The Morning Market
Waking up and strolling through sunlit streets where farmers and merchants are selling newly harvested vegetables, interesting handmade goods, and fresh breakfast has been one of the highlights of our trip to southeast Asia and an experience that reshapes itself in a unique way in every new city we visit. At these morning street markets vendors sell everything from clothing and street foods to the herbs, spices, meats, and fish that will be used in restaurant and home kitchens throughout the area. Meat is at a different level of freshness than what we're used to in the sates, many of the animals, having been butchered the morning of sale, are extremely fresh and displayed unrefrigerated. The plants and produce being sold, of a staggering and fascinating variety, are plucked with the same recency, filling the market paths with herbal aromas and vibrant shades of green. Simply walking through a market, which is usually linear with vendor stalls on both sides, is an exploration of the senses. The sights, sounds, colors, and most importantly smells, occupy a vast spectrum that defies characterization. One smell might be pleasant and another not so pleasant but more often than not you cannot decide because you are overcome with curiosity and surprise. The sensory input of a morning market could be better characterized as "enticing"' or "absorbative" .
Every time we visit a new city we are intrigued with what we might find at the morning market and how it will differ from the last experience we had. Each city has a market representative of the geographical locale and the larger a city tends to be the more sprawling and seemingly unending the markets can become. In Thailand we noticed more imported goods alongside the produce, meat market and food counters, knock-off name brand clothing, shoes and bags, and super "kawaii" items that would be trendy in Korea or Japan lined the stalls beside mass-made souvenirs and trinkets. In Laos the markets tended to emanate a more rustic earthy feel, vendors sold more home grown and handmade goods and the market itself a more natural overall experience.
The Night Market
A form of entertainment here in South East Asia, the night market has a storied past as evening entertainment and a firm place in the culture of nearly every city. A place for delectable regional foods and interesting merchandise of all types and qualities, night markets, like the morning markets, are a representation of the culture and the ethnicities of an area embodied by a wide range of fare and goods. Vendors at the night markets typically sell tasty dishes in a grab and go style so you can roam while you eat or sit for a brief second to indulge and continue. The first time we happened upon a market we were blown away by the sights, smells, and sounds and the vibrant exciting feel of this new form of entertainment. Welcomed by aromatic smoke rising from street vendor grills, we quickly set about sampling delectable foods while browsing exotic goods. New smells quickly turned to new tastes, smoked squid, fried quail eggs, massive egg rolls, pork skewers & sticky rice, and steaming noodle bowls were just a few of our sampling selections. As we walked through street after street lined with stalls we found locals selling everything from sunglasses and phone cases to teak boxes and foot massages, it became a game seeing what would be around the next bend. One shop alone was interesting but the combined endless stream of colors, sounds, sights, and smells combined created a patchwork quilt of living breathing cultural experience.
Here are some notable foods we have seen at morning markets so far: Dried squid and shrimp by the pound, insects like live grasshoppers and beetles, pickled vegetables including bamboo and mustard greens (soum pak), freshly fried pork rinds and breaded chicken, live and not so alive catfish and carp, herbs beyond your wildest dreams, never the same sausage skewer twice (accompanied by sticky rice of course), fresh baked bageuttes, pastries like donuts and lotus flour cookies, fresh dragonfruit, rambutan, longan, pomello, mangos, and persimmons (we missed lychee and starfruit season).