So that happened.
If you check tripadvisor for Klongtoey Market, or read any of the guidebooks, this place gets really good reviews. However, if you actually read the reviews – instead of just looking to see how many little colored circles it gets – you’ll actually get a little bit of an idea of what you’re in for. The good: this is as authentic as it gets. The bad: this is as authentic as it gets.
When I was asked once about the things, or aspects of Bangkok that I thought were really different and a little hard to adjust to, one of the things I said was “the smells.” Hands down, it has been one part of life here that I’ve had to work hard to get used to. So Bangkok has some smells, but Klongtoey has the mother of all smells. Let me explain.
This is the place where the locals shop. It’s where some of the street vendors buy their food. It’s the real deal. They have everything from furniture, to hair accessories, to fresh (as in still alive) fish, to insects that I got close enough to to tell they were insects, and that was close enough. There were pig heads. Or faces, I should say. There was raw meat everywhere, laying out in the open with flies buzzing around and landing on it. There were live frogs, chickens in cages, ducks in cages. The smells in that aisle came from what I can only imagine was chicken and duck shit. At one point, one of the meat vendors took his tray of raw chicken, tipped it at an angle, and drained the excess chicken juice out into the middle of the walkway. It was then that I realized that 1) I was out of my league, and 2) my number one suggestion for any farang (that’s Thai for foreigner) thinking about attending the market, would be to definitely wear closed-toe shoes. I should have realized something was up when I saw a lot of vendors with rubber boots on. (I washed my feet when we got home.)
But this was real Thailand. This is how the locals live and shop. It was not censored, and it was something to respect. They don’t care about flies. They don’t look twice at the rat that just ran past. And it’s all relative really, isn’t it? In the U.S., we are pampered. We don’t have to see any of the messy nastiness that goes into butchering chickens or pigs, or in many cases, the inhumane treatment that comes before their premature deaths. Everything comes neatly packaged, perfectly stacked in bins in our heavily air-conditioned supermarkets. We have plastic bags to put our meats in, and anti-bacterial wipes hanging above the counters, just in case you think a little raw meat juice got on the outside of the package and you want to sanitize.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love those supermarkets. But I also think it’s a good thing to get a reality check every once awhile, and to get a stark reminder about what really goes into making the products we consume, and where it all comes from. Sometimes it just ain’t pretty.