Eat, Cruise, and Love: Floating Market

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When talking about markets, what’s more fascinating than a floating market? Nothing.  Barring its literal meaning- hovering on a canal or a river, it is captivating to witness busy vendors offering wide selection of commodities and ecstatic shoppers/tourists on canoe. Who wouldn’t get astonished to see boats laden with dry wares, fresh produce, tropical fruits, and even food cooked right before your eyes.  I could imagine the usual Palengekra gossips travelling not on the ears of earth but literally on waters. You get to experience this on waterways and it transports you to a different world. I always fancy rowing the likes of Venice lagoon, but this delusion might not happen soon.

In the Philippines(from what I’ve heard), one of the least known floating markets is located in Sitangkai, Tawi-tawi, a one kilometer marine causeway. The people are called Badjao who live most of their lives in houseboats. As their way of life, they normally barter their seafood products to farm produce using their boats.  I haven’t been there and I am so keen to visit it someday. Although unrecognized, we can also see floating markets in Talisay, Batangas wherein vendors sell basic good like coffee, vegetables, fruits and rice to families settled within the lake. On a different note,  I would also include floating restaurants in this category.  Among the most popular ones are the lovely Loboc river cruise in Bohol, Lantaw floating restaurant in Cebu and our very own Manila Bay dinner cruise. These are to be included on a different post.

Bohol, Loboc river cruise.

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Meanwhile, within the region, we have Bangkok’s Damnoen Saduak Floating Market to explore. Based from our experience, it’s not too hard to arrange a tour. Along Khaosan road, hotels and tour agencies are just around every corners offering decent package for the Floating Market tour. Famous for being tourist-friendly, Damnoen Saduak  is a perfect place for “Selfies”- makiuso ba.  It only takes about 1.5 to 2 hours from the city proper by Shuttle or taxi. It might have lost its authenticity when it became one of the famous tourist spots, the floating market remains to be a reflection of what used to be the local’s way of life where water transport played an important role in their daily lives. This vibrant market is at its finest during the early hours of the morning before big crowds of tourists arrive and the heat of the day builds up. Usually, they kick off at dawn, and most vendors will pack-up back home by 10am.

The tour guide has already arranged for us a sturdy canoe good for 8 people. Aside from the shops along the river canal, you get to appreciate Thai Homes, tropical farm trees (mango and jack fruit) and gardens too.  If you’re not into artifacts and accessories, vendors row their boats loaded with foods such as boat noodles, Pad thai, traditional-style coffee, fruits (mostly seasonal-like Mango and pineapple) and Thai desserts I can’t even pronounce. Just keep in mind that prices here are a little bit high since it is tourist destination. Again, bring your haggling skills to work.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

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*above 2 photos  courtesy of flickr (lili5555)

Fruits on display (taken during our visit with palengkenitas- Apple, Pearl with a photo taken by Ms. Faisan)…

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fastfood on cruise…

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Other goods on offer…

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Thai Home and Garden…

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the 2 fascinated gurls…

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If you don’t want to take the beaten path, there are several other floating markets in Thailand. To name a few, floating market of Amphawa, Bang Phli, Bang Namphueng among others. The famous Vihn Long along Co Chien river is also a good option when in Vietnam.

Though, floating restaurants are built by necessity or for tourism, I am glad to know that floating markets have been restored and maintained in order to allow the new generations and tourists like myself to take us back what Palengke life they have had and to let us experience a genuine impression of a riverside shopping.

I still dream of roving  the waters of the fabulous and romantic Venice.

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A Market by the Beach: Sand Bar

I agree when someone says “Wherever you are, when there is a demand, supply can be an instant”. If both exist, it can be a win win equation. Be it on a desert,  in a plane, or in the stock market, palengke or to an unlikely place like  a tiny island –sand bar to be exact.

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My excitement was apparent when we were to visit the renowned Virgin Island Sandbar in Panglao, Bohol.  Wild thoughts were playing on me, from having a party under the sun, to a cocktail bar on a crystally-white sand that offers refreshing drinks.  I was ready to sip on the likes of sparkling margaritas or flavored vodkas under the warmth of the sun. But to my surprise (not really), We were greeted by a long white sand extended from mainland Virgin Island with lush green shrubs and trees (mostly bakawan and coconut). This long mound of sand can be better experienced during low tide as it can be submerged during high tide.  From afar, the island seemed to be a long white surf board that you can stand on on the middle of the sea.  On our way, we were amazed with the sight of corals, sea grass, star fish and nemos(tiny fishes). The island is spectacular and the experience was surreal.

The group were mostly delighted to see hawkers lined up along the sand bar. Everyone was so tired and hungry after Dolphin sight-seeing and Balicasag Reef diving, so it was like an oasis for us at  almost midday.  From a distance, you can smell the sweet-smelling fried banana q while you can’t just wait to quench your thirst with fresh coconut juice. I didn’t mind vendors harassing me to buy fresh sea urchins, I actually enjoyed them. Besides, Palengkera as I am, I got a good deal.  I was able to haggle the price from P20 each to 3 pieces for P20..  Oh goodness, I can eat hundreds of these if only my blood pressure permits. Other items on sale were carved shells, pearls, and other jewelry items made of shells.  There are indirect sale of services like taking photos of tourist with some silly illusions, from carrying a star fish, human on a shell or sitting on a large Buko and what have you.  Just always remember to bargain for anything you want to buy.

Vendors of Banana Q and Soft Drinks

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Sea Urchins could cost you an arm and leg for a serving of these ocean delight(known as Uni)  in any Japanese restaurant. Because of my obsession of these spiny creatures, their Goddess got mad and apparently took vengeance – I was hit big time by their pointy spines on my left foot while swimming in the shallow waters.  Darn you, urchins.  “Manong, can you crack-open that pointy thing and put some suka in it for me please”.

Live and colorful Sea Urchins

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Uni (Sea Urchin roe) with Vinegar

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Fresh Coconut juice for the thirsty visitors.

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Photo illusions

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Shell crafts and jewelries

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And finally, how can i forget these yummy treats?  A naive Scandinavian guy and a musclelly-Bangkero.

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True enough, the Sand Bar is captivating and has good things to offer!

“Idiay Tiendaan”: Laoag City Public Market

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Apart from the panoramic views, pristine beaches, century-old heritage churches, vast rice fields and rich-cultural traditions, there is something more fascinating the North can offer- their Public Market (Tiendaan in the vernacular).  It may sound a cliché from this blog, but the best way to experience a town is to visit their markets.  And what better way to start than where this Palengkera was born- Laoag City.

Laoag City is the Capital of Ilocos Norte.  It is the center of political, commercial and industrial affairs of Ilocos. The one and only international airport of the region is strategically located just few minutes from the heart of the city. From the country’s capital Metro Manila, it is reachable by plane around 45 minutes and 10-12 hours by land. Speaking of economy, Laoag is close to many ports that can bridge trading goods from neighboring regions and nearby countries like Taiwan.   To date, it has also allured some of the giant retailers to expand in the area, SM, Robinsons, Puregold to name a few. And by 2014, one of the fastest growing BPO(Expert Global Solutions) is set to open for the competitive workforce in the region. Sources of income includes agri-business, small-scale food processing factories, rice mills, jewelry-making, hollow blocks factories, and metal crafts. Recently, however, tourism has turn into a key financial driver of Laoag, contributing to the boost of commercial investments, housing and infrastructure growth. Cozy and has an ambiance of what they say a surviving relic and example of Spanish Colonial town.

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The economic growth in Laoag paves the way for more trading of goods and services especially in its public market.  History has it that the Laoag City Commercial Complex was a replacement of the old (blue-green- I think) building public market.  The 3-storey structure is installed with an escalator. The hallways are a bit cramped but the market is secured and even has CCTVs installed around the area (according to my mom who roves the market 3 times a week). The sanitation and tidiness in the wet area is comparable to some of the best public markets I featured in this blog.

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The open market is scheduled every morning on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.  In my early days as a child, I usually get excited every Sunday as my mother used to take me to this vibrant market of course with the condition to obey her rules.  During the open market (tienda), the market would pack vendors from different Barangays and even neighboring towns to sell or trade their goods. It always fascinates me to see seasonal exotic foods like fried crickets, beetles, frogs, mushrooms, freshwater shellfish and the likes.

At the Sunday Market. this photo credits to Blauearth.

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When it comes to fresh produce, Public Market is far better choice than the Supermarkets.

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It is also a place where one can come and buy some popular Ilocos fares including bagnet, dried fish and seafood, longganisa, tobacco leaves, and other traditional native rice cakes and snacks.

Witness heart attack food at the 2nd level of the complex (Bagnet, Longganisa, Silet etc).

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Though we love the smell of fat and calories, to balance our diet, we still turn to our staple food- Green Leafy Veggies and among other weeds. We occasionally source our protein needs from different crawling living things (for lack of a better term).

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Seasonal Mushrooms (August-September)

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Seaweeds (Pokpoklo, Aragan, God knows what those are)

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Local Squid (I suppose)

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And some carcinogens…

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Farmers tools…

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This was taken one late Saturday afternoon in preparation for the Sunday Market.  Vendors and Merchants met to trade goods/produce.  I was with my Mom and our driver to deliver the produce from our humble farm.

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Whenever I am in this hometown, I never fail to visit our Market, out of necessity or for amusement. If asked how I describe this place, with a child’s excitement and grin- A wonderland. Nothing much changed- has always been a fascinating sight with beehive of activities.