Food, glorious food. It’s one of my favourite parts of travel, and life for that matter. I’m a semi-adventurous foodie; meaning I still have this weird gag reflex thing when it comes to eating bugs, but I am good with pretty much everything else. The more I travel the more I fall in love with street food and local markets. Especially markets.
Markets have become my go-to in each destination. I love the chaos, the smells, the colours, and the people. I love discovering new local foods, and eating at the food stalls where I can sit on a ridiculously small blue plastic stool and gnaw on grilled meat on a stick, or fresh fruit, or whatever the local food stall is selling. Of course, there are always those small moments of shock when I walk passed a table of severed pigs heads. It hasn’t deterred me from eating pork, but I generally wait a week or two between seeing a severed head and eating pork.
Bangkok is filled with local markets, and every time I see one I stop what I’m doing to look around the market, buy a snack or two, and snap a couple photos while I’m at it. One of my favourite markets in Bangkok is in Chinatown.
Chinatown is the epitome of chaos. And while one should always be mindful of their belongings while walking around in Chinatown, one should never avoid going to Chinatown. During the day food carts dot the neighbourhood selling fruit and vegetables and sometimes supporting a sleeping local (it does get HOT during the day in Bangkok). At night the market in Chinatown transforms into one of the best places in the city for street food. There is rarely a boring moment in Chinatown.
When living in Bangkok I spend a lot of time in Silom, walking around, eating street food, and scoping out local outdoor markets. The above market is in Silom Soi 20, and one of my go-to spots when I’m in the city. I never pass this market without stopping to buy limes, chillies, kaffir lime leaves, ginger… okay, I buy a lot of fresh treats whenever I am near this market.
Travelling to Haïti was one of my travel highlights for 2014. From the moment I stepped off the plane to the moment I slowly walked back on a week later, I was mesmerised by the chaos and the life of the locals. The streets were filled with people selling everything from clothing to wicker baskets filled with cranberries, lemons and limes stacked on dirty pieces of cloth, and live chickens.
It was difficult to not open the door to the car and jump out every time we drove through Port-au-Prince. These small little markets told the tales of a city struggling to crawl out of obscurity, a city that wants to be more, but doesn’t quite know how to do that.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
I had a difficult time in Colombo – that is not really a big secret since I have written about it before – until I met a rickshaw driver who had taken me to a local market area which had closed down for the day. The following day I hired a rickshaw driver to take me around in hopes of finding the market, and after a couple of failed attempts, we finally found the original market, and this time it wasn’t closed.
I was the only foreigner, which made my driver a little nervous and he insisted on walking around with me. Fruits and vegetables were stacked on top of burlap sacks on the street, men were unloading trucks filled to the brim with potatoes and bananas.
I gingerly walked into houses and drooled over the fresh limes and chillies. The colours and smells of the market were intoxicating.
Prague, Czech Republic
I spent about nine days walking around Prague, visiting the old town, and this market. In fact, I ended up at this market almost every day. It was summer. The market was filled with fresh fruit and vegetables, toys, souvenirs, and the occasional sausage vendor. And the backdrop of old town Prague didn’t hurt either.
Poland was a surprising country for me. It is so much more than a war memorial and I have struggled for months with writing about Poland in a way that highlights all of its potential as a travel destination. During my time in Poland I spent a lot of time in Poznan, and while wandering around the city I stumbled upon a small covered market; full of interesting fruits, some vegetables, meat, and lots of mushrooms. I have a thing for mushrooms, and Poland does mushrooms really well.
I remember driving into Guanajuato and seeing the city sprawled across the mountains before me and sucking in my breath. The colourful stone houses, the cobbled skinny roads, the intricate tunnel system through the mountains. And of course, the large market that my friend Christine and I visited the day we were leaving. Mostly indoors, the market was everything I had hoped for; filled with fruit and veg, butchers, and old women selling fresh tortillas. And then, of course, there were the food stalls where I could indulge in auga fresca or tacos or roasted chicken.
In Azerbaijan, I didn’t play ‘Where’s Waldo’, I played ‘Where’s the market’. Seriously, finding the local markets in Baku was painful, but when I did find one, oh happy day! Hidden in the old town this market had fruit that made my mouth water and every time I tried to buy just a little fruit, a local man would talk me into buying more fruit. I bought so much fruit it was ridiculous.
Visiting markets in Baku was such an interesting look at life in Azerbaijan. In most countries when I visit a market it is filled with mostly women and very few men. In Baku the market was filled with men, and no women. I’m still trying to understand the role of women in Azerbaijan as I rarely saw them when driving through the country.
Going to Granville Island Public Market is one of the first things I do when I’m in Vancouver. It’s a ritual for me. While the fresh fruit and veg are delicious, I go to the market for fresh cheese, artisan bread, and the most delicious garlic butter in the world; there is so much garlic that I could ward off vampires for the rest of my life after having some. Seriously, this is not the kind of thing you eat on a date, but wow, if you are a garlic-lover, it is fabulous.
One of my favourite places when I was young(er) was Kensington Market. I loved the eclectic vibe in the market, and the way the pungent smell of fish seemed to smack me in the face on a hot summer day. I recently started going back to Kensington Market and while it is not what I remember, I am falling in love with the new vibe in the market, particularly the focus on organic and locally sourced and produced. I am in love with places like Blackbird Baking Co., and Sanagran’s Meat Locker. And… Nu Bügel makes the best bagels outside of Montréal.
Okay, so almost every single market I visit when I travel is my favourite. I am a travelling foodie after all. Food is what I do; home, or on the road. Where is your favourite market?