Our first retrospective post in this series on the markets of Asia, focused on markets in Viet Nam. The second post featured markets in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.
This third post takes us back to Indonesia and Hong Kong. Two completely different cultural environments, which are of course reflected in the markets we visited.
Market in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation. It has a dynamic economy and a relatively young population. As is true everywhere around the world, there is a centrifugal pull leading to migration of people from rural areas to the big cities. One such large city on the Island of Java, is Yogyakarta (aka Jogja).
While we were in Yogyakarta for Ben’s business (consulting with a UN agency re the potential for bamboo industry development in Indonesia, we of course went to the jogja food market.
We were staying on the outskirts of the big city of Yogyakarta so that we could enjoy the serenity of rural life.
The first thing one notices upon arrival in Yogyakarta is the omnipresence of rickshaws, which are often painted with landscapes or colorful designs. Art on the move. And the backdrop is a never ending stream of often thought provoking graffitti/street art and murals.
Artistry is everywhere in Indonesia. In the fabrics, the batik, the sculptures and the rickshaws are no exception. Each rickshaw itself a unique “canvas” for the driver’s personal expression.
We start with my favorite photo from the market in Jogja, this woman selling a variety of different shapes and colors of eggs, some of which are a light teal, a lighter shade of the wall behind her.
Another egg vendor, (and there were many), bags her eggs in a reed rope bag for her customers to carry away.
Bean sprouts in a bamboo basket being scooped to fill bags for eager customers. A life built around sprouts.
Favorite character of the market… cigar chomping lime and lemon vendor nestled amongst the baskets and bags of produce.
Ben getting an education on the local spices ~ the variety and what they are used for.
A wooden grid of spices in front of the scale and shelved products.
Two smoked silver and white fish per handmade rattan box, ready to go.
At this stall dried fish carcasses are laid out and tiny dried shrimp piled high into pyramids in bamboo trays.
In one section of the market food is being prepared… beans and cabbage are shredded and then bagged to sell, making home cooking just a bit quicker and easier.
Prepared foods are often a feature in markets and give one an idea of how the produce is used and what local snacks are made of.
These half moon discs of “jaggery” are made from boiling palm syrup which solidifies into a hard sugar like substance and is a healthy substitute for sugar. Jaggery has a variety of nutritional benefits.
Not sure what this woman is selling, but she caught our attention with her huge smile and warmth.
Coconut treats are just one of the many sweets on offer in the streets nearby the market. The grated coconut is compressed in bamboo cylinders and then steamed into a cylinder shaped sweet “hand roll”.
Just outside the food market is the fashion market where women have a large selection of fashionable hijabs to choose from.
Girls will be girls… fashion provides an easy way for Peta to interact with this friendly Muslim woman selling clothes and hijabs. Peta bought a dress after much input from a group of local women who were all delightedly watching and giving their opinion on which dress looked best
And here is the friendly group of opinionated women who contributed to the ultimate selection of a teal colored dress. And there is Ben, enjoying the fashion show too.
Of course Peta tried on a few hijabs! She was curious to see how they looked on her and how it felt to wear one. When in Rome…. (or in this case, Yogyakarta).
Market in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
While Indonesia, a huge archipelago of many large, medium and small islands, is overwhelmingly Muslim, the island of Bali is, almost entirely Hindu. Bali’s unique ethnic and religious profile reaches back to pre-Muslim times when Javanese kings and their court, relocated to Ubud from Java.
Ever since then, Bali has had a rich and complex history of interaction with the rest of the Indonesian nation state. Even today, Bali defends its “minority” status as a Hindu enclave when national policy is made.
The architectural beauty of Ubud, is breathtaking. Rice cultivation is a main contributor to Bali’s economy, and the visuals of rice-fields are spectacular. But without a doubt, what for us, makes Bali so visually striking is the perpetual rhythm of ceremonies ~ in the streets, in homes, at the many temples, in small communities. And it all starts with the preparation in the market.
Over the past 3 years, we have returned several times to what feels like home to us, ubud, bali .
The ancient system of terraced rice paddies creates dramatic landscapes. This was our view from one of our home exchanges in Bali.
A touching elderly couple living in a rural area with their cats and chickens, whom we stop to chat with on the way to the market.
A birds eye view of the market in Ubud.
The most striking characteristic of the market in Ubud is the abundance and variety of bright flowers, all destined for daily ceremonies.
Flowers are grown specifically for the purpose of daily offerings to the spirits, and ceremonies. Here a shopper is taking time to carefully select a good bunch of flowers.
The fragrance of the flowers is heady stuff, and the flower vendors are constantly busy selling to customers.
Bamboo baskets of red and white petals which will join incense and sticky rice as part of a parcel of offerings.
A rainbow of colors!
Peta strolling the market. So much to see and take in, that we move really slowly. There is no rush.
The blue hydrangeas are just too hard to resist. We buy a bunch to enjoy.
Bamboo leaves make up the little trays for offerings. Here they are all stacked together into a neat circle, and being delivered to the vendors at the market. Some people make their own but others buy them ready made at the market.
We love discovering new fruits, and snake skin (aptly named) was new for us. The peel is thin and hard and looks like the skin of a snake. The inside is comprised of 3 or 4 segments, each with a pit surrounded by crunchy white flesh which feels like a hard apple and tastes like a combination of a pineapple and a lemon. Yum!
Bright colors at the market are always a feast for the eyes.
Balancing ones purchases on ones head is definitely a well honed skill, not for the novice 🙂
Elaborate temples are decorated and ready for ceremony. Inside there are pyramids of flowers and fruits from the market which serve as offerings to the spirits. The form of Hinduism practiced in Bali, is unique in that it draws from ancient Hindu traditions but also allows for the continued worship of animist beliefs that permeated the culture before Hinduism took hold as a dominant religion in Bali.
The use of bamboo and fabric in ceremonies is something to behold. They create a great sense of drama and occasion as they sweep into the blue sky.
We were honored to be invited to a rare 30 year temple ceremony in a rural village near where we were staying. A neighbor was the puppet master and thoughtfully invited us to join him. We had a rare behind the scenes experience of participating in a ceremony from behind the puppet masters narration table.
Waiting with the young dancer girls for their big moment during the ceremony.
A young Balinese dancer before her participation in the group dance, enjoying a light moment.
Market in Hong Kong
The flow of life in Bali has little in common with the hectic pace that characterizes life in the big city of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong skyline. We are no longer in rural Asia!
This area of Hong Kong is known as the medicine “market”. This is where locals go to purchase every type of Chinese herbal medicine, teas, dried fungi, dried fruits and many non recognizable (to us) items.
As all the signs are written in Cantonese we have no idea what most of these products are and what they are used for.
As we get closer to the market we have to stop of course for some dim sum ~ the quintessential Hong Kong cuisine, long a favorite in our family, and in of itself sufficient reason for us to visit Hong Kong!
A ferry takes us to Kowloon across the bay, where we happily stumble on a large market with produce all organized very neatly.
No shortage of good looking greens here, and some huge type of melon/cucumber looking thing on the right hand side.
Beautiful looking flowering baby bok choy all lined up neatly in rows. We have never seen this variety of mini? bok choy before, which is part of the fun of markets… to see produce that is new to us.
There is such a sense of order in this market. Neat rows of produce all line up. Everything clearly marked with prices. Here rows of fragrant mangoes.
Who knew that there were SO many different varieties and shapes of tofu?
Here a vendor sells four different types of chestnuts!
At this market we discover a delicious new fruit, the yumberry or Chinese strawberry, which has a tart taste with sweet undertones, it tastes like a pomegranate and a raspberry married together. The skin is edible too.
We also came across a wholesale market which sells to fruit retailers. The volume and quantity of produce was astounding, however, the fruit was only sold in 20 pound boxes. Tempting, but that is a LOT of cherries to eat over a few days. We should have!
What a find! Magnificent ginger! Ginger is something Peta likea to buy fresh and have in her backpack when we travel, as it is useful for digestion issues and relieving pain.
Are any of these fruits and vegetables new to you? Have you ever tried the yumberry or snake fruit before?