Although the digital revolution has brought about a mass migration of shoppers from physical markets to online shops, many have found that the experience of immersing oneself in a real- world, bustling market is absolutely incomparable and irreplaceable. Visiting a market in an Asian country is truly a multi-sensory experience, exciting browsers with sights, sounds, smells and tastes, and also a way to gain insights into a culture, through the goods and services that are traded among its people.
Floating Markets, Thailand
Thai floating markets have long been well-known to the world and most visitors would not miss visiting one during their trip to Thailand. Indeed, there are many floating markets around central Thailand, some only a few kilometres from inner Bangkok—Taling Chan Floating Market, Klong Lat Mayom Floating Market, and Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market, for example. However, it is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi, and Amphawa Floating Market in Samut Songkram that are the most famous. Lively and colourful, the century-old floating markets boast an unrivaled experience of a boat tour through a network of canals, on which boats jostle and bob, selling food and fruits. The best time to visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is between 7 am and 11 am throughout the week, whereas Amphawa Floating Market is open only at weekends.
Herbs and Spices Market, India
Indian markets are charmingly chaotic. In Varanasi, for example, Gola Dinanath is one of Asia’s largest grocery markets, with more than 20,000 varieties of medicinal herbs and more than 200 years of history, and is well worth visiting. Since this holy city is home to hundreds of Unani and Ayurvedic medicine practitioners, all kinds of herbs - especially rare ones – are brought from different parts of the country to be sold here. In Delhi, Khari Baoli, established since the 17th century and Asia’s largest wholesale spice market, sells herbs, spices and food products. A visit here can be coupled with a tour of nearby Red Fort, which must be on every tourist’s itinerary. Each time you smell aromatic herbs like cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon or cloves, the sharp smells will certainly trigger memories of your visit to the land of spices.
Handicrafts Markets, Bali
Locally referred to as Pasar Seni Tradisional Ubud and Pasar Seni Sukawati, the two traditional art markets in Ubud, Bali, are the places where you can find traditional Balinese arts and crafts, such as sarongs, silver rings and necklaces, wood carvings, paintings, sculptures and so on. Appearing in the Hollywood film ‘Eat Pray Love’ starring Julia Roberts, Pasar Seni Tradisional Ubud, or Ubud Traditional Art Market, is located near such famous attractions as Tegalalang Rice Terrace and Monkey Forest Ubud. A half hour drive from Ubud Traditional Art Market takes you to the Sukawati Art Market. This two-storey market is an inexpensive shopping destination where you can bargain for perhaps half of the initial asking price.
Fish Markets, Tokyo
Located on the man-made island of Toyosu, in the Bay of Tokyo, Toyosu Fish Market took over the wholesale business from the world-renowned Tsukiji Market in October, 2018. Toyosu Market consists of three huge buildings, two of which are for seafood and the third for fruit and vegetables. It provides tours for visitors to observe the auctions for tuna and other seafood products through observation windows and there are restaurants on the premises. If you wish to feel the old, bustling atmosphere of the ageing Tsukiji Fish Market, however, the Outer Market, next to the former Tsukiji Wholesale Market, features many shops and restaurants that are still in business. It is well worth visiting for a fresh sushi breakfast, starting around 5 am and running till noon.
Night Markets, Taipei
Compared to other cities of similar size, Taipei has an incredible number of night markets - about 30 in Greater Taipei. In Shilin Night Market alone, there are more than 500 food vendors, some of which open until 2 am. However, if you are looking for a more traditional market, Roahe Night Market, the second largest after Shilin and one of the oldest in Taipei, may serve you well. The 600-metre-long path is lined with food stalls, some of which are on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list, quaint shops and games with prizes. There are also a few interesting attractions nearby, such as Songshan Ci You Temple and Rainbow Bridge, which is lit up with rainbow colours at night.
Antiques Market, Beijing
Anything associated with China is grand and that goes for Panjiayuan Antiques Market in Chaoyang District, where Chinese treasures can be found. Divided into parts and zones, the open air market houses 4,000 shops selling sculptures and statues, paintings, calligraphy, ceramic ware, arts and crafts of Chinese ethnic groups; bead and jade jewellery, collectibles and antiques, wooden furniture, ornaments, militaria, and more. Antiques and jewellery sold in the market can be either originals or replicas, so you must have a good eye if you are really looking for the genuine article. Also there are ample opportunities for bargain hunters.
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