For my kind of travel, you need a mode of transport other than your feet – car, boat, bicycle, scooter or motorbike – for stamina alone is not going to get you there.
Our reasons for travelling in the said manner also change regularly, often from one trip to the next. If you have not figured out why you travel, I suggest you keep going and I guarantee you at some point, the purpose will be revealed.
Personally, I am prone to finding my answers in fresh food markets. Most recently, I had very insightful epiphanies in the Mercado de la Merced, Ben Thành, Klong Toey, Chatuchak and Kadewe markets. This means that I experienced intimate, personal transcendence in Mexico City, Ho Chí Minh City, Bangkok (twice) and Berlin
I often ask myself: why food markets? Why not temples or mosques? Football or poppy fields? Elephant sanctuaries or bat-filled caves? On the beach or in the sleazy beauty parlour?
Truth is, I do not know, and I’ll probably never will find the elusive answer. So I no longer commit any intellectual, emotional or spiritual energy to the question. I simply go to the market and wait for my epiphany. If it does not come, I know it is no making of my own, I was in the right place.
All markets are different and all markets are the same. I love the special energy that is generated around produce, ingredients and food. Everything is for sale and everyone is prepared to make a deal.
Do you want something? Don’t know what it is that you’re looking at? Want a taste? Well, just ask. Using a finger to point to the food or your mouth is also acceptable. And for the love of all things fresh: smile! It is free and across all cultures considered a really good investment.
I love the way the colours just jump at me at fresh markets whilst the smells are softly killing me (at the fresh market in Hellville, Nose Be Island, it nearly did, and in the harshest possible way).
Pretentious adjectives and guidebook sentences aside: I like fresh markets because the produce is (yes, you guessed it) fresh. It is also cheap and (just as important) it is served with a smile and a giggle.
Markets are the soul of a city. They are the domes of nourishment that feed the greater beast. Markets make an entire city laugh and cry and fart and burp. Healthy cities have healthy markets. They are socio-cultural temples and their teas and soups are the life-blood of the city. So I eat and drink all a market has to offer.
In one respect, travelling and eating are the same: If you do it because you have to, you are not having fun and you will not experience any intimate personal epiphanies of the substantive type.
As in life, to truly derive meaning from the markets of this world, you have to put a little effort in. Take a few risks.
Contemporary medicines are wonderful so fear not Montezuma’s revenge, or the dreaded Aztec two-step.
In case you fall victim to traveller’s dysentery, do not despair and go up in gloom, for it shows you a whole new side of the city; one you were sure to miss if not forced to explore on blistered foot and under duress.
I could fill the page of an entire book with recipes of dishes I consumed at markets.
But since I had some beef tongue, I thought I’d pop into the supermarket for some tortillas. There is no real recipe for this dish, it is sort of made up on the spot by vendors from ingredients that they have. The only rule is that there has to be tongue, for the rest you can pretty much add what you like.
I have not had Tacos de Lengua in a long while and there is a belief in Mexico that any unless a taqueria offers Tacos de Lengua, it is not a real taqueria.
Now that is a real epiphany if I’d ever heard one. – RECIPE HERE for Tacos de Lengua