Valldemossa is possibly the most famous place in Mallorca, and probably the most popular beach-less tourist destination. Therefore it's smart to go there in the winter.
I had been gagging to go away for months although it's certainly easier to live without travelling when you already live on holiday, and for some reason it was Valldemossa that kept popping up in my head. So last Saturday I got up extra early, took the dog for an extra long walk and legged it to the bus station. But hello! The next bus to Valldemossa would leave an unbearable 53 minutes later! Ahrghhhh.
Suddenly I thought of my former life in China and the excellent habit I developed there; a habit I would recommend to everybody, especially the young people of today so glued to their iPhones and GPS and Alexa and pre-booking and Tripadvisor that they can hardly get around by themselves anymore: Go to the bus station in Shenzhen (just across the border from Hong Kong) and get on the first bus available.
The first bus leaving from the central bus station in Palma went to a place called Estellencs only a few minutes later, and I sprinted onto it, filled with an almost adventure-like joy. After an hour's drive we had reached Banyalbufar, a place much praised in tourist brochures.
Charming! And the starting point of many interesting looking, not too long, hikes. I get bored with walks that take more than a couple of hours.
The first 'throw a dice' bus I got on in southern China took me to Sei Wui.
Unlike Banyalbufar it was lively to the point of hysteria; so bustling in fact, that it was impossible to see the ground for walking, cycling, laughing, chatting, selling and buying persons. And they welcomed me and my various travel companions into their midst with much staring and laughter. It became my go-to for Cantonese 'language seminars' because we were guaranteed to be invited to eat and sing with locals.
I would return to Sei Wui again and again over the years, noting with satisfaction that here was a town whose activity level wildly increased during Chinese New Year instead of shutting down, unlike the bigger cities like Guangzhou.
August 2017 was my first trip to Sei Wui in maybe two years, and by golly the developers had been busy. The formerly throbbing and ubiquitous markets had trickled down to a sedate, nay, sterile few stalls, and several new supermarkets and towering, tiled high-rises had sprung up where before there were beautiful winding old streets with really good hovelage.
The old women selling same-day-harvested vegetables had been driven away, possibly because they didn’t have the licence needed to keep a horde of government officials in clover, and were now doing guerrilla produce-selling on street corners around town. I bumped into a bunch of street sellers that I recognised. They were still laughing at my and my friends’ middle-class abhorrence about hanging live, flapping chickens and other birds upside down.
As we chatted, a little jumped-up government official clipboard Nazi came running and chased them away. Well, naturally we can’t have screamingly fresh, inexpensive produce sold on the pavement! Get thee to a supermarket and buy overpriced, plastic-and-polystyrene-wrapped vegetables from last week like everybody else, Ophelia. That’s what the modern people do.
The outdoor clothes-and-trinkets market outside my hotel was gone too, as was my favourite restaurant on the riverbank.
In the middle of the meat market on the other side of the river, not completely razed yet because the stalls were attached to buildings, a spanking new 20-floor luxury hotel reared up, like a super model gate-crashing a homeless people party at the soup kitchen. It was all marble and shininess, and with a logo looking strangely like that of the Sheraton – but no one can have copyright on the letter S, right?
I went to have a look, but was distracted by some blood-curdling yelps and screams. Right outside the door of the hotel stall owners were slaughtering dogs. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think that is very modern.
Yes, slaughtering dogs, and not in a nice way. I will have to get back to this, perhaps least appealing aspect of the Chinese cuisine, later.
I suppose most of the villages and towns around the Pearl River Delta, cradle of Chinese emigration, are gone now. It was inevitable, because it is the jealous nature of that country's government to raze everything cool and funky to the ground.
But the Cantonese language still exists, despite all aforementioned govt's efforts to eradicate it. I think you owe it to Southern China, whence all the laundries and Chinese restaurants in the western world sprang, to carry on the tradition.
Today's Cantonese: 街市 - Gai si - market