Be prepared to bargain hard at markets in Central Asia.
On the Central Asia Rally, you will travel in the footsteps on the ancient Silk Road. You’ll drive on the route’s scenic mountain passes, and stay in historic cities which grew rich from trade. The most authentic Silk Road memory, though, are the markets and bazaars, where traditions of commerce passed down through the generations. Markets in Central Asia are one of the highlights of our journey. Here’s why we love them so much:
Markets in Central Asia have been welcoming guests for many hundreds of years, but that doesn’t mean they are tired of visitors. You’ll see many friendly faces, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be selling their products cheaply! It’s worth visiting a market just for the atmosphere. though: bright colours, strong aromas, and a lot of shouting, make it a treat for all the senses.
If you picture markets in Central Asia and all you see is silk, carpets, and spices, then you’re very wrong. While you can find all those things, and in abundance, there’s a lot more to markets than that. One of our favourite things about visiting markets is the number of things to eat. Just look at that bread, so incredibly fresh.
Of course, the markets are bastions of traditions, the ancient hub for exchanging vital resources. And tradition applies to food most of all. This isn’t like a supermarket: meat isn’t always nicely packaged. The photo above was taken at Osh Bazaar, one of the most famous markets in Central Asia.
One of the best things about markets in Central Asia is the wide variety of flavours and spices that you can try. Often, if you’re nice, you can ask for a taste, though they’ll be cheap enough in any case. From unbelievably fresh vegetables to unusual tastes like persimmon, and a whole range of sweets, try as much as you can!
It’s not just new flavours of spices that you can try, you can also try other foods that you rarely find anywhere else. For instance, here is a stall at Osh bazaar selling yak meat. Tasting like beef, with a slightly more delicate flavour, yak meat is high in protein but rich in fat. Try it out, you might find a new favourite meal. Of course, it’s Central Asia, there’s also a lot of horse meat if you fancy that instead!
Odds and Ends
Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you see it. Central Asia’s markets are filled with bits and bobs and things you’d never expect: there’s something for everyone. Souvenirs, household goods, cheap clothing; take some time and uncover hidden gems. Locally made handicrafts make the perfect gift.