Every market tells a story – of a culture, a craft and a tradition and it is this story that gets sold in the form of souvenirs in tiny little lanes and stalls. There is so much of energy, life and colour in every market and each one of them is unique. Historic and intrinsic to a country’s culture, we visit five different markets from around the world.
Taling Chan Floating Market in Bangkok
In a city which is flocked by shoppers, where bargains are a way of life, there is no dearth for markets. But my favourite is the Taling Chan Floating Market which offers a glimpse into the flavours of traditional Thailand and Thai cuisine. I take a ferry across the Chao Phraya river and float through the canals of Bangkok to reach the Floating Market.
Sitting in long wooden boats, the locals here are cooking or grilling a meal or selling fresh produce or serving a speciality from sweets to rice to meat to snakes to fish to greens. Tourists and locals flock around a montage of barges on the canals, as ditties float in the air. It is open only on weekends and can be accessed by road as well.
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar
Losing oneself in the labyrinthine network of lanes and shops in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is extremely easy. With over 60 covered streets teeming with 3000 shops, this is where James Bond stormed across in his bike in his latest block buster Skyfall. The 600 year old bazaar called Kapalicarsi in Turkish meaning covered market has been an important trading centre since the 15th century. Even today it oozes an old fashioned charm about it. Feeling a little refreshed after a cup of hot apple tea, I walk around the little lanes where thousands of vendors sell anything and everything from ceramics to carpets, glass to lamps to rugs to jewellery. Besides the Grand Bazaar, a visit to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar is also recommended.
Say it with flowers in Amsterdam. With beautiful blue skies above my head, I take a boat across the canals and ferry towards the only floating flower market in the world. The 19th century Bloemenmarkt is an assault on the senses. Tulips are not just the flavour of the season here.
Colourful and fragrant, I am dazzled by the sheer variety of the flowers sold in the little shops floating on boats in the Singel located in the southern canals of Amsterdam. Besides florists, one finds seeds, herbs, decorations for the gardens and even souvenirs.
Karaikudi’s Antique Market
In a tiny little town called Karaikudi, in Tamilnadu is a tinier lane that lies behind the Muneeshwara temple. Walking along the lane, I stumble upon the treasures of the Chettinadu community that have been handed down from generation to generation in an antique market. The large sprawling mansions were built with materials from every part of the world – be it Italian marbles or Japanese tiles or Belgian glass.
The Chettiyars may have left Chettinadu but several antiques that once filled their homes are found in a handful of shops here. From lamps to vessels, glass to mirrors, paintings to artefacts, lampshades to carvings on teak, one finds an eclectic display of antiques . I find old Tanjore paintings, porcelain dolls, silverware, kitchen utensils in Burmese lacquer to old teak furniture here. Eventually I pick up a bronze lamp before leaving the market.
Bazaars of Pushkar
If there is a state in India that is synonymous with colour, then it is Rajasthan . From Jaipur to Jaisalmer, every market in Rajasthan is rich with vivid hues. My favourite however is the lively bazaar of Pushkar. I visit Pushkar just before the cattle fair assuming it to be quiet but I am in for a surprise. The market is throbbing with life
Kitschy and traditional, there is an eclectic array of goods on sale. I first encounter a series of book stores. And then there are the usual souvenirs – from turbans to bangles to puppets to jewellery. But it is the delicious sweets that draw my attention. Rich and creamy rabdi malpua is made here specially every evening and distributed across the entire town. Rows of bottles selling rose pulp and syrup and gulkhand, which are the local products are sold here as well. Pushkar is an appetising experience .
This article was published in The Hindu. These are my favourite markets..Would love to hear from you on the markets that you like.