Market Madness

by Anna

Throughout our travels we’ve always enjoyed checking out the markets, with some of our favorites being Les Halles in Avignon, France, the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market in Istanbul, Turkey and the Neighbourgoods Market in Capetown, South Africa. Southeast Asia has not let us down so far with its many, often crazy maze-like markets and prices that can’t be beat! Luang Prabang, in particular, has kept us enamored by its lovely, slow-paced food and handicraft markets.

The first market we discovered upon arriving to Luang Prabang was the Night Handicraft Market, which lines the main street beginning at 5:00pm every night. Th Sisavangvong is closed down for several blocks along the perimeter of the Royal Palace complex, and vendors pack the street with beautiful lanterns, jewelry, scarves, antiques, hand-stitched linens, embroidered bags and clothes, paintings and hand-made journals, to name just a few of the offerings on display. Even when we’re not shopping (or more accurately, when I’m not shopping and Johnny is waiting patiently nearby), we love strolling through the market at night on our way to and from dinner to watch the men and women at their stalls quietly embroidering, painting watercolors or hammering jewelry. It is such a relaxed, calming atmosphere, that it is hard to believe we’re actually in a market at times.

Towards the end of the Night Handicraft Market, food stalls start to pop up and intersperse with handicraft stalls. Baguette sandwiches, fruit shakes and the scent of grilled bananas begin to fill the air. Turning down a small alleyway, you enter the wonderful world of the Night Food Market. The crowded, bustling tables piled with food, opposite communal tables crammed with patrons, the Night Market snaps you out of the daze from the Handicraft market and gets you back on your toes to pick out the perfect meal for the night. For about $1.25, you can get a plate and pile it high with as many dishes as you like from a buffet-like Laos offering, or you can get a BBQed whole fish on a bamboo stick, or you can have a fresh papaya salad chopped up, or you can indulge in my and Johnny’s favorite find, some delicious soup from “Mrs. Noodle.” Not only is “Mrs. Noodle” the sweetest, most lovely woman, but she also slings some mean noodle soup. Similar to pho, she piles noodles of your choice plus fresh herbs and veggies into a divine broth and then gives you a plate piled high with other herbs, limes and chilies to personalize your flavor. We will most definitely miss sipping soup and Beerlao at Mrs. Noodle’s table. Our other favorite offering at the Night Food Market is the coconut rice balls. They are steaming, sweet little bite-size morsels that are crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. With the ability to buy 6 for around 50 cents, we’ve pretty much developed a nightly habit of eating these tasty treats.

Last but not least, Luang Prabang’s morning market is a wonderful place to walk through first thing in the morning. The bountiful selection of herbs, fruits and veggies are displayed beautifully, big fish flop around in metal tubs, live chickens await their fate and there are of course all sorts of meats and animal parts to choose from.  All the freshly-picked fruits and veggies reminded us of the smell from our CSA farm basket back home.  Our first visit to the Morning Market was around 7am after we had attended the alms giving ceremony along the streets with Vong. At 7am the market had obviously already been bustling for hours, making me wish I was more of an early riser!

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One Comment to “Market Madness”

  1. I’m lovin’ these fabrics!!! I would go crazy at those craft markets – just beautiful! Looks like you are having a wonderful 2012 so far!

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