Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rangoon’s (Yangon's) Central Fish Wholesale Market

During my fourth visit to Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar) back in March of 2009, I thought that it would be interesting to get up early and head down to the waterfront to check out Rangoon’s Central Fish Wholesale Market (a.k.a. San Pya Fish Market), which is situated on the banks of the Rangoon River in west Rangoon near the intersection of Kyee Myin Daing Kannar Road and Nat Sin Road. The fishing boats that supply the markets begin pulling up to the dock as early as 2 AM and unload their cargo of fish, which is dumped on to the concrete floor and sorted into 'export' and 'domestic' categories; freshwater fish on ice from the surrounding countryside would also start arriving by truck about the same time. The export quality fish is placed on ice and processed for foreign sale, and the domestic quality fish is moved into a series of warehouses where it is displayed for local sale to restaurants and the vendors that sell in the various open and wet markets in and around Rangoon. I got there about 4:50 AM and found the market to be very busy and quite noisy given the shouts of both sellers and buyers as transactions were negotiated. In addition to witnessing the activities around the loading dock and in the enclosed warehouses, it’s also interesting to stroll amid the aisles between the warehouses and the sidewalks and alleys around the market, where small-time vendors do their business seated upon blankets spread out on the concrete and tarmac, with their small assortment of inventory for the day, sometimes little more than perhaps a dozen fish and a few bowls of shrimp, illuminated by candlelight and small battery-powered florescent lamps in the pre-dawn gloom; also in attendance are a number of food, drink and betel nut vendors set up on the sidewalks and beneath tarpaulin canopies to serve the myriad customers that flock to the market. If you’re planning a visit there, note that things can get a bit grungy, so you'll want to wear some clothes that you don't mind getting a bit soiled (in the haze diffused light of sunrise afterwards, I did noticed some dried muddy splashes of fish run-off on my shorts and sandals from some close calls with quickly-moving wheeled fish carts, and did get bumped a time or two by a passing wet wicker basket of fish), and you will definitely smell like fish by the end of your visit. If you're looking to experience some real local color off the beaten tourist path while in Rangoon, the central fish wholesale market might be just the ticket for you.

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.

Update 11-23-17:

I had heard that the Yangon Central Fish Wholesale Market had relocated, and have recently learned that the new location is on Htee Tan Road in Alone Township, not far South from Nat Sin Road (hat tip to Crystal at Travelers' Choice to Burma).

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