Colourful chaos

Carrying on with our exploration of the incredible Bac Ha market, we’ve taken a break for a refreshing beverage.

Coconut juice is just one of the many flavoursome drinks on offer, but caffine addict hubby is fixated on the strong local coffee!

We’re heading deeper into the market now and the vendors get closer together, the piles of fresh produce pile higher and we can really start to see some of the local characters.

We are also seeing more of the amazing traditional outfits of the many hill tribes who come to Bac Ha to trade, haggle and also meet potential marriage prospects.

These elaborately attired women come from miles around, often on motorbikes landed with veg, fruit and live stock.

One of the most colourful tribes is the Flower Hmong. Their cultural dress is a mix of traditional craftsmanship with modern materials.

Costumes cover women and children in a rainbows of colours from head to toe using heavy pin stripe appliqué, hand embroidery and beaded fringe work.

Other Vietnamese hill tribes include the Black H’mong who are skillful at using indigo dye to create their traditional dress, the red Dao and the Dzay.

Lots more colourful snaps from this incredible market to come. 🙂

Bustling Bac Ha

Bac Ha is one of the most colorful ethnic markets of all Northwest Vietnam.

It is a fusion of the many different hill tribes that inhabit the Bac Ha mountain district and here you can easily distinguish them by their different colourful traditional clothing.

I was in seventh heaven surrounded by the colourful typical traditional costumes of local tribes including the Tay, the Dzay, the Red Dzao and the Black H’mong.

The market is set out in distinct areas, one for handicrafts, art and fabric, others for fresh vegetables, others for meat and fish.

Let’s take a wander to the visceral end of the market first shall we . . .

A stall holder singes the hairs off a leg of pork, she’s wielding that blow torch like a seasoned pro!

Whether it crawls, gallops, squirms or swims, it is probably to be found in this section of the market.

You don’t want to mess with this tiny but fierce lady!

As a lifelong vegetarian, I am always appalled, yet also strangely intrigued, by the bloodier aspects of other culture’s cuisine.

In the UK people have a very sanitised approach to the meat on their plate, they rarely see it butchered or make the connection between the live animal and the tasty end product.

Here however it is unavoidable, grisly and rather stomach turning!

Rocking, rolling, riding

Leaving Hanoi behind again for now we’re heading on another adventure.

This time to a place I’ve wanted to see for over a decade, ever since I came back from South Vietnam, I have been obsessed with the incredible scenery of the rice terraces of Sapa.

So we’re heading further North, aboard the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai.

We planned the trip, once again, through Vega Travel and it all went fairly to plan (except for the poor girl forgetting to pick up the train tickets and having to hightail it back to the office on her moped to grab them!)

We’re bunked up in a cosy little cabin of four people, meaning we’ll be sharing with some total random strangers! But it is quite comfortable.

However don’t expect to sleep much as the train is nosy and clanks and bangs all through the night! (and use the toilet as early as you can as it becomes rather ‘ripe’ later on . . )

The whole journey takes around eight hours and arrives at Lao Cai at 6am!

From there we’re whisked off on a private tour of Bac Ha market, a traditional local hill tribe market and one of the true highlights of our trip.

Here’s a little taster to whet your appetite!

Fantastic fabrics

Established in 1889, Dong Xuan Market is Hanoi’s largest indoor market and is crammed to the rafters with a bewildering array of goods from fresh produce, plastic hair accessories and makeup to electronics and household appliances.

Let’s explore just a small section of it below – the fabric floor!

Being the daughter of an immensely talented, fully qualified tailor did not, alas, imbue me with any noticeable sewing talents, but I do share my mum’s love of a good fabric!

And they don’t come any better than here . . . in this maze of tiny shops and endless expanses of coloured cloth – it’s tiring work, just check out the man below if you don’t believe me!

Every colour of the rainbow is here and every type of fabric, from tulle and satin to lace and cotton.

Whether it’s patterned or plain, embroidered, weaved or stitched, you’ll find something to oooh and ahhh over (if you’re a fabric nerd like me!)

It can be hard to find space to walk between the narrowly packed in stalls, so shop owners just crawl and climb over their vast stock.

So many choices! Another place I had to be literally dragged out of . .. but never fear, there’s LOTS more markets still to come 🙂

Marvellous Malaga market

It feels only five minutes since we were last mooching around the colourful central market in Malaga but its actually been years!

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The time our apartment is literally around the corner so we can get up bright and early to check out this lively scene.

No matter how many times I visit markets in Europe and further afield I never fail to be captivated by the variety and quality of products on offer.

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Whether its dried fruit and nuts, local cheeses or piles of perfect fruit and veg, its all so fresh and tempting.

Apart from this. This will never be tempting! I always force myself to venture down the meat aisle just to check out which unfortunate body parts are on display!

A stall holder peers over his loaded stall of local sausages, wines and other delicacies.

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A fishmonger demonstrates his descaling skills while once again I ponder the reason behind the orange vats of fatty meat!

Huge radishes glisten in stacks of glorious pink globes while spring onions the size of fists jostle for space with huge juicy tomatoes.

A last lingering look at some stacks of nuts now before we head off to find more photo subjects!

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Nishiki Market

Almost opposite our hotel in Kyoto is Nishiki Market. A sprawling warren of food stalls begging to be explored.

Known to locals as “Kyoto’s pantry”, Nishiki Market is one of the best traditional food market in the city.

There are plenty of traditional shops to give you a glimpse of what a traditional shotengai (shopping street) would have looked like.

There’s a wide varity of traditional Kyoto cuisine on display here including tsukemono (Japanese pickles), Kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables) and wagashi (Japanese sweets).

Below is an example of the ever popular Narazuke.

This refers to vegetables of the gourd family that are pickled in sake lees. It is said to have originated in the Kansai region of Japan.

Narazuke is usually made by soaking vegetables in sake lees for a long time and replacing the lees over and over until the vegetables mature.

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As well as a multitude of pickled vegetables there are also plenty of super kawaii (cute) items for sale including these adorbs purses.

Stacks of pumpkins and gourds are ready to get Halloween off to a cracking start as it seems to be a favoured holiday.

There’s also a lot of battered and fried ingredients above including shrimp, octopus, cheese, squid, quail eggs and burdocks.

Barrels of pickled vegetables line the street but still don’t seem that tempting to me . .

The other striking thing I spot in each market is the wide plethora of brightly coloured sweeties.

Below the tiny spiky balls are KonpeitĹŤ. The word “konpeitĹŤ” comes from the Portuguese word confeito (comfit), which is a type of sugar candy.

I think this cute little sign is advertising Mochi ice cream.

This is a small, round dessert ball consisting of a soft, pounded sticky rice cake (mochi) formed around an ice cream filling.

Wagashi are traditional Japanese confections that are often served with tea.

Below the pastel chalk like sweets are Rakugan, which is a variant of Higashi, which is a type of dry Wagashi.

Below is a selection of jewel bright small traditional sugar candies known as Kyo-ame.

Food stalls

As we leave another lovely shrine we pass by rows of hot food vendors, all rolling, flipping, steaming and grilling various snacks and street food.

I’m not sure what they all are. Below the green and white lumps could be Dango, this is a Japanese dumpling and sweet made from mochiko (rice flour) or it could be mochi which is pounded sticky rice.

Below a vendor creates his next batch of Taiyaki – cute fish shaped cakes filled with custard, chocolate or cheese.

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Various meat on sticks are next up in the little food tents. It must be a hot and sweaty job!

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They could be a type of Yakitori – chicken skewers cooked in a savoury sauce or it could be grilled pork belly. Being a veggy means I am not great at meat identification!!

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The meat below could quite possibly be little sparrows on sticks – quite upsetting for the other half who is a real bird lover.

As well as food there are some adorable little fabric creations up for grabs.

Here’s another look at the stall holder creating his little fishy shaped snacks.

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Plobannalec-Lesconil

The next day heralds some rather drizzly grey weather but not to be deterred we head to the nearby town of Plobannalec-Lesconil.

This little harbour town happens to be hosting its weekly farmers market.

This involves fresh produce and lots of local meats as usual!

Whether its mountains of spice, roasting chickens or brightly coloured woven bracelets, there’s plenty to nosh on and spend money on.

The man has his manic meat face on as he surveys the twirling chickens and fat coated roast potatoes.

Jewel bright fruits compete with rainbow transportation to be the most colourful spectacle.

While rusty moorings and window catches provide a wealth of tiny details to be captured.

An owl gives us the once over while a joyous looking shrimp looks delighted to be eaten.

The town’s church provides another wealth of decorative details including the intricate iron crosses and colourful ceramic floral wreaths.

I’ve never encountered the ceramic flowers on graves before and thought they were a nice alternative to fresh flowers that wither and decay.

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Borough market

Fresh back from a weekend whizzing around London and visiting a few new places. One of which is the Borough Market in Southwark close to the Shard. Apologies for fuzzy pics, they’re all taken on my mobile!!

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Borough has long been linked with food markets and as far back as the 11th century, London Bridge attracted traders selling grain, fish, vegetables and livestock.

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In the 13th century traders were relocated to what is now Borough High Street and a market has been there ever since.

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In 1755, the market was closed by Parliament, but a group of Southwark residents raised ÂŁ6,000 to buy land known locally as The Triangle and reopened the market in 1756.

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The Triangle is still at the heart of the market today.

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There’s a wide range of stalls including fish, bakery, confectionery, dairy and more.

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Above is a selection of sea food, all artistically arranged for the discerning shopper while below are a colourful array of veggy friendly salads.

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There’s a global food vibe happening with French Duck confit and lavender from Provence along with tasty continental pastries.

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Italian cheeses are piled high alongside a mouthwatering selection of bread and brownies!!

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A favourite photogenic confectionery are the colourful little macaroons in a plethora of flavours including Earl Grey tea and pistachio.

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Or you can just stick to the tried and tested traditional tastes such as chocolate.

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These adorable little tins of liquorice would make perfect keepsake pots for all your useful stuff.

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More colourful snaps of veg and drool making cakies!

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And some intriguing mushrooms (shudder) wrap up our whistle stop tour around Borough market. Well worth a visit if you’re close to the Shard. (and have an obsession with markets like me!!)

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Mercado Central de Atarazanas

Malaga central market is another foodie heaven, crammed to the rafters with a veritable cornocopia of fresh goods, meats and jars of anything you can imagine.

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Malaga Central Market, also known as The Mercado Central de Atarazanas is a gorgeous piece of architecture as well as a haven for nibbles and tasty treats.

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The gorgeous stained glass window portrays the history of the building before its current incarnation as a market.

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The now land locked market was once the city’s shipyard, a place where the ruling Moors used to repair their ships 600 years ago. The water once made it all the way to the market’s entrance

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Whether you’re after a selection of olives or a dollop of greased up meat, this is the place to come.

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Iberian pork loin covered in an oily looking orange grease. Apparently it comes from special, acorn fed piggies!

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There’s lots of by products too. Above is the Chorizo iberico – a cured sausage made from chopped pork, pork fat and paprika. There are hundreds of regional varieties, some containing garlic and herbs.

Lomo Iberico is the cured tenderloin of the pig covered in lard made from the fat surrounding the pig’s kidneys.

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However as a life long vegetarian I prefer to loiter in the less meaty aisles with the amazing piles of fresh produce.

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From onions the size of your head to all types of leafy salads, spices and garnishes. There’s a mouth watering selection to chose from.

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Of course the market would grind to a halt if it wasn’t for the stall holders. Above are just two of the colourful characters we encountered.

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Below are some of the famous Malaga almonds. Almonds were one of Malaga’s major exports, in addition to being highly popular in local cuisine.

They are one of main ingredients in a variety of traditional recipes such as “ajoblanco”, a cold soup with crushed almonds.

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Has it got your mouth watering yet? if so why not head over to Spain and sample of few markets yourself!

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