Hello travelers and seekers of knowledge! One half of Puzzled Pilgrim is back in Indonesia. It was a joyous journey of solitude, strangers, and piecing together the parts of my life that have become fragmented, emptied, replaced, or changed. We’ll piece together my internal cultural combustion engine bit by bit, and I’ll start with Melbourne’s markets. All of the pictures here are linked to their store for a brief bio and looky loo.
Australia in general has a really healthy small business and market culture that is alive and vibrant in ways I’ve only imagined. Perhaps due to the large amount of land and high transportation costs. In America, we have a very robust set of highways, networks, and infrastructure that makes it profitable by offloading and trading through many destinations. In dense cities like New York, Los Angeles, Kansas City, or Orlando was I able to find vibrant markets that carried a sense of individuality that didn’t struggle to stay running. Travel in Australia however is lengthy, expensive, and pocketed with large swaths of beautiful, unkept land. In fact some people joke that it is cheaper to get to Bali than to another part of Australia. Tons of people can make money by mastering a craft, importing goods, or providing particulars for the population.
Who doesn’t enjoy walking through aisles of farm fresh produce, local handcrafts, and imported wares? I visited both Prahran Market (small) as well as Southern Melbourne Market (big), and have heard good things about Queen Victoria Market (bigger!). These shots are from Southern Melbourne Market which I really suggest hitting up over the weekend for a lively time.
Wine, Beer, Port, and More
Since Indonesia is a majority Muslim territory, getting your hands on alcohol isn’t hard per say but it certainly is expensive. Bintang is a popular favorite, but my inkling here is that it doesn’t have to do with taste so much as the price. Tourist destinations are abundant since alcohol is a great way for locals to make money and the government imposes high taxes on alcoholic products. Bali is a hub of alcohol since the island is mostly Hindu. Still, I’ve known more than a Muslim or two to knock a few back. But kicking one back with close friends while binging on The Crown? Well that’s a level of lazy Saturdays I hadn’t had in my repertoire for a while and it was a moment I welcomed back with relish. I also have grown an appreciate for cheese and beer brewing as a sense of cultural heritage. Like peanut butter or violent, mean spirited presidential election cycles.
I bought a nice bottle of Port that was actually from Portugal! I had no idea the two were connected but it seems so obvious now. Onboarded some red wine, and found a German style wheat beer from Himmel Hund Witbier. I was looking for a good wheat beer and this definitely struck a chord. I’m also a sucker for a good illustration too and had more than enough contenders. Ciders are also a big deal in Melbourne, and is the staple alcoholic drink of the summer. Which is great, because I got really tired of it being considered a pansy drink in my graduate school days. Finally, a place that understands by love for apple juice a la adult style!
I have a funny feeling that tons of the stores we saw were imported goods stores. Australia has a really nice trade relationship with Japan in particular, but I also saw some representation from other locations. One store in particular struck me with their beautiful collection from Mexico, Italy, and Spain.
There were tons of jewelry, kitchen ware, fashion shops. I was really drawn to these bowls and home ware. I had to have a stern 5 minute inner dialogue about why I didn’t need any, walking away with triumphantly empty hands but a little sadness.
One thing that hit me was the real commercial and consumer nature that defines a lot of Western culture. I felt the tendrils of needing, wanting, and buying wrapping themselves around my eyes and ears in a way that I’ve forgotten in this last year. People go to malls in Indoensia for the air conditioning, to see a movie, and eat food. We generally can’t afford what is inside the stores unless you’re super wealthy. Many local shops less than a mile in their vicinity, if not right around the corner are utilized. Indonesia doesn’t have the same kind of values of buying values the way American lifestyles do. I don’t want to paint this as a “look at how simple and humble Indonesia is!” since that is not the point. Many women compete by being more religiously zealous instead of buying a nice piece of furniture. Different means to the same competitive values.
If you’re not able to buy the local art or goods, be sure to keep an eye out for the public art that everyone gets to enjoy. Melbourne has tons of graffiti and a more tolerant, celebratory nature for graffiti.
Food & Mood
Let’s not forget our Asian food stores. I ducked in to pull some ingredients and spices since they were labeled in English. I haven’t mastered the entirety of Indonesian spices and have just eeked out the last of my Berbere spices that I picked up from the farmer’s market from Syracuse. I couldn’t resist trying to see what an Asian store looks like in Australia either, since they are neighbors of SE Asia. I noticed a lot of dominant Malaysian and Thai packaging. Indonesia isn’t known for its packaged exports I guess.
Like any good market, you are sure to be greeted with plenty of fresh groceries and ready-to-eat mouth parties awaiting you. One thing that’s so lovely about Australia is the super cheap sea food. Oyster bars aren’t just for the rich in Grand Central Station. You too can swallow those slimy, but satisfying sea dwellers
If seafood isn’t your thing, then there are delis, stir fry, sushi, salads, and more. Pick up a Borek for $3 AUD. It’s like a small hand pie, but better because it’s with phyllo dough. Spinach and feta was my favorite as my group got three different ones that we all shared together. This particular stand was towards one of the entrances to the market and had fabulous indoor and outdoor seating.
There are plenty of other places to buy groceries. There were also TONS of butcheries and delis. The meat quality looked amazing, with beautiful hanging cuts of meat (that were refrigerated *cough Indonesia cough*), as well as abundant variety. I’m not just talking the kind of meat, but where from the body and different styles. Raw, smoked, cooked, cold, cut. It is much easier to obtain and educate yourself about meat in Australian markets, whereas America we generally tend to know that there is a thing called steak, hamburgers, and then cold cuts. Maybe you get lucky if you family knows how to roast a leg of lamb or you learn the difference between a drumstick and a breast. I envy you Australia.
Let me just say a quick prayer for all the bread I’ve missed over the last year. The staple carbohydrate of the East is rice. It is no longer an annoying box of something that goes stale in my fridge after I eat my chinese take out. Rice is the end all be all of my husband’s diet and I’ve seen him go through a sort of physiological withdrawal symptom from not eating it. It’s funny and a joke but it is also completely 100% true, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. My cousin told me while visiting Bandung what her conference was feeding her: “We eat rice for breakfast. Then we eat rice for lunch. Then for dinner…. More. Rice. It never ends.” So while I’ve become one of the rice nation, my eyes took a little emotional bath when I saw these babies.
I used to work at a french cafe that always baked their own fresh bread. This is the staple of all things good in my opinion. In fact, if I were executed and had a chance at a final meal, it would include a warm baguette with olive oil, salt, and avocado. There is little else in the world that comforts me the way bread does. Stop, I’m going to tear up a bit!
So there was our little trip around the market. There are tons of others to check out so I’ve heard, and make sure you catch them at the right hours since they are generally closed by 4pm.We also recommend the Prahran Market and Queen Victoria Market if you’re in the area.