It is a lazy Saturday afternoon, and when you wake up at a disgraceful one o’clock (allowing for the fact, though, that you went to bed only at five in the morning), it’s too late for plans for a grand outing.
When it comes to spur-of-the-moment decisions for an evening out, and when most of the girls are lying exhausted in bed after night shifts, there is nothing much for two girls to do but go…shopping? Well, actually, this time I chose Chinatown because I like the atmosphere there. It is a flea market, a perennial bazaar, an exhibition of sorts- new people come and go all the time, but time stands still. You never know when you might come across something unexpected. This evening, for instance, as I stood amidst the rows of skirts and mannequins in an open shop that I’d visited quite a few times earlier, I noticed a sign I’d never seen earlier. ‘Japanese Street’, I learnt, was the name of the road that was packed with restaurants, shops and stalls selling clothes, semi-precious stones, knick-knacks you don’t need but want, electronic items, jewellery and Buddhist artefacts. It is truly a slice of China, and somehow, you never can get tired of it. What I learnt from the sign, though, was that it was once home to coolie houses where innocent men led a life of struggle, and brothels where Japanese girls sold their dignity to help fund the war at home. Can human beings go any lower than this, forcing women to give up their honour to fuel the arrogant caprices of a group of powerful men? Now, though, the street prospers and flourishes with happy crowds of tourists and locals, the ghosts of the gory past dismissed, hopefully, for ever.
The prospect of an iced tea was rather tantalising after a walk through the narrow crowded streets, where for some reason, blonde heads come close to outnumbering the black- packs of tourists from all around the world descend here and gape and gawk at the various curiosities. You can’t help but feel like a proud ‘local’ come there for a regular evening stroll (defining local- three or four trips to the streets should be good enough, where one shop can be very like the one next to it).
The most amusing part of the evening, though, was the ‘drink’ at a Thai food stall. We walked by the men sitting at the tables outside, talking over mugs of Heineken (and not Tiger beer, which is the main source of income at the stall round the corner from where we live), and asked for the day’s special- Thai iced tea. The man at the counter gave us tea on the rocks- quite literally- in a Heineken mug. Derision evaporating (sorry, but I don’t take very kindly to alcohol), I posed for a couple of pictures with the mug- stupid, but we were just fooling around. Too bad we lost the pictures due to a problem with the memory card in my roommate’s camera.
It wasn’t an extraordinary evening, it wasn’t even worth writing about, but you know how things are, there are days when you have nothing to say and still end up saying it.