Tuesday, 31 May 2016

BURMA - Market Mini-Series

Burma holds a very special place in my heart for very personal reasons. Yet, despite this, I have only visited the country as an adult on a couple of extremely brief occasions.

The first time was during my first trip to Thailand. We travelled north from Bangkok to visit Chiang Mai and then continued up to the Thai/Burmese border at Mae Sai.

We crossed to Tachilek in Burma and took a rickshaw to see the pagoda which presides over the town. In the pagoda grounds we met this lady selling books among other things.

Back in the town we took a stroll through the street market. To be frank, I prefer food markets, but in their absence I'll take whatever I can get. However, it does affect how many photos I take!

My second, equally brief visit to Burma was when I was on an extended visit to Thailand and needed to renew my Thai visa. This meant I had to leave and re-enter Thailand. Crossing the Thai border into Burma is a popular option.

We travelled up Thailand's west coast to Ranong where we took a boat across to Burma.
Longtail boats, as in this picture, ferry people across too.

During the crossing we couldn't help but notice that the sea was swarming with enormous jellyfish.

The lack of activity on the quays was notable.

Until I came upon this area where those big jellyfish had been harvested and were now being processed. This wasn't strictly a market as I don't think the jellyfish were being offered for sale, but I'm using a bit of artistic licence here. 
Sadly I was unable to glean much information due to the language barrier, but my understanding was that after cleaning the jellyfish they are salted and dried in order to preserve them. Whilst you can see the salt crystals in the photo, fortunately for you, you can't smell the jellyfish!

What do you think? Have you ever tried or would you fancy some reconstituted jellyfish?

See you next week.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA : Market Mini-Series

Extract from my travel article titled: Classic Cambodia - published in an English language newspaper in Spain.

Phnom Penh is perhaps the most fascinating capital city in South East Asia.  

Outnumbering cars, the mopeds, tuk tuks and cyclos – bicycle rickshaws –  raise dust on the crumbling streets.  As you pick your way along the ripped pavements, sunlight reflects off the dust motes to create a city in soft focus.  

Central Market

Traffic lights are not common.  At junctions everyone slows down, weaving and criss-crossing in a graceful ballet while maintaining a Buddha calm.  

The streets are peppered with moveable food stalls emitting enticing aromas that mask the pungent drains.  Beggars with missing limbs – victims of Cambodia’s recent violent history – cannot be ignored.  

This is a country of gritty realism.  Behind the faded glamour of her classical French colonial buildings, Phnom Penh is edgy and intriguing.  I felt like I was in the middle of a Graham Greene novel or an American espionage flick. 


We explored the Central Market which was built in 1937 during the French Colonial period. All manner of goods were on sale, but the stall which intrigued me the most was the one selling insects and bird embryos. The ladies were doing a brisk trade, with some customers tucking in on the spot. The area around this stall was littered with insect wings.

My husband challenged me to try some. I was up for it until he added: 'but I get to choose what you eat.'

Knowing he'd choose the largest insect, I declined his challenge!

I photographed this young woman with her baby at a roadside stall on the way to Siem Reap.

We met this lovely, confident little girl serving at a food outlet in Siem Reap. 

Do let me know if you've enjoyed this week's market visit. 
I haven't decided where I'm going to go next week... watch this space.

p.s. if you want to read more about Cambodia - click HERE to read my post about an experience I had in Siem Reap

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

SAVUSAVU - FIJI : Market Mini-Series

I lived in Savusavu for about eight years. As is the way when you live somewhere, you don't go around taking photos like a tourist. Whenever I went to the local market it was to do my normal shopping, just like everyone else. 

However, when I was commissioned to write a feature about visiting cruise ships I had the perfect excuse to take some photos in my local market without feeling self-conscious.

This is perhaps my favourite photo taken on the day I went into town with my camera to capture cruise ship passengers visiting our town. These ladies are selling lemons 'by the heap'. Yes, lemons with green skin. What's more, the flesh is bright orange and on more than one occasion I saw visitors bite into what they thought was an orange. Their expressions of mouth-puckering surprise was priceless.

These tied bundles of roots are Taro - called Dalo in Fiji. This is their equivalent of potatoes and, like the versatile potato, can be prepared in all the same ways. I never particularly liked the taste or texture of Dalo, but the Fijians eat it in mammoth quantities.

This Indo-Fijian market seller is preparing Jackfruit. Sadly, I don't have a photo of a whole Jackfruit to post, but it's an enormous knobbly green skinned fruit - roughly the size of a large watermelon. I have only ever eaten Jackfruit cooked into a curry and it's delicious.

Here you can see an array of Dalo, unripe bananas, lemons, chillies, coconuts and cassava. 

The wonderful thing about markets like this is that the produce is super-fresh, hand-picked (often that morning) - and the profits go to the locals who are selling it. 

Whenever I came across fruit or vegetables I didn't recognise, the market ladies were always happy to tell me what they were called and how to prepare them. Invariably, the instructions were: peel and eat, peel and boil, or peel and fry!

Finally... here is the lead photo used for my cruise ship article. I took this photograph from the deck of my house at about 6am.

I hope you've enjoyed my latest Market Series post. 

I'll be heading north west next week to a city replete with French influences. Can you guess the city?

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A-Z Reflections

So… my reflections about my first experience of the A-Z Challenge which took place during the month of April…

I chose a theme of wildlife encounters because I was confident that I had seen enough animals in the wild that I could come up with something for each letter of the alphabet. The hardest part was finding appropriate photos in my archives, and this meant that some animals I’d have liked to include were discounted altogether. 

From V is for Vulture post

As it was, some of my animal photos weren’t too good. 

From K is for Komodo Dragon post
But I think that was mitigated by the fact that others were magazine quality (and indeed quite a few have been published alongside my travel and/or dive articles).

From Y is for Yellow Boxfish post

I started writing the posts ahead of the challenge and managed to keep ahead of the game. By having a number of posts pre-written, I was able to write up the rest over the month in a reasonably relaxed fashion.

What I didn’t find relaxing was keeping up with my visits and comments on other blogs. Whilst it was a brilliant experience to find new fabulous blogs and meet and banter with new people, it was also sometimes frustrating and time consuming with others.
There were ones who had signed up, but then not even started the challenge and ones where I had to click on several links to actually reach the current post. There was even one that required me to sign in with my name, e-mail and web address every single time in order to leave a comment! Others wrote very long posts which discouraged me from following them. Others didn’t have the courtesy to visit my blog and leave at least one comment after I’d visited and commented on theirs.

Once I discovered how to leave a blog signature to guide people back to my blog I used it on every comment I left and I was most grateful to the bloggers who did the same thing. It made visiting their blogs very slick – and it would be a great idea if the organisers could make this information much clearer and accessible.

Over the last week I have re-visited the blogs I was following during the challenge and quite a few still had their Z post up. I’m also a little dismayed at how swiftly the visits and comments to my blog ceased.

Will I do it again next year? It’s a lot of time, energy (and material) to expend over a month to find blogs containing content that's of interest to me - and to try to gain followers to my own blog. So I don’t know yet… but this experience was exhilarating, fun, exciting, exasperating, and - well - quite a challenge! 

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

LUANG PRABANG - LAOS – Market Mini-Series

Now that the April A-Z Challenge is over, I thought I would return to my Market Mini-Series for your entertainment.

During one of my South East Asia trips we travelled through Laos by bus. The journey was fairly gruelling, but it did mean we got to see quite a lot of the beautiful Laotian countryside, but I’ll save those details for another post.

Our bus journey terminated at Luang Prabang, a beautiful old city sited at the confluence of the Mekong and Khan Rivers. 

As we wandered the streets of Luang Prabang I was fascinated by the racks of rice cakes set out to dry everywhere. However, I didn’t sample these cakes because I was slightly concerned about hygiene.

The market stalls were equally fascinating with many foodstuffs and dishes I didn’t recognise. I watched these ladies stuffing lettuce leaves with an interesting range of ingredients. Although I was tempted - the smells from the various bowls were enticing - I decided not to try one of their little parcels because I wasn’t sure about the wisdom of eating salad leaves without knowing how they had been washed. 

These chickens were easy enough to recognise. 
They looked and smelled delicious, but I was a little disconcerted by the volume of flies that she was doing her best to fan away. I also wasn't entirely sure how we would consume a chicken whilst wandering around a market!

Finally, I could resist no longer because one of the joys of travel is to sample the food that the locals eat instead of the homogeneous, bland fare that passes for 'western' or 'international' food which is so often served to tourists. 

So, I bought a stick of sticky rice, and it was as delicious as I hoped it would be. 

I should have known better - rice is notorious for its dangers. I went down with food poisoning and spent two miserable days in bed. Ironic, eh?

It hasn't put me off trying local food - or market snacks - I just have to remember to choose more wisely!