Market in Koh Lanta, Thailand
It seems counter-intuitive to introduce markets in Thailand by featuring a market in the Muslim South. After all, most would equate Thailand with Buddhism. And yet, there is a Muslim minority with a vibrant market in Koh Lanta, Thailand
But first, some visual context for what’s in the nearby vicinity… We were in Koh Lanta during a military coup in Bangkok. A military curfew was imposed and all the headlines in the newspapers reflected this momentous political development. But on the island of Koh Lanta the military coup seemed like a very distant event.
A short boat ride away, clear turquoise waters await. We alternated beach days with markets days.
The Muslim market is a small and mobile one. Every day of the week it is in a different location on the island.
Fire engine red fresh chilies heaped in a pile ~ destined for spicy Thai curry dishes.
One of the more unusual items at this market which definitely surprised and amused us, was the waffles offering made by these two women. It is neither Thai, nor Muslim food and yet, here it is…
One of our favorite Thai food snacks, found in many different forms.. A crepe like rice flour batter with coconut milk filling. All served up by a modern Muslim girl.
Whole fish grilled on the open flame, is another classic food sold at markets and as well often as street food.
An assortment of colorful produce contrasts quite nicely with the polka dot hijab of the vendor.
Market in Phnom, Penh, Cambodia
We spent a week in Seam Reap and a week in: Phnom Penh, Cambodia where we found a large and fascinating market which spread across multiple city blocks. The most memorable feature of this market: the abundant quantity and variety of dried and smoked fish and tiny seashells.
A staple food in Cambodia which we saw over and over again in different formats, was the tiny sea shell. From a distance it is not easy to tell what it is but once you know it, you start to notice it being sold everywhere.
Three different varieties of tiny sea shells being sold from a flat bed wheeled cart. The center ones have been dipped in spices.
What shopping at the market is complete without a serving or two of crickets, tarantulas or scorpions? We had always heard of “bug eating” but it is still quite a surprise when faced with bowls full of insect “delectables”. And yes, Ben tried the crickets and declared them “crunchy” and an alternative to popcorn?
Every shape and size of sausage imaginable.
Bags of dried small red shrimp piled high in the shape of a Buddhist pagoda. Dried fish on the shelves below. A common sight all over Cambodia.
At lunch time this market is packed with locals all eager for the daily specials, and we are no exception. You can see Peta in the front at the counter, inhaling her soup with noodles. It is quite a hectic and boisterous scene, as bowls of steaming hot soup and noodles, are dished up and handed out to hungry patrons.
Layer upon layer of large dried fish in an unusual fan shaped display.
The geometry of dried fish.
It really IS all about the dried fish! They make quite a dramatic graphic design, all strung in a row.
This vendor was selling his dried, smoked fish by the box. The fish are all neatly cooked and packed in rows on skewers.
With the insides of the chicken being scooped out the carcasses are then hung from hooks ~ claws, beaks and all, ready to be cooked.
Artisanal coconut ice cream all stacked in a metal cone shaped vat with blocks of ice at the bottom keeping everything frozen. These are a very welcome treat after a hot morning at the market.
How can he refuse a homemade coconut ice cream from an attractive Cambodian woman?
Bamboo bowls in all sizes give quite a splash of color amongst the fruit, vegetables and dried fish! This Cambodian market is not all produce and prepared food, it also has an impressive array of craft.
Antique teapots hang in clusters like oversize grapes on a bunch. Given that we were living out of small backpacks at the time and were nomadic, we had to pass on these beauties.
Market in Bagan, Myanmar
An entirely different market experience awaited us in Bagan, Myanmar. years later….
From the big, crowded and high energy capital city of Phnom Penh’s street market, we take you to the slow flowing rhythms of a tiny market in the ethnically rich and historically important province of Bagan, in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
But first, to situate Bagan’s market, consider that it is smack in the middle of the ancient temple rich Bagan valley.
This might be one of my best photographs ever. Capturing this moment of a group of young monks on a brisk morning walk to their monastery, with the ancient structures in the background encapsulates the feeling of being in Bagan, a magic like no other.
The making of a chickpea flour based pancake ~ cooked over hot ashes. The wall behind, has the beautiful Burmese script. We were pretty happy to come across these piping hot sour dough treats, after having watched the sun rise over the ancient Buddhist temples over the Bagan valley. Walking in no particular direction across the vast plains, we made our way towards the sounds of a village waking up, beyond our horizon once the sun was up and the day was about to begin.
After watching the sun rise, and before going to market, breakfast is in order. Don’t let the rustic setting fool you ~ this made for a very delicious breakfast.
Yup, doesn’t look like much. And yet… we came back for breakfast 3 days in a row. A distinct flavor profile. Spicy, acidic and yet sweet, hard to describe but a perfect balance between the soft noodles and the crunchy top. A memorable culinary experience.
Before we stumbled upon the little market, we had a plate of Burmese noodles being made at a table on the side of the road. We had a visitor pass by while we were eating.
At first glance this seems like a dusty, not particularly interesting market. But markets are definitely in the category of “don’t judge a book by its cover.”
The colors here were what first captured my attention. The vendors green sleeves being the same tone of green as the veggies on the right of her cloth. The peach of her head scarf, reflected in the tomato tones on the left.
In this region of Myanmar the women wrap their heads in thick cloth ~ Thicker than a scarf, thinner than a blanket. this vendor is selling all types of dried fish and some spices for cooking them.
It’s unlikely that these women have seen many foreigners before, if any. So their curiosity level was as high as ours, they were shy but friendly and happy to pose for a photo with me as a moment of brief friendship. Women in Myanmar apply a paste made from tree bark to their faces as a form of sun protection in order to keep their skin as fair as possible.
The offerings at each vendor are modest, yet there is plenty variety of greens and interesting looking vegetables.
Shades of mauve at this shallot seller.
A buyer carefully selects small round eggplant for the meal that will be cooked later at home.
Love the combination of stripes and plaid in contrast with the solid colors of the vegetables.
It is quite the balancing act. Women carry all sorts of heavy baskets on top of their heads, much like women in Africa do.
Lots of smiles between vendors and buyers. Most are regular customers who come to the same spot day in and day out. We were definitely the newbies and noticed by everyone with much interest.
There is Ben, cruising along. We were up before the sun in order to watch it rise over ancient temples, hence the blanket he has on his shoulder. The mornings here are quite chilly before the sun warms things up….The market in a small village is also the place where people socialize and linger enjoying the process of interacting with their neighbors.
Peta is in her element, right in there with all the locals… she makes a point of selecting a few picnic items to buy, which gives her an easy way to interact with people. And typically, another shopper breaks in to guide her toward the right tomato or the best radish. They too seize the opportunity to have a “normal” market interaction, but with a foreigner.
As we make our way from the market, we are fortunate to witness a celebratory procession. Beautifully dressed women with parasols, and children in bright silk outfits, atop large oxen carts decked out for the occasion. Unexpected pageantry in a rural setting. This is the celebration of the entry of young boys. into Monk-hood.
A regal looking young boy, on the most important day of his young life, entering the monk hood. It is a great honor to have one’s son enter the monastery as a novice and for those who choose to remain within the monastery, an opportunity for a quality education awaits.
We had the most dramatic backdrop for our picnic from the market. We were quietly sitting in front of a group of ancient temple pagodas, enjoying the immense tranquility of the moment. From over the horizon came the faint sound of what we thought might be drum beats (?), which gradually got louder and louder, until it reached a crescendo of hard hitting hooves on the dusty ground right in front of us! We held our breath in reaction to the dramatic appearance of this herd, moving past, in a cloud of dust. In seconds, they were all gone, and silence returned.
A large market in rural Myanmar
Myanmar is a joy for seasoned and independent travelers as tourism is very much in its infancy (thankfully). We made our way across the countryside, using buses, tuk tuks and even in one instance, a car and driver.
We are not in a hurry and have no particular plan nor schedule and this invites a slow discovery. We enjoy using forms of transport which allow us to stop opportunistically. One such s stop yielded the discovery of a flower market on the way to Yangoon, Myanmar
This particular market has a whole row of flower sellers. Here beautiful peach, ruby red and ivory rose buds are piled up for sale.
A bright golden glow from these yellow daisies brightens up the dusty alley.
The corn being cooked in its husk is piping hot and the steam creates a curtain of smoke in front of the seller. Her face is painted with a customary paste made from tree bark, which protects the skin from the sun and is applied to the face in the attractive designs (the most common form being a circular patch on each cheek, and highlighting the bridge of the nose.).
This flower seller has her whole face covered in “thanaka”, which is a distinct feature of the culture of Myanmar. It has been used by Burmese women for over 2,000 years.
This vendor has a hat as large as her metal tray from which she is selling some spicy fishballs. She is definitely surprised, if not shellshocked to see a foreigner in these parts.
Lots of people market shopping fill the streets and the alleyways. Piles of fruit, in row after row, show that this is a fertile region of Myanmar.
Ben fits in to this market rather nicely with his” longyi”, which is a piece of fabric that men wear wrapped around their waists, in lieu of pants.
Carrying not a basket, but a huge bag of goods on her head. No hands, just perfect balance.
Tuk tuk drivers lined up awaiting the opportunity to offer a ride to shoppers going home after their market purchases.