Markets are always on top of my to do list when I travel. They can be dirty, smelly and sometimes you have to wake up early to visit one. Why all the hassle? Simply because sometimes this is an occasion to get a taste of local life. You can interact with people, you get a taste of the local products, you hear the language or dialect and most of all it is a good opportunity to take photos of local people busy living their every day life.
Mind your language
I love languages and one of the aspects that fascinate me the most when travel is communication. Prior to visiting a new country I try to learn a few words in the local language as this is one of the instances where communicating with locals is extremely useful. Knowing French can help you go a long way in Africa, while Spanish and Portuguese are essential for Central and South America. Knowing the language is not only essential for markets, and although there are some places you can get along with English, I believe that when you speak local you will be able to avoid the touristic areas and get a better taste of the real life in that country.
Dazzle your tastebuds
Food is usually the highlight of markets. Apart from handicrafts and local products you usually see products that are grown in the area, be it vegetables and fruit to cheeses or cold meats. They are usually too tempting not to try. I usually try small portions of a variety of products. My favourite food market for this is Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid. Apart from being delicious the food is also very well presented. You can find anything you can imagine here.
Don’t go if you don’t like awkward smells
Markets are usually very smelly and if your nose is very sensitive or you don’t like strange smells, well you should avoid them. They can be crowded and it gets hot if they are open markets (especially in South east Asia) and there will surely be smells you won’t like! Markets in Africa are also usually full of insects around the meats and aren’t the most hygienic I have seen. If you are in Asia, most probably you will be sharing the street with rats and cockroaches. Sometimes markets are not the ideal for the faint-hearted.
Avoid your telephoto lens
Markets are a good opportunity for photography, both of the products and also of the people. However being discrete is the least you can do. I like my photos of people to be natural and candid, so I prefer to take photos of someone that is not looking at the camera and is busy doing something else. Taking a smaller lens will surely help with that.
Buy a souvenir
I am not the kind of person who buys the random mug or magnet to take back home. I actually do research on local products and try to find something which is actually useful. My home is full of souvenirs from around the world and most of them have been bought in markets. I bought paintings from Montmartre in Paris for my living room, spices from Malaysia, lavender sachets for the bathroom from Provence etc. The above photos shows a cute snowman bought at Vipiteno Christmas Market. Stay tuned for a future post on the complete list of souvenirs I currently have at home from around the world.