was still headhunting in the literal sense up to 1949. After the revolution, they gave up the ancient tradition to preserve their own heads. In a world rife with tension, it’s heartening to witness peaceful coexistence in a community of such diverse ethnicity. Let’s hope it stays that way. From what’s I’ve briefly observed, I’m more optimistic than worried.
Our first stopover was a town called Meng Zhe. On Day ONE, we visited the market. Markets are a revealing cross-section of a community. They tell me how well (or poorly) people live and eat, and interact with each other — things that matter most to living social animals. The psyche of a society is also reflected in its market. Sombre customers quietly pushing boxes of manufactured food along orderly long queues in freezing supermarkets are likely to see and live life very differently from those who mix, greet, bargain, bicker, eat, shout, and laugh in a crowded wet market early each morning, shovelling alongside hapless poultries and slabs of raw meat. As we change the environment, it also changes us.
Anyways, here are a few shots from Meng Zhe Market, something that maybe replaced by florescent lit supermarkets soon. Younger readers may not realise that all markets in the world used to be full of life, just like this, not too long ago.
|Twelve yuan. Here you go. Put it in your pocket. 就這樣，12塊，放口袋裡拿走！|
|Now, this is the look of Utopia 搞哪麼多幹嘛？烏托邦就是這個樣子|
|Come to think of it, fibres actually increase pollution don't they? 高纖維食品製造更多排泄物，是否對環境更污染呢？|
|Promise, this a virgin. never laid an egg! 看，保證是處女，沒生過蛋的！|
|Look at that goose! What’s it thinking? 看那小白鵝！它在想什麼呢？|
|Wondering if meat counters at supermarkets are more comfy 鵝哥哥在想：超市的凍肉櫃檯會比較舒適嗎？|
|Why are street side buns always tastier? 在街邊的包子特別好吃，為什麼飯館不能仿效？|
|Hey, where're you going? Like my new hat? 噯，你去哪啦？我的新帽子好看嗎？|
|Will the market be here when he grows up? 他長大後，這市場還在嗎？|