If you want to be where it is happening and catch up on the latest neighborhood news, Sanpakoi Market is the place to be! Sanpakoi is an open market – similar to a farmer’s market in the USA, but much more extensive – where you can get every kind of fresh vegetable, fruit, freshly butchered meat, tasty sweets, and other staples for your kitchen and pantry. Built on a concrete slab with defined rows for vendors booths and drains so the whole thing can be washed down at night, Sanpakoi market appears every morning at dawn and disappears as the day wanes and vendors sell all that they brought to market that day. The best products are available in the early hours and the best bargains late in the day.
I went shopping at Sanpakoi Market with Nutda [pronounced ‘Nootdah’] and her husband, Jack. Nutda, who has been shopping this way since she was a girl, knows her way around the market and knows the best vendors by name. Our first stop was the vegetable booth, where Nutda picked a huge selection of broccoli, cauliflower, morning glory, celery, and beans. Each customer selects the vegetables they want. Then, the vendor weighs each batch, wraps them, bags them, and totals the bill. There is even a young man, probably a member of the vendor’s family, who will carry it all to the car.
The next stop was the butcher’s stall – in a separate section of the market. Nutda selected some pork and had the butcher trim the fat and gristle before weighing it. Then, the butcher ground the meat to the specifications that Nutda gave her: ground once for soups and ground twice for hamburger. As the butcher was doing all this, Nutda shared with me that buying ground meat here in the market guaranteed that no extra water was added to the meat to add weight, as is sometimes done with packaged meats in the larger grocery stores. Also, nothing is added to make the meat look fresh. I was impressed with the hygiene practices that seem to be a normal part of the activity in the market. Changes in the law and regular inspections have greatly improved the quality of the produce and the cleanliness of the market.
On our way back to the car, we passed the vendors whose products don’t sell out every day because they sell clothing or household goods. While the selection here is not as extensive as you can find in the main market in the center of town, you can still pick up some needed items on the run. I guess these vendors are the “convenience stores” within the market itself. After we left the market, we stopped for lunch at Nutda’s favorite restaurant, Pi Daeng’s, where great kwey deow (a noodle soup) is the main attraction. There are foreigners who live in Thailand for years who never make it into markets like Sanpakoi, but this is where an outsider can really catch the pulse of life in this land and build relationships among the Thai.
Other photos of the day: