Every market tells a story – of culture, craft and tradition and it is this story that gets sold in the form of souvenirs in the tiny lanes and stalls. There is so much of energy, life and colour in every market and each one of them is unique. Historic and intrinsic to a country’s culture, Lakshmi Sharath visits five different markets from around the world

Taling Chan Floating Market, Bangkok

In a city which is flocked by shoppers, where bargains are a way of life, there is no dearth of markets. But my favourite is the Taling Chan Floating Market which offers a glimpse into the flavours of traditional Thailand and Thai cuisine. I take a ferry across the Chao Phraya river and float through the canals of Bangkok to reach the Floating Market. Sitting in long wooden boats, the locals here are cooking or grilling a meal or selling fresh produce or serving a speciality from sweets and rice to meat and snakes. Tourists and locals flock around in barges on the canals, singing . It is open only on weekends and can be accessed by road as well.

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Losing oneself in the labyrinthine network of lanes and shops in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is extremely easy. With over 60 covered streets teeming with 3,000 shops, this is where James Bond stormed across in his bike in his recent block buster Skyfall. The 600 year old bazaar called Kapalicarsi in Turkish, meaning covered market, has been an important trading centre since the 15th century. Even today it oozes an old-fashioned charm. Feeling refreshed after a cup of hot apple tea, I walk around the little lanes where thousands of vendors sell everything from ceramics to carpets, glass to lamps and rugs to jewellery. Besides the Grand Bazaar, a visit to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar is also recommended.

Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam

Say it with flowers in Amsterdam. Take a boat across the canals and ferry towards the only floating flower market in the world. The 19 century Bloemenmarkt is colourful and fragrant, with a large variety of flowers sold in the little shops floating on boats along the Singel located in the southern canals of Amsterdam. Besides florists, one finds seeds, herbs, decorations for gardens and even souvenirs.

Karaikudi’s Antique Market

In Karaikudi (Tamil Nadu) is a tiny lane that lies behind the Muneeshwara temple. Walking along the lane, you will stumble upon an antique market which holds the treasures that have been handed down by the Chettinadu community. The large sprawling mansions were built with materials from every part of the world — be it Italian marbles, Japanese tiles or Belgian glass. The Chettiyars may have left Chettinadu but several antiques that once filled their homes are found in a handful of shops here. From lamps to vessels, glass to mirrors, paintings to artefacts, lampshades to carvings on teak, one finds an eclectic display of antiques. Old Tanjore paintings, porcelain dolls, silverware, kitchen utensils in Burmese lacquer, old teak furniture…you will find them all here.

Bazaars of Pushkar

If there is a state in India that is synonymous with colour, it is Rajasthan . From Jaipur to Jaisalmer, every market in Rajasthan is rich with vivid hues. The lively bazaar of Pushkar is a must visit. The market is throbbing with life. Kitschy and traditional, there is an eclectic array of goods on sale. Book stores, turbans, bangles, other jewellery, puppets…this bazaar has it all. For those with a sweet tooth, creamy rabdi malpua is made here every evening and distributed across the town. Rows of bottles selling rose pulp, syrup and gulkhand are sold here as well. Pushkar is truly an appetising experience.