Friday, 16 April 2010

Donganmen Street, off Wangfujing

A friend cornered me about a month ago. He had a kind of concerned look on his face. "I heard," he said finally, "that you are going to China on holiday?"

"Yes," I answered, "what's up?"

"You're not attempting another travelloque of your holidays there, are you?" he asked.

I looked at him. He tried his best to look normal but his fidgeting betrayed his slight anxiety.

"What if I do?" I replied provocatively.

"Well, please don't! Please don't write a travelloque about China," he blurted out. "I can't take it. A travelloque about Australia is fine. Telling us what you did in Australia is fine but please....not about China. Especially, not about...Wangfujing!"

Aha! So that was what our conversation was all about. My friend was not looking forward to knowing what happens at Wangfujing in the evenings.

But first, what can I write about Wangfujing when I haven't even been there? Until I spoke with him, I must declare that I haven't even heard of Wangfujing, let alone visit the place. But now that it has been mentioned, how can I avoid not going there now?

It turned out that Wangfujing is one of the poshest tourist places in Beijing. You won't find any locals shopping there, only foreign tourists. The road is lined with eating outlets and shopping malls stacked with designer clothes and all eyeing the magical foreign currenc. Yes, even in a communist land, money is King.

Oh yes, the road also sports an adult shop. It's positioned strategically below a restaurant, see. When we were there, I noticed one of Saw See's colleagues and her 12-year-old daughter seemingly peering into the adult shop. A liberated mom, I thought. But I was wrong. They were only looking at the restaurant's neon-lit menu on display above the adult shop.

People think that Wangfujing is home to the night food market. Actually, the market is not along Wangfujing Street at all but along Donganmen Street which is a road off Wangfujing Street. However, the place is not so difficult to find. Just follow your eyes, nose and ears and you will see, smell and hear people heading towards the night market.

The speciality of the place is the exotic fare on display there. Don't go there if you are easily offended. Don't go there if you feel squeamish looking at all sorts of strange stuff. Don't go there if you are an animal rights activist. The Chinese will sell anything that moves and have their backs to the sky. And they include starfish, silkworms, beetles, grasshoppers, sea horses, crabs, scorpions and animal innards and offals such as the intestines, kidneys, hearts and what not. See what I mean? The only thing I did not see were roast rats but I'm sure they'll be available if you ask!

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