Life here in Prasat is, for the most part, very good. The population is approximately 17,000, not unlike Laramie, Wyoming, the town where I grew up.There are enough people so that it feels like there's always someone new tomeet, and yet it's small enough that there is never a day in the market when Idon't run into someone that I know. Many of the people I run into are from Kravan, the small village where I lived. People come into the market regularly because Prasat is the district center (the amphuh). This is an agricultural region, and Prasat is the main town. Here there is the farmers' coop (sahagorn), the major banks, the motorbike dealerships, the hospital, the district offices… If you live in the surrounding villages (of which there are hundreds), there's always a reason to come to town, and if you come to town the number one pleasure is the market.
The market goes from morning till night (and a smaller part runs all the way through the night). It's in the center of town, just adjacent to the bus station, impossible to miss if ever you should be coming this way. It sprawls in many directions, inside under a roof and outside in the open air. On the fifth day of every month it is especially big, and again on the fifteenth and the twenty-fifth, when everyone makes a special point of coming to town. The market will be three or four times its normal size, with vendors coming with special wares. Women who have spun and woven silk sarongs will sit on the ground with a few of their handmade sarongs laid out on a piece of cloth in front of them. So too will villagers with a harvest of red ant eggs (khai mot daeng), or crickets (jinglet), or shiny pitch black scorpions (meng bpong). The daily market is wonderful, but on the other three market days there's a particular sense of excitement. Teenage boys and girls eye each other without wanting to be seen. Children buy sweets (kanom). Parents look for bargains.
My favorite market, however, happens in a different placejust on the edge of town. It takes place every Friday afternoon – today, as a matter of fact! Soon we will drive over on the motorbike, along with virtually everyone else in Prasat. The traffic starts to get thick, and then thicker. Finding a place to park is a problem, but always resolvable. The market works because everyone collectively makes it work. People are happy; it's the highlight of the week. There are rides for the children. There's food, and food, and more food. There is a variety of vendors that's almost impossible to describe. People sell tropical fish, second-hand clothing, high-heels for two dollars, orchids, tools, curtains and pillows, everything! The whole market is based upon one long path that ultimately makes a circle. You can walk one direction or the other direction, but if you walk long enough you will ultimately see everyone, or at least everyone walking in the opposite direction. Today is April 1. The national lottery happens on the first and sixteenth of every month. Guaranteed today the market will resound with khow, nung, sahm: 9,1,3, the winning numbers.