“TELL ME WHAT YOU EAT,
AND I’LL TELL YOU WHAT YOU ARE.”
–Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Wat Chai market in Pattaya, Thailand
I first met Chris through his blog “SleepEatGolf.” The blog title is fun, and I find it intriguing he travels so often throughout the world, and has a special affinity for many of the countries he talks about in his blog.
In this particular article, he walks us through one of Thailand’s wet markets (Wat Chai Market, in Pattaya, Thailand). He immerses himself in the culture, takes videos showing the nuances of the country of Thailand, and his sincere attitude make him a great Internet friend and writer. (Note: Unfortunately, he recently had an injury that prevents him from some of the “golf” activities, but if you have any golf questions, please send them his way~He virtually grew up on the golf course!)
Please enjoy this post, watch the video, and send a “hello” to Chris from your neck of the woods!
All the best, Deb
SLEEP, EAT & GOLF HABERSKI STYLE
TODAY’S FEATURE: THAILAND
By Author Chris Haberski
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin became well-known to non-foodies with the popularity of the Japanese import TV show Iron Chef. The above quote is featured in the opening credits and I think it’s a very good representation of the role food choices play in a country’s culture.
In my travels and living in Southeast Asia over the past seven years I find this quote to be an extremely accurate indicator that gives tremendous insight into the people of a country.
Recently, I flew into Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, and then went to Level 1, Gate 8 to catch a bus to visit Pattaya, Thailand. It was an interesting trip, and one of my friends operates a stall in one of the wet markets there, so I thought it would be an interesting topic to write about.
Fresh chicken, seafood and meat stands
Wat Chai market, Pattaya, Thailand
It’s one thing to visit a country and sample some of the local food and cuisines, but as a tourist you’re likely seeing only a small piece of the bigger picture. You’re also probably eating at restaurants and cafes that cater to the tourists tastes, not what the locals would typically eat.
One thing that I always like to do when visiting places like the Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan or Thailand is to seek out and visit the local wet market. If you really want to know the people of these lands, visiting where they get their food source should be on your list of places to visit along with all the other tourist spots.
Wet Markets of Southeast Asia
A wet market in Southeast Asia is unlike anything any Westerner has ever seen before. Most people who are used to shopping in supermarkets for their foods would be shocked and awestruck to see the food butchering, preparation and storage standards that would cause Western health department workers to write endless reports of violations for food safety.
Wet markets typically start early in the morning and those who want the freshest and best choices arrive as early as 3a.m. Open air stalls are lined up next to each other and there is little to no refrigeration. Fish and seafood are on ice, but chicken, pork, beef and other meats are typically simply hung on hooks or put on unrefrigerated display.
To give you a better feel for shopping a wet market, here’s a video of “live” footage from Wat Chai Market in PattayaThailand:
The floors of a wet market raw meat area are typically awash with bloody water and runoff from the stalls and drains are mostly uncovered. While most Westerners would consider this very unhygienic and a breeding ground for food-borne pathogens, I’ve never become sick from food from these markets.
Fresh produce, Wet Market, Thailand
Usually areas are quarantined with one section being all pork, another all seafood and another all chicken, but this is not always the case and due to the nature of the setup at some point there’s likely to be a vegetable stand very near a chicken vendor who is next to a pork vendor.
Another sight to behold is the odd and strange things you can buy. Frogs, dried fish, squids of various sizes, eels, turtles and an entire pig’s head were just a few of the strange items I came across on a stroll through the meats section of Wat Chai market in Pattaya, Thailand:
Meat section, Wat Chai market, Pattaya, Thailand
The produce section had whole sugar cane, banana hearts, large yellow mangoes, various seaweeds, kelp, papayas and other unknown herbs and greens along with multi-colored glutinous rice sweets and snacks. The fruit and vegetable areas are colorful displays of familiar and unfamiliar produce. You often see fruits like durians, mangosteens, jackfruits and rambutans that are native only to this part of the world. The produce is fresh, seasonal and mostly local as trucking items from hundreds of miles away is unheard of and not cost effective.
Typical wet market, Thailand
Fresh seafood, Thailand
The hustle and bustle is a site to behold at a wet market. Some, like the one I visited in Thailand, have prices per kilogram clearly listed in the local currency while others require slick bartering skills with the vendor to come to an agreed-upon price. Items are weighed on non-digital scales and I’ve even seen counterbalance scales in use. Your food choices are placed in a plastic bag, you pay and you’re off to the next vendor.
Wet market, Thailand
Workers in the market often have several jobs at their respective stalls. Each stall is individually owned and operated and sometimes the person butchering your meat is also taking your money and giving you change. Latex rubber gloves are virtually unheard of and most wet markets also have a nearby area of cooked foods, other local delicacies, general house supplies, trinkets, clothes and even pirated DVDs and CDs (see video, above).
The flower areas are brilliant colorful displays of exotic floral arrangements:
Visiting a wet market should be a top tourist attraction for you when you travel to Asia.
While most tourists visit and congregate in night markets, taking an early morning walk through the wet market will give you an entirely new perspective and feel for the country you are visiting.
It’s a rewarding, adventurous, often skipped experience that will give you a deeper bond and understanding of the people and land you are visiting.
Have a nice day, Chris
CEO and Founder of SleepEatGolf
Hi there! Thanks for stopping by. My name is Chris, and I’m the CEO and Founder of SleepEatGolf. I’m a self-described world traveler, foodie and golf enthusiast, and I combine all three in my blog. CLICK HERE for my full bio.
I’m from the United States, but college provided me with my first opportunity to travel overseas.
I was hooked!
One year, I took a trip to Asia to visit a cousin who’d moved to this region. After spending two weeks there, I was already planning my next trip!
I found Asia exciting and very affordable. Many hotel and food prices are much lower there than the United States. So, I’m currently based in the Philippines and travel every 59 days for Visa requirements.
For the past five years I’ve traveled from the Philippines to a new Asian country several times a year!
This offers me an interesting life view–new hotels, different food, fascinating people–but most of all, wonderful adventures.
Please stop by my site anytime, and offer thoughts, comments and suggestions.
I’d love to hear from you!
In the meantime, I’m packing my bags for my next trip…to sleep, eat and golf!
All the best, Chris