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Langoustines, crayfish, purple, pink and black prawns the size of toothpaste tubes. Big one-clawed crabs, lanky spiky ones, vigorous snapping sea spiders and small deep fried chilli-coated crabs you eat whole – crunchy. Plump adults, adolescents and live baby turtles, occasionally scaling the brim of their gallows bowl, making a bid for freedom. Mackerel, calamari, grouper, red snapper, massive squid and cat fish thrashing to their end in an inch of water. The sights, sounds and smells of a Thai market at full steam is a fascinating sensory experience.

Double sized pineapples, watermelons, coconuts, mangos and enough types of banana to confuse an EU delegation are some of the more familiar fruits piled high. Delicious mangosteens in their hard chocolate shells, custard apples, succulent lychees and their hairy rambutan cousins may be exotic but they pale in comparison to the foul smelling durian that Thais go wild for. So potent is the sickly sweet yellow flesh of this fruit that it is said if it is combined with alcohol, heart failure will surely follow.

Green curry paste, mild, medium and makes-your-eyes-water red curry paste, all in bowls piled toddler high. Aromatic fresh shrimp paste, pungent mature paste and dark grey evil looking two-year old paste that has even Thai noses wrinkling. Mild green, large red and tiny birdseye chillies known as “Thai chocolates” take centre stage on vegetable stalls. Kaffir lime leaves, coriander seeds, ginger, holy, hoary and sweet basil purchased in bunches big as cabbages. All form the essence of Thai cuisine and they are bought and consumed in massive quantities.

Half chickens, whole chickens, skewers and drumsticks barbequing on tiny charcoal fires. Deep-fried, roasted, charred and steamed fish of every shape and size. Fried until crispy cockroaches, scorpions, maggots, crickets and grasshoppers form just some of the hundred or so insects eaten by Northern Thais and their drunken western soul mates. Noodle soup, pad Thai, fried rice, omelets and various unidentifiable chunks of seared meat form the remainder of fast food the markets have to offer.

Every corner turned, the maze of shops, stalls and trolleys goes on and if live baby turtles for the pot doesn't shock you something will soon. Thai food markets are the real deal, genuine smiles greet you glad you have taken the trouble to see the pantry of the world’s largest restaurant - Thailand.

Pictures - click to enlarge
Picture of pickled baby cran in a Thai market, Chaing Mai Thailand travelogues
Photograph of fried fish in a Thai market, Chaing Mai Thailand travelogues
Pickled baby crab

Fried Fish

Picture of a butcher in a Thai market, Chaing Mai Thailand travelogues
Photograph of curry paste in a Thai market, Chaing Mai Thailand travelogues
All cuts of meat

Curry paste

Picture of rice in a Thai market, Chaing Mai Thailand travelogues
Photograph of fresh fruit in a Thai market, Chaing Mai Thailand travelogues
Rice, rice and more rice
Fresh veg puts the West to shame