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  • James Tam 谭炳昌

Xishuangbanna and Laos (1) - Meng Zhe Market 西双版纳与老挝(1)- 勐遮市场

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

These days, when travelling, I often feel a precocious sense of nostalgia.

The photos that I take could become mini time-capsules much sooner than expected. Come back in a year, and the scene may have changed beyond recognition due to hyper development, mindless conflicts, a colour revolution, and/or an invasion followed by wanton looting plus cultural devastation by a disproportional military power.

The jolly marketeer in my viewfinder could become a refugee within months, for reasons beyond reasoning. Friends who have been to Syria like to reminisce how suddenly and thoroughly a beautiful and friendly country can be ruined. 近年來,當我旅遊拍照的時候,往往有幾分過早出現的「懷舊感」。



Back in January this year (2016), I visited Xishuangbanna and Laos with a few travel-mates. Fortunately, these regions seem more likely to prosper rather than be ruined in the foreseeable future, though one should never underestimate the destructive power of Dark Forces. 我一月份途經西雙版納到老撾兜了一圈。看來這地區面對高速發展的機遇和挑戰,大大高於戰禍。但破壞和平的惡勢力無孔不入,不能掉以輕心。

Xishuangbanna (let’s call it XS to save electrons) is an autonomous prefecture in Yunan Province, home to more than 50 ethnic groups in south western China.

XS means “twelve tribes” in Dai, a dialect closely akin to Thai. Quite a few minority communities in XS are mountain tribes. At least one of them was still headhunting in the literal sense up to 1949. After the revolution, they gave up the ancient tradition to preserve their own heads.

In a world rife with tension, it’s heartening to witness peaceful coexistence in a community of such diverse ethnicity. Let’s hope it stays that way. From what’s I’ve briefly observed, I’m more optimistic than worried. 版納是雲南省的一個傣族自治州。雲南省有50多個少數民族,在版納就有12個,以傣族為首。西雙版納是傣文譯音,意思是「十二部落」。不少版納的少數民族都是山地人。其中佤族據說在解放前仍然獵頭做祭品,後來怕被斬首,才停止獵頭。但牛頭仍然是主要祭品。

當今世上,到處都是種族紛爭。那麼多不同民族能夠和諧共處,確實難能可貴,是個鮮為人道的社會成就,應當珍惜。 Our first stopover was a town called Meng Zhe. On Day ONE, we visited the market. Markets are a revealing cross-section of a community. They tell me how well (or poorly) people live and eat, and interact with each other — things that matter most to living social animals.

The psyche of a society is also reflected in its market. Sombre customers quietly pushing boxes of manufactured food along orderly long queues in freezing supermarkets are likely to see and live life very differently from those who mix, greet, bargain, bicker, eat, shout, and laugh in a crowded wet market early each morning, shovelling alongside hapless poultries and slabs of raw meat. As we change the environment, it also changes us. 行程的第一站,是版納的勐遮。休息一個晚上後,翌日清晨便去逛市場。我每到陌生地方,都喜歡參觀街市。當地的物資供應,治安情況和民風,都可以在市場中略窺一二。

市場其實很有文化代表性。在鴉雀無聲的低溫超市內推著一盒盒工業制食品,繃著臉排隊付錢的城市人,無論日常生活或世界觀,都會異於每早挽著菜籃往街市,與街坊高聲招呼笑罵,討價還價,搶購最新鮮雞鵝鴨肉的人。當人類改造環境的同時,環境也會把我們改造。 Anyways, here are a few shots from Meng Zhe Market, something that maybe replaced by florescent lit supermarkets soon. Younger readers may not realise that all markets in the world used to be full of life, just like this, not too long ago. 說得太多了。以下是幾張勐遮市場的照片。年輕的城市人,可能不知道不久前的市場,都是這個熱鬧模樣的!

Twelve yuan. Here you go. Put it in your pocket. 就這樣,12塊,放口袋裡拿走!

Now, this is the look of Utopia 搞哪麼多幹嘛?烏托邦就是這個樣子

Come to think of it, fibres actually increase pollution don't they? 高纖維食品製造更多排泄物,是否對環境更污染呢?

Promise, this a virgin. never laid an egg! 看,保證是處女,沒生過蛋的!

Really?! 真的嗎?!

Look at that goose! What’s it thinking? 看那小白鵝!它在想什麼呢?

Wondering if meat counters at supermarkets are more comfy 鵝哥哥在想:超市的凍肉櫃檯會比較舒適嗎?

Why are street side buns always tastier? 在街邊的包子特別好吃,為什麼飯館不能仿效?

Hey, where're you going? Like my new hat? 噯,你去哪啦?我的新帽子好看嗎?

Mmmm... 嗯...

Will the market be here when he grows up? 他長大後,這市場還在嗎?

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