We get to the market at about 7.45. in the morning. Soppong is already packed. The wide dirt sidewalk on one side of the road is crammed with parked motorbikes and pickup trucks some still full of people and produce, some already emptied. On the other side of the street the market is already in full swing. The sellers have displayed their merchandise, and the buyers are shopping. Most of them have clearly dressed for the occasion, looking splendid in their colorful tribal costumes.
Still more trucks keep arriving, stopping anywhere they can to unload their passengers and goods.
There are no stalls or assigned spaces for the sellers. They just find an empty space on the dirt, and set up shop. Most of them have brought plastic sheeting or sacks to put their merchandise on. A few of the more prosperous ones have bought folding tables, the less prosperous just use white plastic bags to separate the merchandise from the dirt.
It is crowded,chaotic,colourful, and full of energy. Everyone is busy, checking out each vendor, looking for what they want, window shopping for what they don’t want, striding from merchant to merchant, jostling for space, grabbing the freshest vegetables and trying to negotiate the best deal. There is a palpable excitement in the air but most exciting of all is that there is hardly a tourist to be seen. We are two of only a handful of westerners. If we try to interact with the tribes people they are friendly, but otherwise we are ignored. As you might guess, if there is one thing I cannot abide, it is being ignored, but in this case it works. We are free to watch and take photos.
There are many different costumes, each one representing a different tribe, and the women wear them with pride and a great sense of style, with the occasional exception
The men too dress with style.
Many men wear large baggy pants in velvet :
others wear a strange mix of bright prints that might seem more appropriate on a woman:
Then there are the men who prefer to wear western designers, but add a little of their own personal style
They are all here to be seen and admired and to catch up with friends from other villages. But they are also here to do business. The vast majority are selling vegetables, but the occasional one has something different to offer
It is unclear what happened to the rest of the animal, but the bloody fingerprints on the head might give us a clue.
But mostly the ground is covered with produce, all of which looks amazing. Some vendors have huge amounts to sell
Others not so much
Some go for quality. Others go for size ( I am not touching that one with a 10ft pole):
And if you don’t like them big, you can always go for really small (now cut that out, this is a serious blog)
Now if I was working here (picture that, if you can) , the least I would require would be a comfortable chair to sit on. But these ladies have nothing, they just sit on their haunches. Somehow they make it look perfectly comfortable and can squat like that for hours, giving their sales pitch, chatting up the customers and taking money, without ever moving. Even when there is nothing going on they look perfectly at ease
There is one who is not so happy. Business has been quiet so she has decided to show a little leg to attract attention. It’s not working so far
But most are determined to enjoy this weekly get together, no matter what
We too are having fun. The atmosphere is great and we are reluctant to leave. But we have a full day ahead of us. First we return to the River Inn for a late breakfast. This time we sit in the garden of the Seven Elephants. The furniture has changed from rustic to plastic, but the food is as good as ever
We had booked to stay another night here, but as charming as it is, we cannot face the block of concrete that passes for a bed. Gordon has been searching the internet for somewhere a little more comfortable, and has found it in a town near the Burma Border. He is excited because it looks great and is even less expensive than the River Inn. I am so tired and desperate for a good night’s sleep that I ignore what my brain is telling me, and agree to move on without even checking the website Gordon has been looking at.
Trust me when I say …………….never again!