At the morning market in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, a woman sits beside the meat she is hoping to sell today. She’s waving a plastic bag on a stick over the meat to scare the flies away. It works for a moment of two, but the second she puts the stick down the flies swarm over the meat as it swelters in the oppressive heat of the day.
It’s a scene that’s repeated across markets all over South East Asia, and one that always gives me a shudder. Seeing meat presented in this raw and unapologetic way might almost be enough to turn me into a vegetarian, but just the smell of bacon wins me back to the carnivore camp every single time.
I really enjoy visiting community markets like these. They’re crowded, colorful, collisions of sites, sounds, and smells far removed from the near clinical shopping experiences we have in west. In many respects they seem more honest to me, closer to the source and truth of food rather than the well lit and carefully packaged offerings I’m more familiar with.