One of my favorite parts of travel is how a place (and the people in that place) can surprise you, especially if you can find a way to get beneath the surface. Kota Kinabalu by all accounts, isn’t a very exciting city, but when Steph & I plunged into the fragrant, smokey labyrinth of the Filipino market we walked into another part of a very different town. Wandering the sun-dappled aisles of the local market the next day was a similar experience, one that felt very removed from the few tourist zones of the city. These markets weren’t especially large or flashy, but they were filled with local people simply living their lives before us and it was a beautiful thing to behold. We felt a very real sense of honor as we joked with the locals and exchanged smiles with the vendors, honor that we had so been so easily accepted into this weekly ritual with welcoming smiles and good-natured curiosity. I think we’ve said it before, and it remains true: the people are the places. And if you ever want to see the heart of an Asian city, find its local market and jump in with both feet. The sights, the sounds, the smells and the smiles… they’ll combine to give you an experience you won’t soon forget.
Although I remembered having a great time at the markets we visited in KK, I had forgotten just how nice they really were until I went back and looked through my photos recently. It was a delight to rediscover them and rather than keep them to myself, I decided to put them together into a photo essay documenting the highlights of our time at the markets. Join me, won’t you?
Kota Kinabalu is a harbor town, and the Filipino market is the embodiment of that. It is within spitting distance of the ocean and overflows with fresh seafood.
A few hours before dark and the market is already beginning to get busy. People start their cooking fires and wait for customers.
Filipinos love food. Naturally, there is an abundance of it everywhere we look.
Vendors prepare food and practice smiles as they wait for the late night crowds to surge in.
So many fish. So little time.
Dinner is “choose your own adventure” production as hungry diners select from the huge displays in front of every stall.
A haze of smoke fills the air, swirling in eddies around hungry diners, making eyes and mouths water in anticipation of the feast to come.
Fruit vendors wait for the after-dinner crowd, trying to tempt us with their wares as we waddle home with full stomachs.
The Penampang market is a riot of color and sound. Friendly and curious people are found down every row and behind every table.
Every stall selling goods of all sort is manned by an equally interesting shopkeeper. Sometimes it is hard to tell which is the greater attraction.
The market is wildly diverse, offering everything under the sun, from jewellery to fresh fish to giant gongs.
But for me, the people are always the most interesting part. They are what make markets truly come alive.
Penampang’s market was beautiful and made for a great way to interact with local people. A real slice of Malaysian life and a feast for the senses. As a traveler and a photographer, it just doesn’t get better than this.
Tell us: Where’s your favorite market? What did you love about it?