Markets are awesome. I always make a point to visit local markets wherever I am in the world. I love to see local vegetables for sale. It is an insight to what the ancestors of this area would have eaten and what grows well in the climate. I like to see the local arts and crafts which sometimes speak of human ingenuity turning waste into something functional and/or beautiful. I like to see local people add value to their local produce turning out cakes, jams and pickles. I like the street food available at markets. A cheap way to taste the diversity of a location without draining the wallet at a restaurant.
So, after recently visiting a fabulous market in St Jacobs, Ontario, I pondered which of the markets I consider the best of the best. Here are three, in no particular order.
(1) Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market Walking Street, Thailand – This market is huge and crowded. Lots of food but more than that, lots of craft. Many markets these days suffer from globalisation and often stock the same cheap crap that can be bought cheaply online. When I was at this Chiang Mai market years ago, this was not the case. There was plenty of interesting and varied goods made by local and skilled artisans and craftpeople. It is a market that draws a huge tourist crowd. My advice is to negotiate the price and buy the things you like at the stall when you go past it. If you think you will come back later and find the same stall, you are mistaken. The market is too big for that and you will be lost.
(2) Gare Du Midi Markets, Brussels – This is a massive market held next to the main train station in Brussels every Sunday. It can get very crowded and is a dodgy area of town so watch your belongings. The market sells mainly fresh vegetables, cheap household items and plants. This is a market for working class locals and does not have the overpriced souvenir type knick knacks for tourists. It has cheap clothes, shampoo, dish soap, etc. Practical things for real life.
The highlight of the Gare Du Midi markets is the plant section. Large, beautiful healthy plants are sold here for extraordinarily low prices. Considering the size of these plants, it is hard to believe that the traders can make any profit at all.
(3) St Jacob’s Farmer’s Market, Ontario, Canada – I was blown away when visiting this market recently. It is huge and sells loads of local fresh vegetables in large quantities. People were buying vegetables by the bushels. This is not a quantity that I have ever seen average people buying anywhere else. I struggle to understand what an average family would do with a bushel of one particular type of vegetables yet there were people in the crowd buying in such quantities. You can buy lesser amounts too but clearly, plenty of people were buying big quantities. Perhaps they were feeding a crowd?
The produce at these markets were of top notch quality, super fresh and very colourful.
The most interesting about St Jacob’s is the Memnonite community who live here. These Memnonites live their lives in old fashioned clothing, without cars or electricity. There are a number who were selling their homemade goods at this market. Next to the markets was the weekly horse auction. This is dominated by Memnonites who were using the event as a chance to catch up with friends and also to buy a horse to pull their buggies for transport. An intriguing glimpse into their world!