Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Outdoor Vendors near Mandalay’s Zeigyo Central Market

When planning a visit to the historic city of Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar), one should definitely allow time in the itinerary to witness the hustle and bustle amid the morning outdoor produce, spice and dried/fermented fish and meat vendors that line the streets near the Zeigyo Central Market building (west of 84th Street between 26th and 28th Road). For me, it was far more interesting, colorful and much more memorable than the stroll through more sedate indoor general household and dry goods portion of the market, which could be skipped without missing much if one’s time is limited. The market was still quite active when I arrived at 7:30 am, with very few other foreign tourists to be seen (due the lack of available time in their tour packages, according to my guide). Given the coolness of the morning air, most of the vendor women improvise turbans out of scarves, shawls, towels and the like for warmth which, together with their colorful longyis, the swirls, streaks and sometimes intricate patterns of dried yellow thanaka paste (a natural combination sunblock, astringent and moisturizer made from the ground wood of the thanaka tree) applied to their cheeks, and non-matching flannel shirts, makes many of them look like hill tribe members, though some in the market actually appear to be from the Shan, Karen and Pa-O minority tribes based on their ethnic clothing. The sights, aromas (a earthy mix of ripe produce, spices, dried shrimp and fermented fish paste), and the echoing of the hawkers’ calls mixed with the din of stall-side negotiations gives the open market it's charm, and makes it an experience not to be missed.

For more on Burma/Myanmar, see my post The Upside of Food Poisoning in Bagan, Myanmar (Pagan, Burma), where staying back at the hotel and taking it easy while recovery from a bout of food poisoning in Bagan Myothit  and a chance encounter with a local artisan in an open field across the road that took me under his wing would result in a very memorable day and evening of experiencing the town and its environs like a local.

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