We made it down one whole row of about 45 stalls, but at the very end, Ron was attracted to painting and stopped. I have to admit, it was interesting. It was from the perspective of the ground up, while other paintings were from a bird’s eye view. There was a special deal for us for today because we were special people, but it was way too high. We left with the salesboy, not yet a man, begging us for forgiveness. Our hearts of steel carried us forward.
Mercado number 2 was a distance away, causing us to traipse through dusty streets frequented by a number of chicken buses and trucks. My first inclination was to skip over this part of the adventure and move on, but Ron persevered. Thankfully, he did. This was a cultural experience bar none. The Mercado is covers 4 square blocks and is filled with booths that sell everything and anything. It reminded me of the Chinese Market in Budapest, but items here were better quality. Still, you see the same merchandise at least 27 times throughout the Mercado. How can anyone compete? This is not a tourist area, as we were in the minority. Most of the shoppers had a better coffee color than we did and many dressed in cultural clothing that tourists generally don’t wear. It is a maze that one could get lost in if you dare leave the straight path cutting through. I was tempted to look at other merchandise a few spaces to the left, but was afraid I would not be found again until New Years. We did look for the paintings we saw in the other Mercado, but it just doesn’t exist outside of that one booth.
Our last Mercado of the day was another one in town. It is a giant cooperative where you can find many of the same things as everywhere else, but there were some differences. As the t-shirts in Cambodia say “Same-Same, but Different”. We found a great set of 4 posters, modern, a touch of indigenous, but inviting colors that we will have framed when we return.
Of course, we could not escape Clara, our wandering saleslady in the park. She decided we needed a set of table mats, which did trigger the notion that it would be good to have for the new apartment. Of course, we should buy the table first, but what the heck. After telling her that none of her colors met our needs, she promised to have a better selection tomorrow. She did sell us another table runner while she had us in her web.
With great anticipation, we headed back to the restaurant where we had reservations. For the dinner show, you are seated in a different dining room than the uninitiated who haven’t been privy to live entertainment. There is no charge for the show other than your meal costs. Feeling special, we decided to order cocktails; they were listed on the drink menu and quite honestly, I have been thirsty for a Manhattan for some time now. The last time we splurged on cocktails was in Ljubljana where they tasted okay, but lacked liquor. I ordered a Manhattan and Ron ordered a martini, both specifically without ice. I would have said we wanted them “UP”, but I thought that would be lost in translation.
The drinks arrived. Ron’s martini had little ice floes floating around where miniature polar bears could have lounged or hung over the sides to catch fish. My drink was a dead give-away that there was more wrong than a polar experience. The glass was not a Manhattan glass, but one that you would use to serve a daiquiri or any of those sissy drinks that contain mini-umbrellas. Good grief, it also had a slice of orange on the side. The final clincher was that it was cloudy, not clear. I had to taste it in the waiter’s presence before sending it back. It tasted like Kool-Aid mixed with a scoop of sugar, but as far away from a Manhattan as Beijing is.
The head waiter wanted to know what was wrong. I explained how a Manhattan should be prepared. After a thousand apologies, they took it back and returned with a new drink. It looked identical with the exception that this one was adorned with an orange slice and a cherry. The cherry was all of the progress they made. The drink was identical.
Our dinner choices lost something in translation also. I ordered enchiladas, which I have been hungry for for some time, so was thrilled to see them listed. Ron ordered Chile rellenos. While we anticipated our gastronomic delights, a group of 6 xylophonists played in tandem. Six men playing in unison is a great feat and they performed superbly.
Hot plates were set in front of us. My enchiladas, note the plural, turned out to be a singular tostada. My culinary hopes vanished into thin vapors of steam coming off of my platter. Ron’s Chile rellenos was even more perplexing as it was sans the Chile. They must have stuffed the pepper, cooked it and then peeled the pepper off and tossed it.
Distracting us from disappointment were the dancers. Dressed in Mayan costumes complete with masks, they danced for fifteen minutes, the last 5 with audience participation. Once the show was over, we mourned our dinner another minute before paying the bill.