by Amy Stone - June 1967
by Amy Stone - June 1967
Fortified by my Waipio training in bargaining and dizzy from my success at the Sunday Market-so what if I’d had to buy two umbrellas to get them down to a reasonable price—I was over ready to rush out into my very own upcountry market.
Now, one year later, a thoroughly hardened—or in this case softened— marketeer, let me offer a few semi-precious gems of wisdom.
big revelation was Don’t BARGAIN!! Aside from dickering over fruit,
don’t ask how much things are, just say how much you want to spend. Don’t ask how much the mouse chilis (excuse
loose translation) are, just say you want one salyng’s worth. Don’t get ready to bargain over the shrimp,
just throw as many as you want onto the scale and wait for the price.
first when you don’t know how much things cost, you can loiter around
eavesdropping on the satang-pinching matrons. If you have waited and
waited and no one seems to be buying pumpkin that day, just dive in
with a price. - When in
doubt, give a low price. Salesladies
are only too glad to sell you an additional amount if you’ve started
at too low a price. The good ladies are not too impressed if you decide
to buy less
than you originally asked for (better
to cart home the surplus goodies and make merit by giving
them away to a neighbor ).
satang is a good starting amount for most vegetables except for mushrooms
and a few other delicacies that escape my memory at the moment. Three
baht will buy a good-size pile of shrimp, and five baht will buy a
medium-size hunk of pork. Fruit? You have
to buy at least a kilo to get a bargaining wedge in. Bouquets for
wan phra seem to be fixed at a baht, though I got some interesting bargains before
I discovered this.
first pick out your own produce and fish—especially shrimp if you
don’t mind the telltale smell. Once you’ve established your picayune standards
you can relax and let the saleslady do the picking out unless you’ve
become hooked on doing it yourself.
The primary scope for bargaining is getting the saleslady to
throw in three cucumbers for the price of two or to include inexpensive
extras along with the essentials.
discovery was that you don’t have to do your marketing by the dawn’s
early light. The one exception is meat. At least in Kanchanaburi, meat’s the one
commodity that’s gone by ,
and if you want chicken you must be hearty enough of purpose to get
there before Or get the Chinese merchant to save one
for you. (
Be alert to local customs.
In other towns, meat is available throughout the day.)
took me a while to catch onto the fact that I didn’t have to buy my
fish in the morning and preserve it in the FAB cooler all day.
There are two shipments of fish—one for morning fish eaters
and one in the afternoon for everyone else.
Be alert to the labor saving devices available. Ask the fish lady to clean out the fish for you (primitive show and tell will suffice). If you’ve just bought something oozy and dripping, don’t clutch it to your bosom in its banana-leaf wrapping; ask for a plastic bag. If you’ve bought something big and bulky, ask the saleslady to put a string around it so you can carry it. And, above all, entrust yourself to the superior knowledge of your saleslady. Tell the herb-and-chili lady what curry you’re making and she’ll give you a package deal—all the necessary herbs and chilies for one or two salyng. If you can’t remember all the ingredient’s for gang som— ask. If you’ve exhausted your repertoire of dishes, ask your saleslady what’s good to have for dinner.
relation-wise I was also in for a few surprises.
Whether early in the morning or after school, I seemed to be
the only member of my school’s teaching staff making the market scene. Most of the marketing is left to the full-time
housewives or children or younger siblings. A technical exception is the teaching profession’s after school trip to the market to buy khanom.
is full of students, on both sides of the counter. Your students’
practice in saying “Good morning,” and/or “Good evening” (depending
on how disorganized you are in the frequency of your shopping excursions)
immediately skyrockets. Once students have mastered your buying
habits, unexpected kindnesses set in.
One student presented me with a bag of tomatoes in the middle
of English class.
And behind every student behind every counter is the student’s mother. In this rudimentary PTA framework the alert PCV can pick up hints on how to continue the child’s learning process in a manner not discordant to the way he has learned at home. The parent’s most frequent advice is enthusiastic permission to beat the child.
Once your students begin
popping up from behind the cabbages to photograph their teacher in
action or once the salesladies demand a full explanation of why you
didn’t come to the market the day before, you can accept the fact
that you are an Established Marketeer. At this point you can relax your hawk-like
eye, stop buying naam prik to impress the onlookers, and join the
madding crowd that makes up