Southeast Asia’s morning markets are much more interesting than the night markets. The night markets are mainly for tourists. Sure, you can find cheap t-shirts, knock-off backpacks, colorful paintings, and pretty lights. But you haven’t really come all this way for those, have you?
It’s at the morning markets that locals do their shopping. And it’s there that you get a real flavor of the local culture. Unless you’re in a major city, supermarkets are few and far between through much of the region. Which is a good thing. Markets are much, much better.
The morning market in Luang Prabang, lining a couple of quiet streets near the Royal Palace, starts early and is over by mid-morning. It sets up along a couple of side streets next to one of the city’s many Wats. A butcher and some of the more touristy stalls have actual tables for their wares. But most of the vendors, selling anything from rice, to fresh vegetables, to steamed fish, frogs, and anything else that might be the day’s catch, just set up on the ground. It’s an elegant solution–cheap, simple, and effective.
If you’re heading up to the Plain of Jars, the morning market in Phonsavan is well worth a visit.
Vendors stream in before dawn by foot. Others come from across the Mekong by riverboat, hauling their wares up the steep, muddy riverbank. By mid- to late-morning, they’re gone again until tomorrow.
If you’re after fresh fruit and vegetables, Mekong river fish, seaweed sheets, rice and grains, or fish wrapped in banana leaf ready to throw on the steamer, this is the place. And if you happen to have a craving for barbecued bamboo rat, you’re in luck!
Photos of Luang Prabang’s Morning Market
What to Know Before You Go
- Go early.
- It’s not primarily catering to tourists. There are a handful of stalls with souvenirs like woven bags, but it’s mostly a food market.
- There’s no refrigeration for meat and fish. If you’re planning to buy anything perishable, know what you’re buying.
- No, the vendors do not take credit cards–just cash.