I was momentarily blinded as I entered the labyrinth of makeshift booths. The simple relief of stepping out of the blinding sun into the relative cool of the market stalls was temporary as I moved further into the crush of bodies surrounding the overloaded tables.
I take my time, soaking in the ambiance of it all, stopping often to inspect a new find, take photos and make an occasional purchase, but could have stayed far longer. Jim enjoys browsing markets around the world as well as I, but certainly not with the same level of passion. The same excitement that draws me to linger in a grocery store at home, becomes greatly intensified in the markets of the world. My tastebuds salivate at the sight of so much glorious abundance before me and recipes race through my head. It’s nearly impossible to refrain from buying everything in sight.
I am intrigued by the astonishing variety, shape and color of the fruits and vegetables. Just when I was sure I’d seen every unique option available, I am fascinated to find a number of new and unusual choices and eagerly engage the vendors, attempting to learn about these delights, all without the benefit of a common language.
The markets of SE Asia are ripe with possibilities, displaying not just produce but fish of every sort, from slimy eels to scaly frogs. Live chickens wait under bamboo cages, cackling happily, unaware that upon meeting their new owners their time will come quickly to an end.
Gorgeous flowers of every imaginable size and color brighten the scene and their sweet scent gives a partial relief from the combination of sweaty bodies, fish, and meat “marinating” in the steamy jungle heat.
I love the idea of the market culture. I love shopping daily for the freshest ingredients. I love the open-air, alfresco lifestyle. I love being able to buy colorful umbrellas, intricately decorated tea sets, and produce in the same place you can shop for cookware and live meat. I love becoming familiar with the vendors and they becoming familiar with me.
No matter how many times my travels have brought me to this region of the world, I never tire of the spending endless hours wandering through the markets of Asia.