Our recent visit to, and blog post about Colombo’s Pettah Market here in Sri Lanka, reminded us how much we have enjoyed experiencing markets all over the world. Markets are where it’s at when it comes to cultural discovery and getting the vibe of a new country.
As we started to reminisce, we decided to share the best of our best market visits with you. A retrospective and twirl around South and South East Asian markets.
It is simply IMPOSSIBLE to address South East Asian markets without giving Viet Nam the predominance it deserves. We lived for about 5 months in Viet Nam and the vibrancy of the markets remains a persistent memory that is indelible. We criss-crossed the country and of course visited markets from the North to the South and much in between. Each market had its very unique “flavor”.
Hoi An, Central Viet Nam
Our earliest experiences in Hoi An started when we lived with a family of Vietnamese farmers on the organic farm of Tra Que. We returned two more times to Hoi An and indeed we feel very much at home here in Hoi An, Central Vietnam.
We could easily live here again, and probably will at some point, or at the very least we will keep returning for more! Hoi An holds a special place in our hearts
The Hoi An market is huge, bustling, energized and a place where locals shop for fresh food twice a day, every day. The produce is as fresh as can be and there is a huge variety of herbs and other greens which are a critical component in Vietnamese cuisine.
Quintessential Hoi An on the Thu Bon river. Now converted mostly to restaurants, the yellow ochre structures were warehouses for storage of all sorts of goods traded at this thriving port in the 17th Century.
All the greens, and noodles, are all stored in flat wicker baskets with women squatting nearby. All the action is low to the ground!
Freshest of fresh bean sprouts.
Bright red chilis and limes, also used with almost every Vietnamese dish.
Alive seafood for sale. Scallops in the shell, shrimp still wriggling in water.
The egg man has quite a volume of different types and colors of eggs for sale in his basket. What a sight!
There are two types of noodles which are specific to Hoi An and are of course made daily, then cut into ribbons and sold at market.
Market in Than Ha, Viet Nam
But truth be told, one of the main reasons we particularly love Hoi An is not just because of its street food and magnificent colonial architecture on the banks of the river. No, our (shhh!!) secret is that we discovered the nearby fishing village of Than Ha!
Big, old colorful fishing wooden boats go up and down the wide river at Than Ha.
This tough leg up, cigar in mouth, matriarch is just one of the colorful characters we meet in this market.
Vietnamese people are definitely not shy. But then again, nor is Peta. Even without language we are able to communicate with this group of women very effectively and enjoy a laugh together and some good eats.
This market is primarily about the fish. Fish of all shapes and sizes, are brought in on the fishermen’s boat s twice a day and sold at the dock to the vendors who then resell to their customers.
Colorful hats and clothes in all manner of stripes and designs combined is a classic fashion feature in Than Ha.
In Vietnamese fish markets, the ice man is one of the busiest people around as he continuously supplies ice to keep the fish fresh.
And of course, markets are the best places, always to get good fresh local cuisine. During all the time we spent in Viet Nam, we seldom ate at restaurants. Almost every meal was had on the street and in markets… breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Market in Hanoi, Viet Nam
We spent a fair amount of time in the high energy capital city of Hanoi. One time, we had a home exchange that took us to a more rural “suburb” of Hanoi, where the market was particularly bustling with people coming home from work, on their motorbikes. Hanoi, Viet Nam
At this market, many people stayed on their motor scooters while making their purchases for dinner from their favorite vendors.
This woman selling tomatoes had such a handsome face and captivating eyes.
One of the features that Ben loved about this market, was the nightly BBQ of all sorts of different meats with different sauces.
Our first introduction to jack fruit was right here in this market. I wonder if she always wears a yellow jacket to match the fruit?
This character, is the medicine woman. Selling dried out, stretched out frogs or salamanders on a stick. What they are used for, we never did find out.
This family are makers of tofu. First it is set in long strips (in metal vats), as you can see at the back of the table and that it is cut to order. We never saw tofu being made from start to finish at another Vietnamese market again…
Market in Dalat, Viet Nam
Dalat, was the final destination after a WEEK long motorcycle ride we did on the Ho Chi Minh Trail with one of our sons, who came to travel Viet Nam with us. Dalat is known for its temperate climate and some unusual (for Viet Nam) agricultural produce: Dalat, Viet Nam
Artichokes are one of Dalat’s specialties. At the market they were piled high and were certainly some of the most beautiful artichokes we have ever seen.
Here two women sell what is considered an exotic fruit for Viet Nam. Namely, strawberries, which grow in abundance here in the cooler temperatures.
A fragrant, juicy treat.
Avocados as well, are rather an unusual item to find in Viet Nam. Here in Dalat, they were huge and plentiful and delicious.
Markets in the Mekong Delta, Viet Nam
Today, there are no longer many floating markets around Asia as there once were. But in The Mekong Delta, Viet Nam, one can still experience the real thing. Especially if you go very early in the morning. This market is both a fruit wholesale market (the large boats) and a retail market (smaller boats) that pull over to your own to sell produce and “street” food…
A boat full of watermelons piled high. Watermelon wholesaler.
Boats of every shape and size, and speed. This vendor is selling fragrant mangoes from his little speed boat.
The movement of large and small boats weaving in and out is mesmerizing….
Fresh coconuts and coconut water are a staple in Viet Nam. This woman guides her boat with its long oars, from a standing up position.
But even beyond the floating market, Can Tho, as one of the gateways into the Mekong Delta, distinguishes itself by the sheer size of its market, which essentially takes over one of the main avenues in the city.
Getting acquainted with the huge jackfruit.
Off the river and on one of the main streets in town, the hustle and bustle of the evening market is palpable. Nothing quite as exciting as driving into town on a scooter at market time!
Huge blocks of ice ready to be chopped up into small pieces and sold to vendors to keep fish fresh.
Produces lines the streets of this market, with the center of the road full of traffic, namely, people doing their market shopping on their motorcycles.
Pineapples cut Vietnamese style. We never tired of watching the process and of eating these sweet juicy treats.
Peta buying limes of course…. purchasing produce is an opportunity to engage. Even without much language in common, communication is not difficult in Viet Nam.
Curious about some of our other Asian market finds? Part 2 coming up next: Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia?