Adventure is where you find it they say. I find it by the exploration of flea markets.
You say that isn’t real exploring. Exploring is traveling to far off lands and seeing exotic sights.
Well the flea markets I explore are in China and you might find anything in a flea market there.
From ancient artifacts, you have to register before you can take them out of the country home to a lava rock to scrub your back and feet.
I got into the habit by accident as I was told about a market that was in a riverbed in the Northern part of the vacation and port city of Qingdao.
It is only about an hour north of the center of the city by bus.
My friend a fellow teacher said you could buy anything there and I didn’t believe him.
He insisted and I went along for the ride, as it was a Saturday and a great day to get out into the sun.
Street Food and Some of the most amazing junk/treasures you’ll ever see.
We took the bus north and in a short time, we passed over a river (At least on the map I had.).
We alighted and we down a side street, which lead down into the empty riverbed. Along the way, I fell in love with 3 puppies that were being offered for sale. The Chinese now view dogs as pets and surrogates for their children who are away at college or abroad.
We stopped at a street vendor where we pigged out on the Chinese egg tarts which are little baked dough cups file with a sweet yellow egg cream.
We then made it to the flea market proper.
Wonders upon wonders and stuff I have no idea what it was for.
I saw a vintage WWII Japanese sword being offered up for sale, which I knew would be worth a good $1,000 dollars to a sword collector in the states. The tang was even signed. (This makes them more valuable)
My friend however was in a hurry, as he wanted to get some plants for his wife who was decorating their new apartment. So, I passed on a good deal.
We made it to the plant sales area. It seems whenever you go to a Chinese market of any kind everyone forms little groups based on the products they are selling.
The plants were near where you could buy fish, turtles, and birds.
The area around Qingdao is mountainous and bird hunters go up to catch many kinds of exotic (to us) birds. I saw magpies who spoke Chinese, Parakeets, and some cockatiels. I confess I am not bird expert, but it was a riot color and raucous sounds of squawking and the people dickering on price in Mandarin and the local dialects.
We finally made it to the plant section where my friend bought what his wife wanted. Some large Philodendron like plants, which I don’t know the name of. He arranged to have them delivered.
Here is an interesting side note. In China, they use an electrically powered 3-wheeled cart that has a seat for the rider like a motorcycle and a flatbed and is like a 3-wheeled pickup truck that they use to carry everything.
You see them going down the side of the highways as there is a lane set aside for scooters and bicycles. They usually are either blue or red and in 10 years in Asia, I’ve only seen the 2 colors.
If you go to the Philippines, the Jiminy/TUK TUK (local 3 wheel gas powered trikes that have room for passengers) is as individualistic as the owners with garish colors and chrome and lights.
Having taken care of that we explore the rest of the 2-kilometer long flea market.
Show and Clothing of colors, types, and sizes were in the center. Next came the meat, vegetables, and baked goods. Canopies were raised over most of this area forming pavilions where you wander up and down rows of various goods and edible products that are in a bewildering cornucopia of smells, colors, and textures.
We then got to my favorite part. The Miscellaneous section. This is where you can find anything from a Geiger counter to a laboratory sealed weight machine that looked like a large wooden and glass case with the sensitive mechanism inside.
I saw a plethora of American & British books in English some looked to be old and perhaps a booksellers dream come true.
But then we came to the hawkers selling every kind of invention you care to name. Water purifiers that run on centrifugal force, Cutters and graders that would make Ronco and Popeil envious.
Kitchen knives that cut like magic. Here is an entrepreneur’s paradise in products for American consumers.
I saw many that should be on infomercials and late night commercials or Home Shopping Network.
At the far end is the industrial section where anything from giant electrical motors transformers and other heavy-duty hardware is to be found. Drill bits and tools of all shapes and sizes.
Some that I think would take two men to lift.
Finally at the very edge was the junk. I fell in love with the various odds and ends you can find here. Memorabilia dating back to the 1920’s and earlier. Not just Chinese either. There were items of foreign make as well. Jewelry, decorations, all from the time before WWII.
A collector would have a field day in this part of the flea market.
Adventure and Exploration can be found in strange and far off places true but…
In far off and exotic places, you can find the excitement still in finding the mundane and common if you look hard enough. Going to one of the large open-air Chinese markets or flea markets is fun, which can be an adventure all in itself, and you can find some real bargains as well
Oh, What did I get?
A lava scrub stone that works better that soap, Some industrial strength magnets that are the most powerful I ever saw. I also bought some Bruce Lee tee shirts and other kungfu items.
But mostly I had a great time sampling the street food and taking in the sights that I’ll remember always.
And that is the reason I think we explore. We want to see new things and experience the tastes, sounds, and smells.
Something the Internet can’t give.