Early mornings in Luang Prabang are quiet, unhurried affairs. The highlands surrounding the town bless the day with a delightful long-sleeved respite from the heat, and it’s the perfect time for a jog and a meandering, cool-down walk.
Which was precisely what I was doing when I discovered the Morning Market.
Luang Prabang has two street markets: a famous Night Market, and the not-so-famous Morning Market. Every foreign visitor to LP makes at least one trip to the Night Market. In the cool of the early evening, a long section of the main street is closed to traffic, and local vendors set up tents selling handicrafts, food, clothing and an incredible array of things that tourists need – or think they need. It’s festive, entertaining, and mutually beneficial for all.
But what most foreign visitors don’t seem to discover is the 99% tourist-free Morning Market. Squeezed into a long, narrow alley next to a – Wat else? – Buddhist Temple, the morning market is an assault on the senses.
The crowd, noise, smells, and smoke wafting around enveloped me. Shoppers and sellers totally ignored my presence – a good thing so I could casually take it all in.
The Night Market is all food, crafts and tourist bric-a-brac, but the Morning Market is no-nonsense; selling practical things that locals need.
There was a hodgepodge of necessities for sale: produce, meat, rice, noodles, takeaway food, household goods, and haircuts alfresco.
And for carb-cravers, there were oodles of noodles and just across the way was a riot of rice.
One sidewalk chef was preparing the most environmentally friendly takeaway food imaginable. Cooked noodles were mixed with scrambled eggs and spices, then the whole concoction was stuffed into a banana leaf and tied with some sort of organic string. It not only looked delicious, but after eating, the container becomes compost. Styrofoam was never close to this take-away food; a message for us litter-happy westerners.
Then came my favorite … the grill meister. A husband and wife team had a huge selection of meats cooking over glowing charcoal; an irresistible culinary treat.
Luckily, I carry a little emergency cash with me when I jog, and suddenly my growling stomach signaled an emergency. A grilled pork chop with fried rice was the perfect Laotian brekkie. Of course, these delicious calories totally negated the positive effects of my jog, but it’s the classic jogger’s conundrum: Do I eat to run or run to eat?
A show and a meal; the ideal start to the day.