Walking in the street market is an experience like no other. The crowds press in around you. Little grandmas doing their morning groceries, commuters trying to get to work, tourists taking pictures – they’re all around and in your personal space. It’s overwhelming and claustrophobic. Hawkers try to get your attention yelling and waving their hands over their goods and stop only to bargain with shoppers. People talk loudly in your ear. Then there’s the smell. Fish and clams, live seafood – the smell of the ocean; freshly baked buns and pickled vegetables; ripe fruit; motorcycle exhaust.
There are persimmons the size of my hand, red gold and plump. Preserved salted duck eggs and century eggs fill baskets along the streets. I have to be careful where I step because some people have laid their goods out on tarps on the ground to sell. There are knotted roots and vegetables I don’t know the names of. Street stores beckon you in with the lure of cheap fashion clothes. One stall sells goat, another duck, and many sell pork, all parts of the animal. You don’t see that at home.
I wonder whether I’ll be able to take my kids here some day. They’ll wrinkle their noses and complain about the smell and the potholes in the streets. And I’ll smile knowingly. I was like that once. Street markets are so different than the pre-packaged supermarkets we’re used to. Here every vendor is an expert. They know every fruit or vegetable or meat and the seasons in which they come. I can ask the little granny selling vegetables the best way to cook them and she’ll smile and tell me a recipe she learned when she was young. No I can’t buy fruit out of season here, or imported goods, or pre-packaged cookies. But it’s still wonderful.