We walked through echos of hearing “Sabaidi” and exchange of light chitter chatter between vendors, locals and tourists. A visit here is most definitely a ‘jump start’ to your morning. Being a vegetarian didn’t stop me visiting this market as I wanted to explore different aspects of this tour. If you come to experience culture, traditions, people and way of life in South East Asia your trip is “incomplete” if you skip a visit to a local market. Limiting your choices and interactions goes against why you’d come to a place like this in the first place. So, put your best feet forward and enjoy the sights, sounds and colourful displays of the local market in Luang Prabang.
We came here straight after the Alms Ceremony from calmness & contemplation, to a lively and bustling market, wow! what a contrast!. We wandered around and watched the frenzy of the day unfold, as locals bought their produce and mingled with the vendors. Markets generally, in this part of the world have an array of exotic fruits, vegetables and some undesirable/weird meat products (probably from the jungles). Don’t be shocked with the latter, as you have to understand, this is South East Asia, eating anything that ‘moves’ is the norm here and their usual preference. The curious and brave ones, from our tour group took the gamble to explore the market, whilst the rest sought refuge in the comfort of our bus. We enjoyed snapping for photos and videos as we walked along. Traders didn’t seem unnerved or spooked, I guess they are used to this type of exposure. People are friendly, polite and tolerant so it’s safe to click away. Laons are gentle by nature and not pushy in their selling, which made the experience relaxing and bearable.
The market location is near the royal palace on a side street and set-up in a single lane, and is clean and tidy. However, this is no scenic route for a vegetarian/vegan/animal lover! The atmosphere is buzzing, and people are jostling for space along the narrow lane. The flow of traffic needs to be kept moving, so take your photos and be mindful of letting people pass. Produce is displayed on colourful mats on the ground or on small tables, traders perched on low stools and fanning the goods to keep flies/mosquitoes (the lucky ones!) at bay. Colourful displays of unique fruit and vegetables are split in-between exotic flowers and pink lilies which look beautiful amongst the greenery. The air was filled with warm aromas of cooked foods, delicate perfume from exotic flowers, herbs and spices, wafting around. This is what makes a market come to live, a real mix of activities from every angle.
Locals are cheerful happy people going about their daily business and people watching is a fun and joyful activity. Some easy to spot meat products i.e. chickens, chunks of raw/ cooked fish, and some ‘unmentionables’. Displays of various birds roasted, some in small cages (still alive) grilled insects, frogs jumping about in buckets, fried cockroaches, reptiles, mice, rats, and dogs (the latter a delicacy), not a good fit for those who are squeamish. We kept walking not lingering to find out the make and model of species lol! Apart from exotic foods, there is variety of non-food items, such as clothing, textiles, bags, and miscellaneous wares.
The market isn’t particularly huge and can be covered in an hour depending on your day’s activities. For those wanting to immerse themselves and stop for lunch there are vendors preparing/cooking snacks, selling cakes and fresh juices etc. I noticed a few ‘risk takers’ sampling some ‘weird’ meats dangling from skewers, not for the faint hearted, or those with a delicate stomach. If your attention catches an unsavoury display, do not spoil your face and disrespect this cultural norm.
Reviews from others state the market is set-up up 5.00 am and closes around 10.30 am, plan your visit after the Alms Ceremony, so you ‘kill two birds with one stone’ sorry! My personal gripe? coming in a group tour, a real downside, purely because we were hurried due to the demands of a frantic schedule. I lost the excitement to capture a real sense of the market interactions with locals and soaking up the atmosphere, this was unforgiving. Flexibility and an open mind are key elements in acquiring a sense of fun and adventure, so make your journey that much more memorable by allowing yourself time. On a closing note, independent travellers, enjoy the freedom to explore and make the morning market a ‘must do’ in your travel plans. Still, I got a taste (not literally!) of what South East Asia has to offer, hopefully a return visit isn’t too far away! Safe travels! Indu.