A visit to the local market meat and vegetable market is the best way to get to know the smells and tastes of the local place you are exploring. Yangshuo’s local market was tucked away in a warehouse-like building off the main road.
Walking in I was assaulted by the chaotic visual delights and smells that filled the market place. In one direction were fresh fruit and vegetables, rows of bags filled with spices and herbs, the aroma of peppers and chili filling the air.
Turning in a different direction I was greeted by nets full of squirming frogs, buckets of live turtles, and eels. Right in front of us were enormous bloody fish heads still twitching as their bodies were being filleted a few feet away. I did not know where to focus my attention first.
We walked down the isle past rows of chickens and ducks in various stages of dis-assembly ones with their heads and feet removed, others that were dead and plucked but still had their appendages intact, and of course to one side live chickens waiting ignorantly for their death. And next to those, cages of rabbits and yes even cats, all cute and fluffy, like they’d been snatched from the pages of a children’s book.
It was grisly and shocking but also almost comical in its sheer Chinese-ness. I kept thinking to myself, “No, this isn’t a movie or quite like the stereotypes I imagined, and yet somehow it’s exactly what I had imagined Chinese markets to look like.”
A few feet away, hanging from the ceiling by hooks, were the carcasses of what could only be dogs. I was so shocked and grossed out by what I saw that I could stick around long enough for more than one photo. They had been sliced vertically down the middle and had their organs removed, so the white ribs and dark red edges of the chasm running the length of each body. Hanging there like that, they almost didn’t even look real, they looked like something that should be in a bad horror movie.
I looked down at my feet. The floor was streaked with blood and bits of gristle and organs of all kinds, mingling with the water and mud that also ran in rivulets in every direction. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and be able to breathe fresh air again. The legality of eating dogs and cats in China seems to be a matter of debate, something the country is trying to move away from as it becomes more modernized, although obviously it’s still practiced in some places. For some the prospect of eating dog meat turns the stomach, however for some it’s a treat worth shelling out for.
Needless to say that after our visit to the market I didn’t have much of an appetite left.