Peregrine picks: 7 of Asia's best markets

Image courtesy of Tartatin2009, Flickr

There’s likely no finer place to really get to know the culture of a destination than a market. And when it comes to markets, Asia has some of the best in the world (followed closely by South and Central America!)

Upon entering almost any market, you’re thrown into the hubbub and colour of daily life of your destination. Your senses are assaulted, bombarded even, by sights, sounds and smells - the likes of which you may never have experienced before. Everywhere you look it’s a cacophonic symphony of vendors vending and customers haggling – and you’re caught in the middle of it all, trying to find yourself something unique to take home.

It can all be a bit overwhelming, but that’s part of the fun. That’s why we travel. So whether it’s food, crafts, bric-a-brac, tacky souvenirs or something entirely different you’re after, here are some of Asia’s best markets.

1. Ubud art market, Ubud, Bali
Yes, it’s a little touristy, but Ubud’s art market is home to such an incredible selection of local handicrafts, artwork and fashion, that it’s still definitely worth a visit (there’s also some of the country’s best Ibu Oka [suckling pig] to try). Balinese vendors are renowned for pitching their prices high, so make sure you bring along your best haggling hat. Almost all the product at the market is brought in from surrounding villages, so any money you spend will be going directly back into the local community.

2. Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok, Thailand
One of Thailand’s biggest markets, the Chatuchak Weekend market is home to over 15,000 vendors. This place is a real maze of marketstalls, so be sure to stick close to your travel buddies to avoid getting lost. In fact, it’s definitely a good idea to pick a spot where you’ll meet up if you do happen to lose each other. Make sure you spend at least a few hours wondering around before you decide to buy anything though, otherwise you could well end up doubling your luggage allowance with goodies.

3. Lantern market, Hoi An, Vietnam
With a much more relaxed vibe, Hoi An’s night market is an unmissable event for the more romantically-inclined. With colourful lanterns lighting up the night, there’s perhaps no better place for an evening stroll. Whether you’re on your own, with a travelling group or a significant other, you’re sure to be captiviated by the magic of the lantern market. Grab a bowl of pho and enjoy the atmosphere.

4. Luang Prabang street market, Luang Prabang, Laos
A real Laotian experience, a visit to the Luang Prabang night market is a sure-fire way to experience the real Laos. Populated by the local Hmong people and surrounded by the towns wats and temples, this is the perfect spot to pick up some quality Hmong clothing. Strike up a conversation with local traders, take in some of the incredible jewellery on offer, duck into the alleys and lanes off the main street for some local food and enjoy the laid-back feel of one of our favourite markets in all of Southeast Asia.

5. Kala Pola, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Colombo’s Kala Pola is the place to pick up art by local artists. It takes place annually and draws inspiration from European art markets such as those seen in Paris and Berlin. It features the work of around 250 local artists and the market is essential in helping build the careers of the talented local creatives – some of whom experience their ‘big break’ by exhibiting their work here. The DIY nature of it means that artists who may not have the opportunity to display their work in galleries and exhibitions have the chance to gain exposure to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of enthusiastic art-lovers.

6. Bogyoke Aung San Market, Rangoon, Burma
Boasting over 2000 stalls, Rangoon’s 70-year-old market is a must-visit for any market-lovers who happen to be passing through. It’s home to large swathes of local handicrafts and is frequented by lots of smiling locals, offering a fantastically immersive insight into everyday Burmese life.

7. Srinagar Floating Market, Jammu and Kashmir, India

Early risers would do well to pay a visit to the Srinagar floating market, which takes place between 5-7am on Dal Lake and plays host to scores of vendors buying, selling and trading fresh vegetables. Even if you’re not out to score some fresh veg, the market offers an experience in itself. Surrounded by immaculate scenery (the lake is speckled with lotus flowers), there’ll be plenty of opportunities to take some incredible photographs. A cultural experience to die for.

Have these markets got you craving a trip to Asia? Book a spot on one of our tours in Asia - which currently have 10% off - and see how many you can visit in one go.

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