Live scorpion skewers and Mao Tse Tung tat

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Whilst travelling I have lived by the rule that I would try anything once, maybe not a second time, but I would at least give it a go. However, I broke my own rule instantly at the Donghuamen night market in Beijing, with snacks on offer to turn even the sturdiest of stomachs…

Everyday from around 4pm until 9pm the market in the Doncheng District is alive (quite literally) with a plethora of creatures, cured meats and candied fruit kebabs.

“Miss, do you like penis?” was shouted from a side stall, to which we all tittered, until we realised we were being offered a dog penis skewer (brings a whole new take on the Skegness’ famed “Cock on a stick” eh?).

The sights, smells and sounds were an assault on the senses and I couldn’t bring myself to sample the live scorpion skewers (still wriggling), beetle BBQ sticks, dried tortoise, whole baby pigeons, fish heads and pig trotters.

The long row of stalls offered fried noodles, an array of spiced tofu, huge fresh fruit portions and the most popular dish on the street seemed to be the giant toffee apple style fruit kebabs. A few of us sampled, but after witnessing the washing of fruit in filthy water at the roadside and an upturned rubbish bin with potential live critters crawling out, I was ready for a change of scenery!

After walking through Beijing’s famous shopping area, Wangfujing, in awe of the neon skyscrapers boasting the best brand names and towering shopping malls, we stumbled upon another night market with a similar assortment of weird and wonderful food, as well as a wealth of Mao Zedong (Tse Tung) memorabilia! It was tat heaven!

The bustling market had the offensive aroma of fried tofu, mixed with sweaty bodies and the sweet smell of hawthorn kebabs and candy floss. Traders touted their wares, giving cries of “Looky, looky”, “I give you good price”.

There was everything you could think of from replicas of Mao’s little red book of quotations, waving Mao watches, Mao hats, bags, T-Shirts, lighters in the shape of burgers, chewing gum, cigarettes and even naked women. There were tea sets, playing cards, post cards, handbags, posters, watches, smiling buddhas. All set amongst tea shops, shoe shops, restaurants and massage parlours, in the smallest space imaginable.

Definitely worth a visit – even if you aren’t hungry (probably better that way) and great for souvenirs (if a bit more expensive than other markets)…go with an open mind and a guarded wallet!

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