We went to stone and wood carving markets today. Chinese New Year shuts everything down so the places were like ghost towns. Our timing was not perfect, but this was the only time we could get here this trip. Some places opened up when they saw us coming. We continually interrupted card games and tea drinking.
When we arrived at one particular market I was expecting something organic--small stalls or goods spread out on blankets; greasy noodles scenting the air. But this market was like a gigantic mall. It had a central courtyard with giant octopus arms stretching and winding outwards. Clearly, the government wanted to make it easy for professional buyers. We only covered a fraction of what there was to see.
After we had our fill, we drove through the countryside. I exchanged Las Vegas style lighting for dirt roads. The houses looked like temples. Their roof lines swept upwards towards the sky at the corners and across the tops. The curved roof tiles merged into all sorts of imaginary creatures at the tips, and wherever wood was visible it had the patina of age. This was the China I had been expecting to see.