Sensory Overload – A traditional Thai Market
The sounds, sights and smells of a traditional market in provincial Thailand are explored here. A trip to a traditional Thai market place is an absolute must for potential visitors to the Kingdom, for this is where you are most likely to find the true character of the country and its residents.From the outset, our senses are exposed to a determined assault:
Visually, the vibrant colors that comprise of the fastidiously assembled fruit and vegetable stalls; pyramids of pineapples and arcs of avocados being amongst some of the elegant displays, are a constant stimulus, leaving us flummoxed as what our peripheral vision may be embraced with next.
The friendly proprietors will try and tempt you into trying locally grown favorites such as kanoon or jackfruit, these commonly grow to twice the size of a basketball; rambutans, another tropical fruit which is actually indigenous to Malaysia. Rambut is Malay for ‘hairy’, and you’ll see exactly how the name came about when you happen upon one of the myriad gantries dotted randomly around the marketplace. Also present in abundance are durian, mangoes (ripe and unripe being as popular as one another), guava, dragon fruit and custard apples. This spirited spread is definitely enough to lure us into the depths of the market where our next sense is heightened; smell.
Simply delectable or damn right offensive, there is no escaping the aromas that the Thai market comprises of. From the pungent whiff of fermented fish to the scented smells of slow cooking shrimps, your nasal cavities will be treated to alien odors which will be remembered long after your holiday snaps have been ensconced in yet another photograph album; the scent of a place often has a subtle knack of evocatively over-riding the visual.
Perhaps the most prolific and certainly most noticeable scent that taints the air during a trip to the market is that of what Thai people refer to as nam prik which literally means ‘water chili’. Now with a little tweaking to bring ‘water chili’ round to a more Anglo translation we can deduce that this in fact means ‘chili sauce’. A huge variety of sauces can be found throughout the market and come in the form of a dark paste. They are conventionally flavoured with different types of fish which give the sauces their potent trail.
Next our hearing is given a thorough work-out. Choruses of melodic chants form the backing track to the Thai market experience. Names and prices of countless different dishes are almost sung from the mouths of the cheery vendors. The most common call is the name and price of the dish followed by a lingering aroi which literally translates into ‘delicious’. So it isn’t uncommon for customers to be serenaded with a sales pitch such as din gai tort aroi or ‘delicious deep fried chicken’s feet’.
Now that we have successfully negotiated this lively and bustling food emporium, sporting several carrier bags brimming with an assortment of fruits, spices and chicken’s feet, it is time to meander our way through the balmy evening, a tropical sunset our back drop, and head to one of the abundant watering holes.
Who knew shopping could incite such a thirst!