As I read through my various “So you’ve decided to move to Singapore, silly foreigner” books, I learned that an alternative to the very expensive Cold Market grocery chain are the local “wet markets.” While we were still living in our serviced apartment, I asked B to take me to a wet market, and she took us to Tekka Wet Market in Little India. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as back home there are farmer’s markets (with fruits and vegetables) but nothing that also had meat, seafood, clothing, and random goods. My closest reference point was Reading Market in Philadelphia.
We got off the bus in front of a large cement building, and looked for the stroller ramp. After a few minutes of searching, we found it, and upon reaching the top I was surprised to see rows of eating stalls instead of fruit or veggies. The wet market isn’t air conditioned, so the heat and humidity are pressing in on you, and as your eyes are trying to process the assault of colors, your nose is hit with a wall of smells; fish, meat, people milling about in a hot environment. It’s overwhelming, especially your first time…but even knowing what to expect, when I’ve been back it still takes a few moments to adjust.
Upstairs is a confusing maze of shop stalls, mostly selling clothing. You can find just about any style of Indian clothing and just about any price point upstairs.
None of the clothing (or very little) had prices written on it. Which of course means it’s time to haggle. While I haven’t needed to buy anything here yet (no weddings and E and I both have a reasonable wardrobes in terms of Indian stuff right now), I am confident in my ability to do so. After all, I learned how to haggle at the feet of the mistress; my mother in law. When they were visiting, we considered getting E an outfit (but they were all scratchy, the wrong colors or a bit overdone) and she had the sellers practically paying her to consider the outfits!
There are also stalls of western clothing, but it seems like they picked up remainders of things stores were clearancing out and then are trying to resell at a higher price. There’s a strange range of sizes and styles mish-mashed all together. There are some tailors, and several shoe stalls. I can’t be sure I’ve seen all of the stalls, as like I said, it is a confusing layout and after a while, you can’t be sure if you’ve seen it before or if it all just looks the same and it’s a new set of stalls. As you can see in the pictures, there’s so much color and sparkle coming at you from every angle, and then you have overly solicitous stall owners trying to coerce you to their stall rather than see the cheap wares in the stall next door that you’re considering.
Wandering the second floor affords an interesting view of the first.
These are stalls that sell meat earlier in the day. Many of the meat stalls open early and close very early as well, which makes sense if they don’t have a refrigeration system.
However, there are plenty of stalls that do have cooling systems and sell meat/seafood all day. Seeing this woman shucking oysters (?), and the blood made me more than a little queasy. I generally am one of those carnivores who prefers to get their meat in a nice package from the butcher without seeing buckets of blood…call me crazy. I also felt fairly dubious about buying meat that had been laying out in that kind of heat and humidity, cooling system beneath it or not. It’s a very different environment from a grocery store or butcher as the wet market is not an enclosed space. Flies buzz about you, although not in giant clouds…just random flies here and there.
The fruit stalls and veggie stalls don’t give me any sort of pause though. The fruit looks beautiful and the prices are to die for. While they were in season, I popped into Tekka every so often for the Indian mangoes Ella and Ravi are nuts for.
However, it’s my understanding that the wet markets often reflect the community they’re in. Obviously, where Tekka is in Little India, there’s a heavy Indian influence. I haven’t made it to another wet market, but it would be interesting to see how they compare and how they differ.
Locals–what’s your favorite wet market?