In 2014, I spent ten months in the small village of Maran, Malaysia, teaching English. Our village didn’t have too much going on, with the exception of a massive outdoor market every Sunday morning.
Everyone in town could be seen there, and I came to really love the weekly ritual of heading to the market (known as a “pasar pagi” in Malaysia) after a run to buy my produce for the week. I’d never lived anywhere that had such a strong sense of community, and looking back now, it’s definitely one of the things I miss most about life in Maran.
I put together a short video about the market above, and wanted to share some of my favorite photographs below:
The selection of fruit was insane, and included everything from your typical apples and oranges to rambutans, mangosteen, and durian. Every time I went to the stand below, the vendor would teach me a new fruit word in Malaysian. I was somehow quite good at remembering the word for watermelon (tembikai), and horrid at remembering words for anything else.
One way to beat the sweltering Malaysian heat was with a flavored ice drink. There were always several vendors selling these at the market, in virtually ever flavor you could think of. I stuck to coconut most of the time–it beat the Gatorade I was used to drinking after long runs by a mile.
Kettle corn needs no explanation:
Many of my students worked at the market, helping their parents prepare and sell food. Talking with them as I made my way through the stalls was a great way to get to know them outside of class, and they were always very patient as I struggled to speak Malay.
My favorite vegetable sold at the market BY FAR was the butternut squash. I’d roast it in our toaster oven on Sunday nights, and even with no seasoning it was the best butternut squash I’ve ever tasted. I once pureed it into a soup and am pretty sure the entire thing was gone within a day.
Malaysia uses ringgits for currency. While I was there, the exchange rate was roughly RM 3 = 1 USD. Since my fellow teachers and I were paid a standard Malaysian salary, the prices didn’t feel disproportionately low. Our friends who visited, however, were always pleasantly surprised by how far their American dollars could stretch.
Maran is known as the “chicken village” in Malaysia, but since I’m a vegetarian, I never had the chance to buy poultry, meat, or fish. Nonetheless, vendors like the two guys below were always happy to talk and show me how they prepared their products.
ps: The song playing in the video is “Doa buat kerkasih” by Liyana Fizi, one of my favorite contemporary Malaysian artists. Learn more about her here!