Muslim Quarter / Xi’an, China

Perhaps the most intense market we had ever visited. Ever.

From the moment we stumbled into the flowing crowd, we were crushed and churned through a wave of sweaty, hungry locals – all after a tasty snack or a slick deal.

The entire street was transformed into a dirty wonderland of sticky sweet treats, buzzing neon toys and screaming hawkers – all haloed against the warm glows of open flames and steaming cauldrons of ‘unknown’ concoctions. If you managed to squeeze and wrestle your way to the front of a ‘queue’, you could watch the vendors frantically trying to keep up with the demand of the masses, impressively handling money and payments with one hand and preparing food with the other. In true Chinese fashion, whatever is inedible simply ended up on the floor (ultimately stuck or smeared to the bottom our nice new shoes). The poor cleaners worked tirelessly all night but were continuously showered in rubbish as if it were celebratory confetti, all the while – literally shovelling the trash into wheelbarrows. Like typical New Zealanders, we carefully placed our deposits into their bins, apologising incessantly.

The food was amazing however, the extra bit of hair, sweat or human fluid that makes it into the recipe does go a long way to adding to the flavour. As long as you don’t watch them too closely when they’re preparing the food, it tastes absolutely fine (the dim street lighting hides whatever impurities we would normally spot). Ignorance is bliss…

Our stomachs must have been hardened and evolved after weeks of traveling through China, because we emerged surprisingly unaffected. The only real casualty of the night were our shoes which we intend to surrender straight to New Zealand customs for quarantining!


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