Shopping at the palangke (wet market).

I was super excited to try my hand at shopping at the palangke when we got here. Oh, how authentic! What an experience! I will be the best haggler, despite being the foreigner lady! Such deals will I get!

Yeah. Fans of the palangke are not going to love me for this post. So, I guess I will just apologize up front and assure them that I really do, truly, love it here. I’m just not a fan of the palangke experience.

Palangkes are open-air markets. In some of the very rural areas, they may only exist a day or two a week, but in most places they are there all the time, and usually most of it has a roof to keep the sun and rain off. The stalls are packed and the aisles are narrow and sometimes treacherous, as they can be uneven, dimly lit, and have merchandise stacked out into them. It’s generally odoriferous, especially if you are there in the morning when all the butcher stalls are fully stocked, but even still, afterward, the butchering odor remains, lingering with the smells of everything else on offer. There is a lot of stuff for sale, but generally speaking the merchandise is poor quality and can be had for an ever-so-slightly higher price. (A P10 item may be P9.70 at the palangke.)

I’ve never felt in danger at a palangke, but you will draw a lot of attention if you look different from the local population. If shopping at the mall here is stressful, you may want to avoid the palangke all together, because people will approach you with merchandise, they will yell loudly and persistently to get you to their booth, they may even chase you down and continue to try to get you to buy. If you do go, it’s not a bad idea to go with a friend or have your driver or helper follow along in the aisles with you.

Food hygiene is questionable, to say the least. If you do end up buying your food at the palangke to save a few pesos per kilo, you really, really, really, really, really need to wash it. Go home. Fill your sink with water and add a cap full of bleach. put all your fruit and veg in and let it soak for a few minutes. Remove it, dry it, store as you normally would. Drain the water, refill the sink and add the bleach again, and soak your meats. No, I’m not kidding. Wait a few minutes, remove the meat, pat it dry, and store it as you usually would.

Do not skimp on these steps. Do not. That is a special message from my intestines.

If you are traveling in a small town and think it would be great to pick up some mangoes at the market for a snack and have no way to do the bleach wash, do not assume that because it’s a fruit with a peel, you can just peel it and eat it and be fine. It’s really easy to get contaminates from outside of the peel onto the fruit itself. You should at least wipe it down with rubbing alcohol before you peel it. Again, just a friendly tip from my intestines.

Palangkes, in the cities, anyway, are not the best places to go to get locally made items. They are the poor-man’s department and grocery store. They have clothing, food, school supplies, phone repair, etc. If you are out somewhere as a tourist, then your hotel will likely have some souvenirs and local crafts for sale, but you could also ask at your hotel whether there are locally made gift items at the palangke. If so, by all means, go check it out. My experience has been that palangkes in the provinces seem to be a little smaller scale and easier to navigate than the ones in the cities. If you want to try one out, I suggest you wait until you’re off somewhere remote and give it a go there.

If you really want the haggling experience, if you are looking for knock-offs and deals, it’s not the palangke you want. I’ll talk about it more in the next installment.


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