now, if I were disappointed by the lack of exuberant color in the floating market – it was more than amply compensated by the local land market that we had a chance to visit. I’m not a wet-market sort of person; I ashamedly am much better at farmer’s markets or supermarkets. it’s not that I can’t bear to see carcasses and things like that, but rather that I truly appreciate a high level of hygiene, and wet markets are a little too wet – tautology, perhaps – for my comfort. I make exception on holiday though, when they are the best conduit from which to see how local people live and eat, and offer a quick immersion into their lives and community.
this is a first of three posts – mainly because the market was so large, and because I very much enjoyed my walk through here, and it might be useful to you as an introduction to asian markets and groceries!
there were baskets of produce, trays of cooked food, live animals in full display, women and men marketing and bantering in the long meandering lanes that made up the market. we essentially walked in a long winding path that seemed to circle and thread through the neighbourhood, with a mixture of people that sat on the ground peddling their goods, as well as brick-and-mortar stores. I thought it pretty awesome that amidst what we think to be typically asian vegetables and soft-as-down baby chickens, there were stores and stores selling pate and baguette – things that remind you more of a parisian bistro than a rather dinky vietnamese market.
I’ve been thinking about something for a while now, as I travel through different countries: it’s a strange contemporary dichotomy to realise that we might have better standards of living and hygiene in so-called developed countries like singapore and the united kingdom – with sanitised food and regulations in regulated environments – but developing countries like this one, where people struggle with low incomes and in less-modern environs, showcase a variety of food that is fresher, more nutritious and so much more wholesome than what we have access to.
we survive, or indeed rely on processed foods – the faster the better, the easier the better, and indeed even our produce are manufactured (or nurtured) to be more vividly-colored, more perfect-looking – and convince ourselves that labels like lower-fat or no-sugar or whole-grains are what is best for us. and in doing so, we forget that eating produce from a farm, grown by a farmer at the back of his home, produce in all qualities and shapes and sizes and colours and varieties is what truly is best for our health, and this is a way of life I think only communities like this truly retain.
- vegetables and flowers on display at a small stall – I haven’t decided if these flowers are meant for ornamentation or degustation – and I’m having trouble finding out the names of the yellow flowers (any help?)
- women going about their daily shop in the traditional (and really rather useful) nón lá, or conical leaf hat – we were provided these at the mekong lodge and while I stuck with my wider-brim sun hat, these do provide more ventilation
- a lady selling a basket of baguettes – there were so many stores around selling these perfect french loaves
- an assortment of vegetables: gourds, green beans, chilli and okra
- baby black chickens for sale – these are a very asian ingredient, usually boiled into soup; they don’t have as much meat on them as the more common white-skinned chickens (maybe because they aren’t super-bred the way those are)
- more baguettes being sold at a store – if you have a look at the photo on the left, you’ll see what is a stack of ham/pate that’s ready for eating!
- and a boat laden with unripe bananas brings goods from the floating market to the land market.
more on the mekong lodge experience: