Market Mishmash in Vientiane
Local markets are absolutely an important part of the Lao experience. Although the authentic street markets are slowly disappearing and being replaced by modern supermarkets and shopping malls, they remain a pillar of the Southeast Asian culture. Inside these traditional markets, there is a hub of community activity where market vendors spend their days in close proximity to each other. In general, travelers will find that the more rural the market, the more unusual the goods on offer.
One of Vientiane’s biggest and most famous markets is Talat Sao, also known as the Morning Market, although it is actually open all day. The market consists of two parts, each of which shows an interesting mix of old and new Vientiane: the contemporary shopping mall versus the cavernous feeling of the open-air market. The shopping mall, consisting of five floors, is full of cheap, practical necessities, clothes and souvenirs. It does not really look like the pride of a capital city, although it is the only air-conditioned shopping mall in Laos. More interesting for visitors’ exploration, however, is the traditional open-air market. The mishmash of products in these vibrant and surprisingly clean surroundings is the perfect place to spend some time when visiting Vientiane.
Heading to the Chinese market in Vientiane, we find a completely different world. This market in the city center is adjacent to a modern compound with American-style single-family homes built for the ethnic Chinese upper class. Customers at this shopping mall can find an assortment of Chinese-branded, relatively low quality products for sale.
There is a large and contrasting variety and style in Lao markets depending on the vendors and customers. However, there is always one thing they all have in common: market vendors and shopkeepers love the ‘stack it high, sell it cheap’ philosophy, which is always much more fun than the fixed price method.
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Photo by HeyltsWilliam