Rangoon’s Roadside Markets

Spices in Rangoon Market Sunlight shifts over gold, silver and sapphires in the ordered, sheltered aisles of the covered Bogyoke Market in Yangon/Rangoon. Fabric folds and hand carved fans scent the air with jasmine, bringing a sense of quiet and relative wealth. But that’s not the market I’m going to show you today in Rangoon. I’m going to show you the roadside, no, never mind the side, the road-on-the-very-surface-and-taking-up-every-inch-of-space-imaginable market that you can find just a few streets away.

The fresh food market.

Vegetable platter Rangoon Market

You can still smell the jasmine, as women drape garlands around their wrists to sell to shopkeepers, housewives and anyone passing by to bring a sense of perfume to an otherwise ordinary day. But you can also smell sizzling chicken, the sweat of fish and every now and then the unmistakeable hint of drain.

Not a movement is wasted, not a moment is lost as vendors trade eggs, cheese, innards and creamy thanaka paste that the women and men here use on their cheeks as sunscreen.

Garlands bring perfume to an otherwise ordinary day

There are sacks of rice, of course, alongside plastic bowls and flat bamboo baskets whose carrots, tomatoes and green-stemmed vegetables drape their tendrils through the sunshine and lollop lazily onto the ground.

Lightbulbs jab out from jerry cans and fish slither into heaps across banana leaves on the floor.

A woman wearing thanaka paste in Burma

Wearing thanaka paste

There are things I know not what they are and things that somehow remind me of home. A banana is still a banana when all is said and done, and the onions here manage to look much the same as well.

onions in the sunlight

Yet stained hands grind turmeric and robed monks stride on past, newspaper and mobile phone in one hand, bag of beansprouts in the other. The men sport tattoos and T-shirts blazing Guns ‘n’Roses while their legs wear the traditional dress of Burma/Myanmar, the cotton wraparound longyi. (Read a beautiful story about buying one as a foreigner over here on Legal Nomads.)

Rangoon Market

Guns ‘n’ Roses & The Longyi

The essence of this market matches that of those the world over: people going about their business in the search for something to eat. Supermarket aisle or supercrowded aisle, the end result is no different. Trading and wading through our chores, we are all just doing our best to find nourishment and, ultimately, to stay alive. It’s only when I stop and watch someone else, and that only seems to occur to me when I’m in some far-flung land, that I realise simply how beautiful those actions can be.

Here’s to fresh food markets. And here’s to staying alive.

Women in Rangoon market

Yellow slabs in Rangoon market

Turmeric in Rangoon Market

White slabs in Rangoon market

Garlands in Rangoon

Eggs in Rangoon Market

New Dragonroute The #DragonRoute

This post forms part of the #DragonRoute, a project between myself and Cathay Pacific that took in Vietnam, Burma/Myanmar and southeast China. Read all about it over here. Buy a flight to Hong Kong and then on to Rangoon/Yangon over here with Cathay Pacific!

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15 Responses to Rangoon’s Roadside Markets

  1. Thomas Dembie May 31, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    Love the details that you can see in the photos! Visiting markets is always a highlight for me, and I love this market. I was probably sporting a Billabong t-shirt and my longyi at the time. Trying to fit in!

    • Abi King June 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      Did your longyi manage to stay up?! I chickened out after an embarrassing experience with a kanga in Tanzania (a similar, cloth wrap arrangement that requires more skill than I could muster to keep it in place!)

  2. Marisol@TravelingSolemates June 2, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Hi Abi, I love local markets. Your lovely photos captured a lot of local color and flavors. I haven’t been to Myanmar. I’d love to visit this market when I get there.

    • Abi King June 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

      Thank you – I hope you get to enjoy it one day

  3. Sophie June 3, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    Once you take the time to stop and watch, whether in foreign lands or at home, the everyday is fascinating.

  4. Annie Shustrin (@travelshus) June 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    BEAUTIFUL photos and sentiments. I hope to go here someday…

    • Abi King June 5, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

      Thank you! I hope you do as well…

  5. Abby June 8, 2013 at 3:32 am #

    I never tire of colorful, exciting markets, especially when photographed by professionals like you!

    • Abi King June 14, 2013 at 1:28 am #

      Thank you – me neither! Such refreshing, beautiful places…

  6. Renan Ferrer June 23, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Beautiful photos! I did not think very healthy meat cutting unhygienic street. Congratulations for the photos, they seem paintings.
    Great post.
    Thanks for sharing with us!
    Renan Ferrer

  7. Jodi June 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Awesome Photography from a country I know so little of! Thanks for the wonderful arm chair travel experience :)

    • Abi King June 29, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

      You’re very welcome – and there’s plenty more to come. It’s such a fascinating country…

  8. Amanda July 23, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    I love your photos, so inspiring! The colours are so vibrant that I can almost smell and taste the market. Markets are one of my favourite places to visit when travelling, I think they are one of the few places where travellers and locals can really interact on an even level – both as people who are looking for something to eat.

    • Abi King July 30, 2013 at 9:16 am #

      Well, yes. Everyone has to eat!

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