A big part of the fun of MEXICO…is it’s MARKETS! Markets are a happening that you don’t want to miss. In addition to their foremost role of being a central place to make purchases, they are a vital social focus where men and women congregate and exchange gossip as well as make deals.
One of the unspoken attractions of Vallarta is that tourists can blend into this environment and observe the happening without the attendant stiltedness that usually occurs when strangers are present in these kinds of situations. The key word is blending. Vallarta has no ghetto. Tourists are as common as palm trees and vice versa, no big deal. The women washing in the river alongside the market at their traditional rock are probably more photographed than cover girls (they have a longer professional career). The result is you ignore and are ignored, and that frankly is neat!
The big market is situated at the North end of the Northbound Bridge and it is enclosed and fills the block. The upstairs is the “food floor” i.e. cooked food and you will see small children waiting and transporting food in covered earthenware crockery covered in paisley tea towels to shop keepers all around the area especially between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon.
Many shops close for siesta still but the tourist oriented ones have staggered shifts or send one of these younger runners to the “second floor” while they tend the store. The first floor has everything else in the mega flea market. Way-out tee-shirts, leather goods, belts, tools, utensils hardware, jewelry, silver you name it, someone has it. This is gift heaven. If you’re not a shopper but sense the inevitable obligations that mysteriously are associated with being away…. (You go away but YOU have to bring something back to regain entry to your home and customs is the gauntlet) …you’re not a seasoned traveller either. Don’t fret though, in one hour here you’ll find a selection that will satisfy grandchildren and Mother.
There is a convenient bar across the street called El Fuente del Puente which means the fountain of the bridge. It’s an OK bar, a little touristy and pricey but OK for a drink while you wait for the shopper of the day.
This is the big market but not necessarily the best. You have to know it to evaluate the best ones, which we only let the “hard core” tourists in on. On the cocktail circuit back home the “boat people” who claim to have been to Pto.Vallarta are no doubt referring to this market. (Their diesel belching bus stopped for seven minutes outside while they did a ‘pan’ with their camcorders of THIS market.)
The secret markets are both close to either of MEX-DEV’s suites and they are the EMILIANO ZAPATA market located on Lazaro CARDENAS street (it also features pottery – but alas the too big kind) and the vegetable selection is numero uno. The other one is North of the church across from the cemetery. A twelve-year VEGAN repeat customer from the interior of B.C. who is a grower definitely swears by this market. If the hustle and bustle of the markets is too much for you, try the boutiques which abound throughout the town. You can’t help not missing them and they boast every big name from Ralph Lauren to Calvin Klein. The no-name or generic ‘Vallarta uniform’ places have the same items at roughly the same prices but each may have that extra “just what you wanted” item so you must visit them all!
Seventy percent of the cobblestoned area, probably one square mile in all, contains interesting stores for shopping, so bring comfortable shoes. Speaking of shoes this is one place that IMELDA overlooked but your closet may move up a rating after a pass through town. If you’re a leather freak you will probably be planning a second trip right there, in one of the three main stores that handle leather. Careful though that you don’t buy some endangered species skin (don’t listen necessarily to the vendor on this one). One of our customers is involved in a saga presently.
MEXICO has joined GATT and also is a member of the international convention for the protection of endangered animals – a long way from slaughtering turtles just a few years ago. Remember this when you think of free trade. I mean this in a positive way. With prosperity comes education, and with education comes rationale along with “maturing” markets. If selling to kids seems easy, consider selling to the third world…(I hate that expression, better “emerging nations”)… it will be a BIG push over. In MEXICO alone there are ninety million people who want what you and I already have. Job losses are a pittance in the big picture and they aren’t losses they’re “shifts”. Don’t fear the future.