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Full Circle

Day 70: Guiyang

Miao Villages, China 
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At the market.
Michael Palin - Full CircleThe market takes place in the lee of a grey rock bluff on top of which stand the remains of a Miao castle built six hundred years ago. Children are carried, always by the women, in bright embroidered cloth baskets slung on their backs. Many of them seem to have an affliction which causes one eye to appear almost sealed. Alongside one of the buildings are lined up thirty or forty bamboo cages with songbirds inside. In front of them moves a line of men, who every now and then drop to a squat, listening intently to the quality of their song. There are stalls full of rope, spectacles, hats, pills, clothes, steamed dumplings and other refreshments. One section of the market is devoted entirely to raw meat, great hunks of which are laid out on trestle tables, where they are picked up and turned over by prospective buyers as if they were examining antiquarian books. Home-made pipes are smoked and, judging by some of the flat, blank faces and sudden, explosive arguments, much wine and beer has been drunk. As we leave, a woman with a pig on the back of her bicycle passes a man with an unwrapped leg of raw meat sticking out of his trouser pocket.

These are very poor people but, as ever, those making a life out of adversity are much more interesting than those making a life out of comfort.

In my hotel room at 10.30 when the phone rings. After I have said hello a couple of times a soft, breathy voice speaks.

'You like missy?'

'No...' Feel foolish for not catching on earlier. 'No thank you.'

The phone goes down and almost instantly I hear it ring in the room next to mine.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 70
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Guiyang
  • Book page no: 103

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