enormous in comparison to the little 125cc models you commonly see puttering along theedges of the roads.I leave them to explore the bike, to squeeze the brake and clutch levers, to stare into theodometer and to peek under the sidecar cover. I’ve learned that theft is not a problem, butin a communist society there is little concept or respect for private property, and amtrying to learn to live with it.The marketplace is a fantastic mess of produce stands, food stalls, smells, people andanimals. People stare but they are busy, this market is the main event and its likely thatmost have traveled very far on foot or bicycle to buy supplies. Using sign language I buyoranges, pears and bananas. I ask for a column of sweet fried dough. It tastes of cinnamon, and when I smile in appreciation the man’s face lights up and he calls outloudly something that makes everyone laugh. An old woman sits under a tarp tied to the branches of a tree that’s just starting to bud. She presides over a massive wok, lifting thecover to spoon a dark liquid over a hundred boiling eggs. Their shells are cracked and thewhites are stained. I eat two right there—I’d expected soy sauce but I think it’s black tea,the flavor is mild and not salty. I throw the shells in the pile of trash next to the tree trunk,and stand there watching, and being watched. I know these people have never seen aforeigner, but they’re staying cool about it. I buy some more eggs, letting the woman takecoins from my open palm. I don’t think she’s marked up the price like they do in Beijing.Where there are no tourists, there is no tourist price. Everything cost just pennies.I follow the scent of almonds and find a stack of freshly-baked cookies yellow with fooddye and glistening with a coating of egg whites. I buy a dozen, thinking they’ll be goodwith coffee the next couple of mornings, as I haven’t adopted the Chinese habit of breakfasting on noodle soup. I’m glad to have all these supplies to carry with me for thenext few days.Walking to the river, I stumble over the large white rocks to a spot where I can see 360degrees to scan the landscape, trying to imagine where all these people have come from.
The China Road Motorcycle Diaries