Text & Images: Alexis Yap
Public markets in Asia’s major cities draw herds of travelers. Alexis Yap shows why…
WHEN I travel, I always want to immerse myself in the locale’s culture —what they do, what they eat, how they live. And what better way to see and experience them all at the same time than walking through and exploring their local markets. Here is my personal list of markets and bazaars around Asia, what you’ll find, and what I love about them.
Gwangjang Traditional Market
Seoul, South Korea
Probably one of my very favorite markets around Asia, this traditional street market is one of the largest and oldest in Seoul. Previously called Dongdaemun Market, Gwangjang market has over 5,000 stalls selling everything from food, clothing, fabric, medicine, meat, fish, bread, fruits and vegetables. Today, they are famous for their bindaetteok or mung bean pancakes. But really, there’s a wide variety of food there from stewed pork knuckles to hand-made noodles and a myriad of bibimbap. Take your pick and experience the warm hospitality of the Ajumas who are just delighted to feed you.
Jalan Alor Food Street Market
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Located at the heart of Bukit Bintang, Jalan Alor is a glorious food market so festive at night with a wide variety of cuisine. From baku-teh to grilled frog legs, artisan ice cream, and durian fruit, this food street is a popular tourist destination probably because of its positive atmosphere and of course its delicious variety of Asian food. Easily, as it is a melting pot of many different cultures.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
You can tell that fashion and food is a big deal for the Thais when you come visit this place along with 200,000 other visitors every weekend. With over 8,000 stalls, almost anything you are looking for can be found here. The latest in fashion can be bought here from wholesalers, while some stalls specialize in vintage clothing. Whether you’re looking for furniture, crafts, or even a new pet, Chatuchak Weekend Market will not disappoint, as long as you have the patience and diligence to walk through its vastness. I love that there are delicious food stalls sporadically spread out its 35 acres.
Anyone who has been to Tokyo will tell you only good things about the Tsukiji Fish Market, where the freshest and the best quality seafood can be found. The best quality uni and otoro sushi can be found here and to no surprise as the Japanese always want the best when it comes to their sushi. So many other interesting and delicious food can be found around this market, including wagyu beef barbecue on a stick. I know right?
India is generally known for its spices, vibrant fabrics, and gems, and Jaipur, the Pink City, is no exception. Located between the Manak Chowk and Chhoti Chaupar, the Tripolia Bazaar is known for selling brassware and colorful and elegantly designed carpets. However, here you will find a myriad of spices, fabric, utensils, trinkets, and accessories as well. Be careful with the street vendors, although they are generally harmless, they can be very persistent in selling. But walking through this bazaar is just so surreal having the Indian women in their colorful saris and Indian men carrying rickshaws in the background.
Shilin Night Market
Easily considered the largest and most popular night market in all of Taiwan, the Shilin Night market is where everyone goes for delicious food and a fun night out. Famous for their fried chicken steak, fried buns, bubble tea, and stinky tofu, this is also a nice place to shop for clothes and accessories. I love the young, vibrant crowd that fills the place at sundown.
Mongkok Ladies Market
Kowloon, Hong Kong
I would like to say that I prefer Temple Street night market for its relatively more peaceful and less busy atmosphere, but I would be lying to myself since the Mongkok Ladies Market’s charm is exactly its pandemonium. Aside from Sneaker Street being well within its vicinity, we have discovered many good food places in the area as well. Clothing, shoes, bags, and other accessories dominate this market but Mongkok sells just about anything.
My Market Bucket List:
1. Long Bien Market
A busy fruit and vegetable market where tourists go to from 3 to 4 a.m. to watch the Vietnamese people in their everyday life.
2. Amphawa Floating Market
A floating fruit and vegetable market that looks very nice in pictures. Out of the many times I’ve been to Bangkok, I have never dared to go as it is infamous for being a tourist trap. Many say Amphawa is the lesser evil. We’ll see.
3. Angkor Night Market
Siem Reap, Cambodia
A relatively new night market opened only in 2006. When you go, buy Khmer handicrafts and products made from recycled materials to help the community. Get a massage!
4. Sukawati Art Market
An artsy market where you can buy handmade local art work and décor and some colorful bed covers!
5. Ky Hoa Night Market
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
The city’s largest night market where you can find food and everything else. Go to eat pho and deep fried tarantulas and buy handicrafts and souvenirs.