Bustling and busy
At first glance downtown Hpa-an can seem quite sedate, but wander down to the market in the morning and things get seriously bustling.
Hpa-an’s morning market was re-located to a purpose-built, though still outdoor area in 2015. While it’s undoubtedly cleaner and more convenient for vendors and shoppers, it isn’t quite as photogenic as it used to be. Some footpath stalls have kept their spots in the lanes around the admittedly decrepit and dingy old covered market, but most have been moved across Thida Street to a couple of spacious tin-roofed hangars. Even though this is still central, the rear of the market looks on to farmland plus karst formations form a pretty background.
The town’s population and market residents are a mixed bunch: ethnic Chinese, Tamils, Bengalis, Bamar and of course Karen farmers from the surrounding villages and fishing families from the banks of the nearby Than Lwin, or Salween, all converge here.
As you’d expect, items on sale cover every department, including fresh farm and river harvests, clothing and dry goods from nearby Thailand, Chinese household and electrical goods and Karen-style traditional medicine. The market is also a good spot to pick up some traditional Karen fabrics and prices are going to be lower than in the various dedicated souvenir shops you’ll see around town.
Plenty of temptingly prepared food lies on display and you’ll find myriad snacks and bites cooked up in front of you by footpath vendors. Not only is this a wonderful place to explore, but you can do it with a tasty snack in your hand. Or just take a perch in one of the neighbourhood tea shops, watch the world go by and chat with the locals.
We’d quite happily spend a few hours exploring the nooks and crannies around the market and its surrounds, tasting the snacks and meeting the super-friendly locals in the tea shops. The market is open daily from early morning to early afternoon.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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