Gaya Street Sunday Market is worth the visit
I’ve a tainted view of markets. They are either very local. Or, if hyped up a lot – very touristy.
Just stay in the city to see it. The Italian pizza maker told me. Yes, I’m cheating on Malaysian food already and taking a break. Actually the pizza maker has been a great contact. An expat in Sabah. Who better to learn from about a living in Sabah as a foreigner than someone who’s already done it!
Get an early start to Gaya street market
The market starts at 6am every Sunday on Jalan Gaya. I was there at 4am.
I had the notion of taking photos of “local” people setting up the market. I sat there alone, in the dark with my cold pizza for breakfast.
And, I continued to sit there for quite a long while.
By 6am there were a few cars arriving along Kota Kinabalu’s main street. The locals, were in fact business types, and suburban house keepers setting up their stalls.
So no live chickens, and on the spot cooking for me then.
Try again later
So yes, I dipped back to bed for a couple of hours and reemerged near lunch time to see Gaya street filled with hustle and bustle. My worst fears were over, it wasn’t a giant touristy market. Nor was it a “local” market. It is for lack of a better word; akin to a farmers market.
By farmers market I mean, a suburban farmers market.
The diversity of Gaya street Sunday market
Starting at one end I was greeted by rows of fresh milkshake and juice makers. A good start! Then came the freshly baked cake stalls, and the little banana leaf packets of food.
Then came the rows of house plants for sale. Followed by a splattering of letter boxes, wood carved household ornaments and some weaved baskets.
Plastic Chinese toys were featured next as I hit the middle of the market street. Just in time for some freshly ground Malaysian coffee at a stall to give me a pick me up. Wow, are these people pros.
Tropical fish, sea shell ornaments, more food, books, DIY kits, music CD’s, plastic bowls, more house plants and even cats and dogs.
In mid conversation with a lady serving my coffee, I caught the glare of dark-haired Asian girl. Having just mentioned that Gaya street reminded me of European or small town USA farmers markets I sarcastically re confirmed my opinion.
“It’s true,” came the reply. “It’s just like one’s in France.”
And, so I met Emma. Who was French Polynesian. And, on the tourist trail.
Gaya street market is unique
Unlike many other Asian markets, Gaya was out in the open. A one day a week event. Spotlessly clean, and has the distinct feeling of an upper end car boot sale. Though much nicer according to Emma.
To counter all this into a very nice summation. I like Gaya street market. I am not pressured here. It’s like a community market for everyone.
There are no touristy, buy this, buy that type antics here. We noted how local people seemed to have their regular supplier of treats.
How the couples visiting here were quite stereotypical. The Malaysian ladies dressed up quite nicely, and seemed to have a habit of bumping into friends to talk about their purchases.
Meanwhile, sleepy Malaysian husbands carrying lots of bags, seemed to be wishing they were somewhere else!
Gaya streets market community means something
It’s relaxed, it’s friendly, it’s un-pressured, it’s filled with the ambiance of community. Something I’ve not felt in many markets, or places for a long time.
Back at the pizzeria I sat with Emma. Yes, she too was looking for a break from Malaysian food today.
The pizza man all knowingly winked from the kitchen.
“I tell you it was good, no?”
Gaya street market is indeed one of those rare places that signals many different things. In this case it says you can belong here if you want … So sayeth the pizza man.
Peeling back the layers of Kota Kinabalu
From smoky night markets to Sunday street markets. Forest reserves to islands in the sun. Kota Kinabalu is a tourist destination. It’s really not hard to get around at all. But, I am wondering how much of all this is a touristic facade? A show for tourists and the wealthy of Sabah.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the above in some regards.
However, I’ve learned that sometimes to see what a place is really like, you need to dig a little deeper.
Go a little further into the suburbs and life is very different.
I’ll show another side to the Sunday market a little later on. But for now, I really want to find some sort of challenge. And, I really want to see what lies beneath tourisms freshly painted image of Sabah, Malaysia.
Going to places I shouldn’t be …
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