Asia, Culture, Travel

Do You Smell That?

What’s that call in the jungle? Is it a monkey? Is it a bird? A dying water buffalo? Oh wait, that’s just me, blowing my nose as we trek through the waterfalls of Asia. I can’t tell if it is allergies or the fact that I switched from 30 degrees in Seoul to 95 degrees here, but something has put my sinuses in an uproar. Literally, I’ve been blowing my nose like every thirty seconds. Annoying, I know.

In between the nose blowing

In between the nose blowing

Being sick sucks, but there are a few, very select, times that congestion is a welcome friend. Working in a chicken house on a hot Arkansas day would be an example. Coincidentally, a market tour in Southeast Asia is another great example. Which is what we did today. Lucky me!

Markets are separated into two types of categories here. The wet market will be your fish, meats, etc. Basically anything you need to throw a bucket of water on in the heat of the day to keep the flies off. (Did I mention it’s been nearly 100 degrees here?) It’s called wet because as you walk through it, you get to slop through the juice that has run off these delectable items.

The dry market is the dry goods, rice and such. This will also sometimes include the fruits and vegetables and the live animals or bugs they’ve got for sale.

Crickets anyone?

Crickets anyone?

The thing about markets is you never really know what you’re gonna see (or smell) Each little booth is a new adventure. Sometimes people will walk by carrying something and you’ll think to yourself, I bet that smells bad. Then, a couple seconds later, the wave hits you and you think: yep, that’s what I thought.

This smells exactly like it looks

This smells exactly like it looks

Cultures typically adapt to eating what’s readily available around them. In Arkansas, we raise cows and chickens, so we eat dairy and beef and poultry. In Laos, they have elephants and lizards, so they eat “elephant parasites” (a green version of a horsefly is what they look like to me) and lizards. These guys were alive, with their tails tied together and were being sold for around $1.50. A perfect grilled lunch!

Take your pick!

Take your pick!

Elephant flies

Elephant flies

Also on the menu:

Ant eggs and termites

Ant eggs and termites

For the wet market, as I said earlier, the smells were dulled for me thanks to my congestion, but even so I knew it wasn’t pleasant. Venturing in mid afternoon is the worst, when the smells and heat have reached their peak for the day. We were there mid morning, so it was not as bad as it could’ve been. There was fermenting fish everywhere, in buckets, hanging up. There is almost a mist in the air of rotting meat. Jake’s comment was : I’ve been to a lot of markets, but this is by far the worst smell. A few of the highlights from the wet tour included:

Some type of small birds, claws and all

Some type of small birds, claws and all

Live toads with their legs tied together

Live toads with their legs tied together

After our market adventure, I was tired and thirsty. Don’t worry though, I got a good drink at the end of it all.

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