Markets are some of our favorite places. We visit them in every country. It’s all same same, but a bit different, too. In Indonesia and Cambodia they stank to high heavens, Vietnam offered the most greens anywhere. In Laos the smells are O.K. but the number of flies in the meat section is staggering. A plastic bag on a stick is the common means of shooing them away. We also found blocks of coagulated blood and greenish buffalo bile in clear plastic bags. There was an eye as well, looking at us from a pile of meaty bits and pieces.
What we looked at though, were heaps of peppers and tomatoes ranging in color from yellow to dark red, the most beautiful mini-eggplant balls, lemongrass, banana flowers and an incredible variety of herbs and other seasonal plants — it was bamboo season and the young, conical shoots were ubiquitous.
Is there more to markets than food? Sure! Conversations, smiles and interesting characters. The earlier you get there and further it is from tourists, the better. If you’d like to see a more intimate side of a country — begin with the bazaar.