If we are what we eat then there’s no better way to get an insight into different cultures than a visit to their local fresh produce market.
They exist everywhere yet are always unique because they not only reflect their local produce but also their local culture and economy. Nowhere was this more obvious to me than in the floating markets of Bangkok. I mean, come on, a floating market?
How cool is that? During my backpacking trip in Southeast Asia and later while living in China I made it a point to visit the local market whenever I arrived somewhere new. And I don’t know if this happens to everyone but after the first few times I started noticing that there were distinct stages I always went through when visiting a market:
1st were the smell (good or bad) and the colours, which hit your senses.
2nd Once those were assimilated I would start noticing how the produce was displayed: on neat rows or in piles? Vegetables to one side and fruit to another, or altogether? Etc.
3rd I started noticing the new and different products in display, be it fruit, vegetable or animal. (Basically choosing which one to try out first)
4th and the last stage was when I started observing the social interactions: were there children around? If yes, were they playing or working? Were there men and women selling or only women? Who was doing the shopping? What about pets? And more importantly how did the locals interact with their food? What quantities did they buy?
Regardless of the size of the market – which can range from a few stalls to several city blocks – I’m always rewarded with an incredible experience.
What about you? Do you enjoy visiting them too or am I alone in this?