Night market in Beijing

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Night market in Beijing

A short walk from our hotel is one of Beijing’s oldest night market.

It is a great introduction of Beijing as we walk down a street line with modern shopping malls, lights flashing and music playing. We pass tea shops, clothes and jewellery shops as well as brightly coloured restaurant, all with lighted Chinese lanterns. It is a very modern China.

The night market in BeijingWe get quite a few stares as we go, particularly Tom with his straight blond hair but we are not the only western tourists and we feel safe as we wander through the brightly lit streets.

We are constantly approached by sellers with catapults that send a small plastic toy lit by an LED high into the air and then float down like a helicopter. To begin with I politely ignore them, not knowing the price and fearing a rip off for a cheap plastic toy but eventually the pleas of the boys leads me to check the price. 5 Yuan. I look outraged and say I will buy two for 5 Yuan (half price) which is immediately accepted – should have gone for three!

Prices are a bit of a mystery. From the very cheap – bracelets for 10 Yuan to necklaces piled up as cheap goods are but seemingly priced at 2000 Yuan! Chop stick for 78 Yuan and attractive bowls for 30 but the Tea for 800 Yuan. Not sure whether I am reading the prices wrong or it’s just a tourist trap! Need to ask our Guide in the morning.

The night market is something else altogether. A long line of stalls, lit by electric lanterns the market greets us with a strong smell and not altogether a pleasant one.

It is hot, and the addition of the smells makes it stifling but we walk the full length of the street seeing the full breadth and horror of the food on display.

It starts with shrimp and sea horse. Then continues through fried chicken hearts, sea urchins, starfish, centipedes and eventually scorpions. The smells vary from stall to stall and from various degrees of noxiousness! Our great intentions of trying a scorpion fall by the wayside but we just enjoy the experience.

We reach the stalls selling coloured drinks flowing with dry ice and fruit on sticks covered in sugar-toffee. By this point we are well passed eating and we just smile and wave at the sellers as we pass.

Finally we return to the coolness of our hotel. Stepping in from the heat is a relief (it is 32C outside despite the late our). Our first experience of Beijing has showed us one thing at least. It is a wonderful mix of old and new, of bright colours and intense smells.