i met mrs.gu downstairs at the bus stop this morning at 8:30. we were supposed to meet even earlier at 8:00 but she called me around 7:30 to say she'd be half an hour late because she was still making breakfast. we were going to the gelan ganji, one of the last few weekend ganjis before chinese new year begins on the 31st. one of the drivers at work told us it'd take an hour to get there but it only took about 30 minutes since the roads to gelan are pretty new. the fare was RMB$6.5, and in the beginning we were both sitting, but eventually gave up our seats to an old man and a lady carrying a baby. mrs.gu was talking about work again (peppering it with bits of english here and there), in a way that brought too much attention to ourselves. when i travel i like to be lowkey, if that's even possible carrying a conspicuous camera around.
gelan (葛兰) means "kudzu orchid" and the small town was overrunned with market day activities. of all the ganjis i've been to within the past 2 months, this is by far the most crowded and lively, but i think some of that has to do with the fact that it's so close to chinese new year. we arrived around 9:00, and wasn't exactly sure where the ganji was but all we had to do was simply follow the crowd. we were there early enough that vendors were still setting up along the streets. the produce and meat markets were already opened though. not a lot of sausages compared to the shuanglong ganji i went to with mrs.gu, but she told me it's kind of late to be making sausages anyway since there's not enough days for them to dry out in time for new year. a few butchers were still making fresh sausages though, and there were also some selling natural casings.
i sort of wish i went there by myself, but it's also nice to have someone there to share in the discovery. mrs.gu has a habit of pulling me away when i'm chatting with people, afraid i might get swindled. if i went by myself, i probably could've stayed even longer, and taken more photos, especially 3D ones which take a bit of time and scoping to get the best vantage points. still, i grabbed my typical amount for a good outing, about 1000 photos.
i didn't buy too much. i wanted some pot holders but didn't see any ones i liked. i was also tempted to get some rubber boots, but decided against it. i checked out hats as well, but nobody had the felt-style blue hat i got from the honghu ganji. i ended up buying some replacement buttons for my suit jacket (RMB$1 for 3 buttons, i got 12 buttons, a packet of needles, and a spool of black thread) and some clementines (RMB$7/lbs, kind of expensive, but they ended up tasting very sweet).
i saw a few things i haven't seen in the other ganjis. for one thing, smoked dogs. these were small dogs, and i knew right away what they were from the sharp teeth and the furs purposely left intact on their paws. mrs.gu thought they were pigs, until the vendor confirmed my suspicions. "small wild dogs, from the mountains," she told us, but i suspected that wasn't true, and they were either small dogs or puppies. i also asked the price because i was curious: RMB$35 per dog (which is actually kind of a gross bargain).
something else i'd never seen before: other photographers! judging from their expensive camera equipment, they were members of the chinese nouveau riche. at first i thought it was just one, but then saw a crowd of half a dozen photographers armed with serious gear shooting a little boy playing with some ducklings. i hated them immediately, a mixture of annoyance peppered with jealousy. i thought photographing ganjis was my thing, but apparently others are on to this hidden chinese gem of photo opportunities. but since they're native chinese as well, they don't have that "stranger in strange land" perspective i have. they also don't do what i do, they aggressively stick their lenses into people's business without engaging them first and simply leave when finished. there's just something unwholesome about what they do, without any consideration for the feelings of others. the people at the ganji might just as well be a landscape for them to photograph, nothing more. for me, photography is important, but learning about what i'm seeing is just as important, and talking with people is part of the fun. and every once in a while i'll buy something. i ended up taking photos of the photographers taking photos.
we left gelan around 11:30. gelan doesn't seem to have a dedicated bus station, so people just wait along the highway (with is nothing more than a 2 lane road that cuts through town) to catch a passing bus. for the first time i saw a fireworks seller. it makes sense that they'd be a little bit away from the hubbub of the main ganji activities, considering they're essentially selling explosives. they had spools of traditional chinese firecrackers and some roman candles, nothing more. not even sparklers, which the guy told me they haven't come in yet but will. we flagged down a changshou-bound bus with a group of other people. we managed to find empty seats in the back of the bus, but the ride home never got as crowded as the ride to the ganji. mrs.gu invited me for stone bowl bibambap lunch at the hanlin korean restaurant on the top floor of the chongbai mall. i've eaten here before and thought the korean barbecue was terrible. i wasn't surprised that the bibambap was also unrecognizable as bibambap. the only good things i can say about it is that it's cheap (RMB$12, 50% lunch discount) and the stone bowl was very hot.
afterwards mrs.gu walked with me to the outdoor market. she went home while i bought some pickled garlic and long beans. coming home, i also got some duck feet and chestnuts. i had to wait a few minutes for the chestnuts to finish roasting, so i went next door to a condo real estate office. these sorts of places are pretty ubiquitous, considering how much new high rise condos are being built in the changshou area (and pretty much everywhere else in china). usually these offices are lavishly high end to give a classy appearance, with scale models of both the finished condo complex and models of the different room styles. the one i was looking at, for a nice corner condo (with 3 open sides with windows) it's RMB$5000 for a 1000m2 place, which comes out to be about US$80,000, not a bad deal (i don't know how much per month in condo fees). the only caveat for a foreigner buyer is you have to register at the police station first, and you have to pay the entire amount all at once, no mortgage payments.
watching television from bed eating chestnuts and duck feet, i decided to take a nap around 4:00. i slept for 2 hours. originally i wanted to go to ancient town and take some photos of the new year light displays, but the weather was sort of grey, so i figured going on a clear night would be better. so i ended up just staying indoors, watching more television from bed. i finally got up around 8:00 to eat the dico's leftover from yesterday. since i have no microwave or oven, i was going to try heating everything over the stove, but decided just to eat everything cold, which wasn't bad.