Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Laos: Markets in Luang Prabang: Phousi Market

   You have to take a tuktuk to this enormous market on the outskirts of town--and this one isn't for tourists. It's where the local people buy everything they need on a daily basis. Some of it is inside a huge building, ill-lit apart from the occasional fluorescent strip lighting overhead. 
     The liveliest way I can tell you about its wonderful crowded chaos is to copy the notes I made as I strolled. Not sorting them out means you get an idea of the glorious confusion--and profusion--of it all. 

If this lady doesn't have it somewhere on her stall, what you're looking for probably doesn't exist. 

 Just some of the fresh vegetables for sale.

      Here's what I scribbled down as I ambled up one aisle and down the other.
       Phousi market. Indoors, outdoors. Enormous. Everything in shiny plastic bags. Loose dried chilis of different kinds. Huge green-yellow papaya. An immense selection of plastic and enamelware, and stainless steel bowls. A truckload of oranges. Backpacks and 4-in-1 plastic holders for condiments. Cel phones and gold watches and silver jewellery. Pale beige-peach-coloured squash. Stacked trays of brown eggs. Almost orange-gold potatoes.
   Trays of woven bamboo heaped with bean sprouts. A tin tray holding one enormous blood clot. Live fish in aerated plastic bowls of water. Fresh rice noodles. Water buffalo feet. Pungent dried fish smelling like overworn underwear. Murderous smell of freshly hacked meat. Knives, tongs and rice makers. I have bought river weed with orange and garlic. Not sure if it needs cooking. The girl who sold it to me was giggling too hard over our lack of communication. 10,000 kip. Another 8000 spent on a tin tray, painted with flowers. Flashlights, steel wool and toothpicks. Ladies with sewing machines stitching up sarongs. Sequinned jeans. Cola and 7up. “Mingwing Weaving” men’s underwear. Locks, keys and hinges.
Spices in the bowls at the front. Fish-sauce-in-the-making in the bowls at the back.

Meat in the raw.

    When I wrote "a truckload of oranges," that's what I meant. I went to this colossal market three times altogether, and still didn't see everything. 

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