Throw away your Prozac and keep away from the shrink. I’ve discovered a brand new cure for anxiety and depression, and probably a whole host of other psychological problems. It may involve some initial investment (like coming to Chiang Mai in Thailand) but I promise you that it really does work.
In the real world when I’m not writing about living and working in Thailand I work as a psychologist as part of a team running Change Holidays, so anxiety and depression are things I happen to know quite a lot about. Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed a distinct pattern forming with our guests. Apart from a therapeutic program, they enjoy a range of excursions, one of which is a food tasting tour in local markets. Without exception everybody loves it. Guests arrive back noticeably better in mood; in fact quite buoyant, full of stories and brandishing bags of exotic and unusual foods.
To my knowledge there has yet to be a study into the mood altering effects of Asian markets, but I seriously believe there should be. For the sake of the progression of science I’m even willing to be the first study subject. I think I’d make a perfect case.
Most days I finish work with a head full of the usual array of worries and problems, muttering and grumbling to myself like some miserable little hobbit until my wife says “why don’t you go to the market dear, it’ll make you feel better”.
I get on my bike and cycle up the road to an exceptionally good “fresh” market that attracts people from all over the city. As I’m there most days I have regular stalls that I go to and people that I know, some of which I practice my appalling Thai on and some of which practice their excellent English on me. We talk about football (the guy that sells sticky rice is also a fanatical Arsenal fan), families (“where your children today”) and other important matters. I buy incredible things every day of the year and constantly wonder at the variety, the quality and the fact that I’m often looking at food without a clue what it is. I recently bought a bag of fruit that looked like oval shaped potatoes, for all I knew they could have come from Mars, they tasted like they came from heaven, with soft golden sweet syrupy flesh. I’m forty two years old and sometimes find myself experiencing the world as if I’ve just arrived.
Its not just the novelty value either its about the fact that some things are just plain good and make us feel better, like the sea side, music or great paintings. I would officially like to elect my local market to this small but select list of mood altering phenomena.
My Thai friend’s mother lives the other side of the city, she’s well into her eighties and makes him drive her to “my” market once a week. I asked him why she comes all the way over to the other side of town and he said “they sell really good roast Catfish” I looked at him quizzically, “all the way across town for a Catfish”, there was a silence and he said “ and….well you know”. I nodded because I did know, this market just makes you feel better, no tablets, just pure goodness.
So the next time you feel down get yourself to the nearest market. If you’re not lucky enough to live nearby a good one give me a shout and I’ll take you down my local. If you’re lucky I might even buy you a small oval shaped potato.
Alex. The Life Change People.