musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

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One of my favorite things to do when I’m in the Shan State town of Nyaungshwe is visiting the morning market. Actually, it’s open in the afternoon too, but mornings are when the market is truly alive and bustling. I love the sights and sounds and smells of the market, not to mention the vibrant colors, contrasts, and textures of the vegetables and spices. And of course none of it would be as interesting without the variety of local people — many of them from neighboring villages and hill tribes — who come to shop or sell items here.

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Due to the fact that the market is a popular shopping destination — particularly on the weekly “market day” when the market volume surges with the presence of additional vendors — and is now a lure for camera-toting tourists too, it can get rather cramped and crowded in the narrow aisles most days. But hey, the tight squeeze is all part of the unique charm and atmosphere, right? If some of the food looks tasty, don’t be shy; many of the vendors will let you sample their wares!

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Going to the market in the morning is also part of Ma Pu Sue’s schedule when she holds sessions at her Bamboo Delight Cooking Class. Sue will bring her clients to the market and explain how various fruits, vegetables, and spices are used in preparing local dishes. After the shopping is complete, Sue brings the crew back to her home where they cook up a full meal, and last but not least, enjoy eating the fruits of their labor by consuming the cooked dishes. And it all starts here, at Nyaungshwe’s colorful market. If you’re in town, don’t miss it!

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