A taste of the east in eastern Joburg
I know a place not far from the Bruma Lake fleamarket. It looks distinct from the rest of this particular side of Joburg.
It is a town with a mind of its own. The Cyrildene Chinatown is a fantastic little town teeming with a Chinese population which is mostly decidedly Chinese-speaking.
It's a beautiful, clean, one-street town adorned with all things green and healthy. On close inspection you will realise that, just like most towns in Gauteng, it has its little flaws like the garage packed to capacity with things no one wants.
It also has its own good-for-nothing people walking about aimlessly. In short, a typical small town.
The difference is that Chinatown is so charming it should be a tourist attraction .
My friend and I went there for dinner recently. There was no parking. Everyone was clearly out to get one thing or the other from the shops which seem to have been that way since the very concept of small towns.
On the left is a Chinese surgery where you can be sure a cure will come in little needles and green concoctions. Someone recently told me her chakras had to be cleansed in one of these for her to be able to carry a baby, which she had prayed and cried for, for more than 10 years. They also have a jacuzzi with bubbles of good health.
But food was our reason for being here, so we had to make a choice from the array of restaurants which make this town a favourite for people living in the area.
As if it makes a difference what an eatery calls itself, we giggled like high school girls trying to make the impossible choice - the signs are in Chinese.
"What is the point of this, you can't read the names of the places here. We might as well ask someone ." my friend suggested.
The first person we asked must have landed that morning from China because his face was stern and he answered in Chinese. Great.
We opted for a colourful restaurant on the far right, overlooking the useless garage.
The menu boasted an impressive variety of dishes. Chicken livers. Yummy. Crab. Double yummy. Sizzling prawns. Triple yummy. by the time we got to duck and things the like, it really didn't matter. It could have been dog meat.
Do not for one second expect service to scoop the flying colours accolade. For people who are now honorary blacks, the Chinese are not friendly.
You have to basically fend for yourself if you want a glass of water with your order. On this particular day the girls who were supposed to be serving us were more keen on a game of poker.
And they were not apologetic for it. Surely even the women at the Highlands North McDonald's can spare a smile on better days.
Not that our table cloth could feature in a washing powder commercial, but I never expected a restaurant toilet to have such a dirty towel.
The food arrived.
First my prawns and then, roughly 20 minutes later, my friend's prawns. No apologies there. I wondered, is this the shape of things to come in 2010?
What if the Department of Tourism jacked up the many sights that may go to waste and injected some money into our Chinatown, would that lift their spirits a little?
I saw a bloke whom I think had been there one too many times demand to see the menu he ordered from.
He was comparing the bill to the prices on the menu and there was a little debate before there was consensus that he was right.
When our own bill came I was also astounded. My prawns were priced R58, my friend's were R78. Add two glasses of ordinary white wine (which I saw being fetched in a box from the bottle store next to the surgery) and get the total of a whopping R237.
Surely this is called robbery even in Chinese.
Would I take someone there for an outing still? Of course yes, for a second opinion. And also to take photos of this very interesting side of town.
In fact, I plan to go there soon for their magic foot spa. They say it comes close to raising the dead. Also, I want to learn more about why they would write a bill in Chinese and the total in English.