Pudu Market in Kuala Lumpur, for me, is the quintessential southeast asian market experience.
Behind the scenes
It's big enough that you can lose yourself in the narrow lanes watching the bustle of commerce and exploring a large variety of fresh and prepared foods, but it's small enough that it won't wear you into the ground or leave you feeling like you might have missed the best part if only you had turned left instead of right.
It's a working market that hasn't been watered down or sanitized to within an inch of its life, but it's not so gritty that you're concerned about contracting exotic ailments or showering immediately after.
Tourists are rare enough that most of the vendors have remained unjaded and are quite tolerant of questions and photos, but not so uncommon that you attract attention simply by walking around.
Hard at work keeping things clean.
Pudu boasts some impressive produce ranging from the familiar-
like these carefully curated okra,
and this lovely mint- to the more exotic, like these helix shaped petai beans
and these orange cucumbers (that I still have no idea what they actually are. Little help?)
The seafood section smells like the ocean; the wares on offer being scrupulously fresh.
I'm not sure what species these blue spotted red fish are but they're gorgeous.
If fresh isn't your thing Pudu has you covered there as well.
You can always score some smoked or dried fish, or a block of flavor-packed belacan.
There are lots of fresh tofu vendors and flower hawkers and if I would have had access to anything approaching a kitchen I definitely would have had these guys juice me up some fresh coconut milk.
After you work your way through the entire labyrinth, odds are you'll be a little peckish.
Luckily for you there are some great food stalls that run along one whole side of the market.
I opted for a roti canai (this one filled with egg and cheese at the cook's insistence) that came with a side of curry and an amazing sambal. I actually finished the sauce with my spoon.
The owner took a shine to me (or maybe to my camera) and put on a little show when I ordered a teh tarik, or pulled tea.
The dude was impressive. He stretched the liquid as fas as his arms would go and even threw in a behind-the-back flourish without spilling a drop.
Even if markets don't really do it for you, you can always stop by in the hopes of making a new friend.
Pudu Market: Inside the triangle formed by Jalan Pudu, Jalan Pasar, and Jalan Yew. Open everyday from 6am to 2pm or so. But I'd come early.