After visiting Agra Fort, we returned to our hotel and waited for the tour guide from Agra Walks. Recommended by guidebooks, the Heritage Tour of Agra Walks gave us a good opportunity to visit one of Agra’s local market. For about two and a half hours, we followed our guide Gautam Pratap by car, cycle rickshaw, and on foot into the bustling Rawatpara Spice Market. Labelled as the “unseen” part of Agra for foreign tourists, the vibrant market scenes left a distinctive impression for us compared to the historical sites, one that was full of colours, fragrant, noises, and life.
On our way to Rawatpara Market, our rickshaw passed by the red sandstone walls of Agra Fort once again.
Near Agra Fort Train Station, our rickshaw entered into the lively streets of Rawatpara.
We found our way towards Jama Masjid, a famous mosque built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s daughter in 1648.
Jama Masjid took 6 years and 5000 workers to finish.
Betel leaves are sold in the Rawatpara Market.
The 185 year old Chimman Lal Puri Wale was one of the highlights of our market walk. We actually sat down with the guide and sampled some of the tasty puri snacks with three different dipping.
After visiting the local eatery, we continued our walk into the market.
We passed different areas of the market beginning from the textile area. Many of these busy textile shops store their stocks in the attic above the main area.
As expected, there are many shops selling all kinds of personal adornments.
Local craftsmen could be seen everywhere in the market.
From jewellery making to embroidery, handicraft is still popular in India.
Next we came to a shop selling different ritual items, including garlands made with real money bills for wedding ceremonies. Despite being a popular local tradition, the Reserve Bank of India actually urged people to stop the custom.
Colourful shops in the market.
Everything were either vivid or golden in colour.
Decoration is such a huge part of the Indian culture.
We stopped by the historic Hindu temple Shri Mankameshwar Mandir. Unfortunately the temple was closed when we were there.
Then we moved on to the spice section of the market. Anyone who has experience with Indian cuisine would acknowledge the importance of spices in their culinary traditions. We did pick up some saffron from one of the shops.
Sweet is, of course, hugely popular for the Indians as well.
After a fruitful walk it was about time for sunset watching.
We followed our guide back to the entrance of the market where a 4×4 was waiting to take us to our next stop.
We got up at around 7 in the morning. The air was cold and refreshing. We walked down to the courtyard to brush our teeth and then into the dining room for breakfast. After breakfast, our host suggested us to take a morning walk to the “beach”. He gave us simple instructions and we ventured off onto the rural paths of Taquile again. We walked to a part of the island where we had not been to before, following a winding path with a low stone wall along both sides of the path that stretched all the way to as far as we could see. The beach was at the far end of the island. We could get a glimpse of it from the village centre. Without signage for direction and a clear path leading to the beach, we could only trust our gut to find a way to descend to the beach at the foot of the hill.
The lake water was freezing cold. Two cows were wandering on the sandy beach while we chilled out in the cool breeze. We stayed on the beach for about 20 minutes until we decided to walk back to the village to check out the handcraft centre. We climbed back up the hill to the main path. The handcraft centre had a huge collection of exquisite textiles and wearable pieces handmade by the villagers, such as knitted belts and hats. The colourful pieces are often decorated with traditional patterns unique to Taquile. In 2005, the textile arts of Taquile was declared Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO. Taquile is often considered a successful example of community-based tourism. Many islanders participate on making handcrafts for sell at the handcraft centre, or take turns to become hosts for visiting tourists.
After we visited the handcraft centre, we walked by a teenage girl sitting by the road, quietly knitting wool bracelets. She lined up her colourful bracelets nicely on a piece of fabric for display. The colourful bracelets had several different patterns knitted on both sides, and they all looked lovely to us. While we were appreciating the works, a local islander waved at us from afar and he looked anxious. He tried to tell us something important but we had trouble understanding. After moments of confusion, we finally understood that he had been looking for us for quite sometime. A friend of our host, he wanted to let us know that the boat leaving for Puno had changed its departure time earlier than scheduled. Our host, on the other hand, had gone to the pier to urge the boat captain to wait for us. By the time we were informed, we had less than half an hour to rush to the pier. We followed the messenger’s lead to the exit archway of Taquile, where a long flight of stone steps led to the community pier by the lake. We hurried down the stone steps in a single breath and finally jumped onto community boat leaving for Puno. The community boat was much slower than the tourist boats, and the ride took over two hours.
After docking at Puno, we went into a local restaurant at town centre for a big glass of warm chicha morada. Chicha is a Peruvian drink made of purple maize with a variety of spices or fruits. Fermented or non-fermented, chicha drinks have been popular with people on the Andes for centuries. A glass of purple chicha morada (with spices of some sort) became the perfect conclusion for our visit to Lake Titicaca. The next morning, we would head northwest to the historical heartland of the Inca Empire, Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
The boy of the host family was shy but curious. He invited us to play football with him at the forecourt of his house.
Our host’s home had a big foreground surrounded by adobe houses on three sides and a wall at the front. The forecourt is a perfect place for the kids of the family to play football.
The rural scenery of Taquile in early morning.
A woman with her sheep for a morning walk.
The beach that our host recommended was down the hill from the main path.
The beach is right at the foot of the terraced farmlands.
We finally reached the beach. We were greeted by a cow and its calf there. The water was too cold for a comfortable swim but the sun was warm and the sand was fine.
At the Handcraft Centre, we found many finely made textile items and knitwears. Examples of Taquile’s famous knitting could easily be seen everything on the island, including the traditional headwears of the villagers.
We passed by a number new buildings under construction when we rushed to the pier. Many buildings were left unfinished until villagers saved up enough money to complete the second level.
After passing this arch, we would bid farewell to Taquile island.
Following the messenger, we hurried down the stone steps to catch the community boat. The stepped path was long with uneven stone risers.
We finally made it to the pier and were amazed by the speed at which we descended the uneven steps.
There were a few boats at the dock. The community boat left from a different pier than where we arrived a day ago.
At last, the farming terraces of Taquile Island was behind us.
As the boat moved out to the lake, Taquile Island appeared smaller and smaller until it disappeared completely.
Our boat passed by some fish nets in the lake.
During the boat ride, we passed by a number villages along the coast of the mainland.
Close up of a coastal village by the Lake Titicaca.
We were sitting out on the boat deck. After the gate marked by the light towers, we knew Puno would soon be in sight.
We arrived at Puno at late afternoon. We strolled around the market near the town centre and went into a small local restaurant for a warm chicha moranda.
* * *
Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010
1. Peru Trip 2010
2. Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4. Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5. Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6. Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru
In Hong Kong, redevelopment of an old neighborhood is often a controversial matter, especially when it involves eviction of existing occupants, or replacing an old neighborhood with new residential towers and shopping malls. In recent years there has been public concerns regarding the anticipated relocation of the vendors at Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar in Sham Shui Po.
Opening its doors since the 1970s at the intersection of Yen Chow Street and Lai Chi Kok Road, the specialized textile bazaar has been a popular destination for fabric seekers from fashion design students to amateur seamstress throughout the city. The bazaar stalls are laid out in a grid pattern, under patches of roof covering consisted of corrugated metal and nylon sheets. A visit to the bazaar is like a treasure hunt that involves meandering through narrow aisles and flipping through piles of colourful fabrics, bags of buttons and rolls of ribbons at each 3m x 3m vendor stall. The bazaar is chaotic, cramped, dark, and can be stuffy in humid summer days. Despite its resemblance to a shanty town , the bazaar does not deter anyone who determines to hunt for prizable fabrics and accessories in affordable prices, and to enjoy a disappearing shopping culture that emphasizes human interactions. It is the type of old school shopping experience in which friendly and long-lasting relationship between returned customers and vendors can be built up over time.
The unique atmosphere, unpretentious setting, and sense of community of the Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar belong to a disappearing Hong Kong. In a city shaped mostly by retail franchises and real estate developers, and where retail streets and shopping centres are looking more repetitive as ever, small independent businesses and grassroots communities are becoming more vulnerable and helpless in the rapid process of urban development.
From outside, Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar looks like a shabby village built at a city park.
Once inside, the chaotic bazaar is a treasure trove for many.
Fabrics and accessories are piled up high along both sides of narrow aisles.
Some vendors own multiple stalls. In many occasions, customers would need to call the owner over from another corner of the bazaar.
After forty years, a number of the existing trees have become permanent features in the bazaar.
Each stall has its unique arrangement and textile selection.
Some stalls even offer sewing service.
One may wonder how the vendor can keep track of his or her merchandises from the piles of items at the stall.
Apart from fabrics, ribbons are also popular.
And so as buttons of different colours and styles.
Encouraging messages written by customers and supporters for the bazaar vendors are pinned up at a stall.
Big banner urging for establishing an official textile market at the current location is hung at the bazaar entrance.
A supporting banner made of fabric strips is also hung at the exterior fence along Lai Chi Kok Road.
Photos showing the vendor community expressing their unity and determination to fight for their own survival at the current site, in protest to the government’s relocation proposal of the bazaar.