Thursday, May 05, 2005

Posted by Hello

Hanging meat in an Asian wet market...

A Day in the Life of Jeeem in Thailand

Forging on down the road past the "Number Two Tables," I wander into our local wet market to purchase some coffee and ingredients for a stew I'm making.

Wet markets, famous in Asia, are so-named because of the water on the floor. Controversial in many parts of the world as, "Disease harboring cesspools," one has to experience a wet market to fully understand the allure that these local revelations of cultural diversity create.

My first trip to an Asian wet market was in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, Philippines. Outside the market, I witnessed four Filipino men trying to load a huge, bound, screaming, squealing hog into the back of a tiny motorella. I remember feeling sympathetic for this poor animal, but looking back, I realize that most Asian people do not share the love for animals that westerners do.

The next thing I remember about that wet market was the smell.

Wet markets sell a little bit of everything. Shirts, shoes, fruit, live animals, candy, dry goods, vegetables, cooked food and of course...raw red meat, hanging on steel hooks. Refuse is often thrown into drains or tossed about on the floor, only to be washed away at the end of the day or the start of the new day.

At first, the smell is enough to make you gag. Chickens are slaughtered on site, the blood spewing about onto the floor; fish are cleaned on tables smeared with blood, scales and assorted grime, their entrails dumped in buckets or onto the floor. Where there are live animals, there is excrement.

You get the idea.

But, having experienced wet markets in the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, and Malaysia, I can quite honestly say I'm used to them by now. Being the only foreigner here in my village, the locals know me by now and they always get a kick out of seeing me shopping in their market. You can get some pretty good deals if you know what you're doing and can speak a little bit of Thai.

Tao rai? (How much?)

Hok sip baht? (Sixty baht?)

Oh no, no, no! Yee sip baht! (Twenty baht)

(Querulous look of mock disgust)...See sip baht! (Forty baht)

(Mildly querulous look of mock disgust in return)...Sam sip baht. (Thirty baht)

I walk away with my item, having agreed on the price of thirty baht. However, in reality, if I had been Thai, I probably would have only paid, "Sip baht," or ten baht.

Oh well, that's half the fun of shopping at a wet market. You get to practice your Thai and get a little entertainment on the side.

There are some items at our wet market that you won't find in the local walk-in stores. I can purchase fresh prawns of varied sizes and even get some pretty nice fish fillets to fry up at home. I've discovered some fresh herbs, romaine lettuce, daikon radish, and fresh ginger root, which is hard to find elsewhere.

Well, time to move on down the road. Join me again for my next adventure, won't you?



Web Analytics