Market Fresh

November 16, 2012: Today was market day! In reality, every day is market day here but today I actually went.

I met my new friend Sachi at Starbucks this morning at 8 and we hopped a yellow jeepney to the Olongapo Market. Grande chai tea latte = 145 pesos ($3.50). Jeepney ride = 8 pesos (20 cents).

I love markets. Markets are always one of my favourite places to visit in any city. Grocery stores too. I guess I just love food! It’s interesting to see what food people eat in different parts of the world. What’s different and what’s the same. I remember being surprised a few years ago to find a Canadian apple for sale in the big market in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

The colours, the sights and the smells really tell you a lot about a place. I love it when the vendors take pride in displaying their produce. When there isn’t a language barrier, I can ask where stuff comes from and how fresh it really is.

The Olongapo Market had it all. Household items. Toys. Christmas decorations. Clothes and shoes. Fresh meat and fish. (Some still alive. The proverbial fish out of water.) Fresh vegetables and fruit. And very few souveneirs. This is the real deal.

We wandered around and checked out the different areas first. At one vegetable stall, where the ladies spoke very little English, Sachi and I tried to figure out what some of the vegetables were with no luck. Next we stopped for a snack of fried bananas (14 pesos) and little ham and cheese pockets (two for 14 pesos) to give us energy for shopping.

I decided I needed a bag if I wanted to buy anything. I can’t believe I went to a market without a bag!!! So I settled on a gaudy pink paisley print with shoulder straps and a zip closure for 100 pesos.

Now it was time to get busy. But where to go? With so many vendors to choose from, how do you pick just one? We zeroed in on the stalls that stood out in the first go around.

In the end, I came away with hot red chilis, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, eggplant, okra and daikon. All for less than 100 pesos. I could have bought more, but my bag was full. The freshest veggies I’ve seen here in Olongapo. Can’t wait to try them!

I decided not to buy any fish or meat today. Mostly because I wasn’t sure how long it would be before I’d get back to the boat. Besides, what do I know about cooking a whole fish (head on, guts in)? Where I come from, fish comes pre-cleaned. I’ll leave that for next time. Or maybe just stick to the big jumbo prawns or little squid.

Before we left, Sachi picked up some shelves for her room. And then found the same ones for less at the next two stalls down the aisle. But why quibble over 50 cents. It’s all part of the experience.

Next trip should be earlier in the morning when the fish is even fresher.