Visiting the markets is one of my favourite things to do when travelling. Not that I’m an avid shopper who spends her weekends at the mall, but set me loose in a market and every first edition book and antique camera cries out to me. India only intensified my market hunting instincts. The bright colours, woven arabasques, beads and ornamental mirrors, the smell of incense.
Rupees were flying out of my hand, and by the end of my trip to India I was having to choose between a night out at Tito’s bar or yet another pair of harem pants. How is a girl to choose? …Well, Tito’s won out because I already looked like a character from Aladdin. So let me guide you through some of the places where I enjoyed shopping:
MG Road, Pune
MG Road is a shopper’s paradise! Never have I seen so many billboards and stores tightly packed together in one area. Not only is this the commercial hub of the city, but it is also where I encountered my first cow walking down the sidewalk straight towards me! Now that earns a special spot.
High end shops like The Bombay Store had the perfect mix of traditional and contemporary Indian decor; but their style came at a price, so I walked away with chai loose leaf instead. I also drooled over bangles, kurtas and nose chains down little alleys before purchasing a navy and gold silk shirt.
In Pune I learned that, sadly, my feet are too big by Indian standards. Sigh. I came across a stall displaying the most beautiful pointed slippers, but even after attempting to squeeze my toes in – all in the name of beauty – my heel still hung off the back. It was the perfect picture of grace and elegance…
I spent another day trying to find shoes for a wedding in a different part of town without much success. The shopkeeper brought me the largest size he had and then laughed at me. (I assure you I have normal feet!) I ended up wearing my black dress with brown sandals and wrapped a brown belt around my waist hoping that would make it better. I like to think it sort of did…
Crawford Market, Mumbai
Getting to Crawford Market was not as straight forward as I anticipated. I jumped into the first cab that pulled over and told the driver my destination, but he ended up taking me on a little detour to his friend’s store instead. Luxurious sarees were not what I was after. But because I always carry a map, after wandering a few streets over I found myself in the heart of it all.
Vendors were selling an eclectic mix of socks and underwear, electronics, more kurtas, jewellry, roasted nuts, plastic containers, and whatever random objects you can envision. I can’t say I found anything useful, but the energy and the architecture of this place is something you should experience for yourself.
Street Vendors, Goa
I couldn’t pick just one market in Goa because there are simply far too many to choose from. Shopping in Goa was like Schwarz at Christmas time, where every object is more exciting than the first. The famous harem pants, elephant tapestries with gold thread, hand stitched bags with little mirrors to catch the light, wooden earrings and rainbow beads, floor cushions, pashminas and little sculptures of deities. Out of all the three cities I visited, Goa was my favourite place to shop, and I wouldn’t hesitate going back.
What are some of your favourite markets in India?