Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Around Chennai: Koyambedu Market

Koyambedu Market is an enormous wholesale/retail market about 10 km from the heart of Chennai. All of the markets and street stands we see in town are, in one way or another, getting their goods from this market. The market is split into three sections: Vegetable, Fruit, and Flower. The prices vary, but are incredibly cheap. They're listed in rupees and at the time of writing the exchange rate is approximately 62rs per $1. 

While walking through the market, we were stunned that so many people wanted us to take their picture. For example, this first picture is of a man who solicited a 'snap.' Not all were so insistent, but most were happy to pose or smile (or were good naturedly prodded to by their friends!)

While carrying a giant sack of potatoes!

The big root vegetables in the bottom left are yams (nothing like sweet potatoes).
Sometimes you need a LOT of garlic.

I think one of the most impressive things about this market was the sheer amount of produce that each vendor had. I have to wonder what kind of spoilage rate the guy in the picture above has, for example. I know gourds last a long time, but that's a LOT of gourds. This is something we frequently see in Chennai; even a street vendor selling watermelons will have 200 plus watermelons stacked up. I always wonder if they sell them all... 

The walkways are covered with discarded vegetable parts, sometimes reaching more than a foot deep before being cleared.

We decided to buy some mint... this was 10rs (or $0.18) worth.
Please excuse the beard...

Plenty of room for that cargo bike.

There were a surprising number of cows wandering around in, what I can only assume is, cow heaven. Definitely a good reminder to clean your veggies before eating!

One of the food stands.
After seeing the vegetable market, we hopped back in the car to head home, but fortunately our driver pointed out that there were two more markets to see. We got back out and headed across the street (below) to the fruit market.

Who knew there were that many types of bananas.

Our final stop was the flower market. Flowers are a pretty big deal in Chennai; street peddlers sell them all over town for draping around shrines or door ways, use in puja, or just for tying in ladies' hair. 

The man standing behind them (in the blue lungi) was prodding them with a stick, which is why they're laughing.

These pictures (barely) convey the massive quantities of flowers available for purchase. Each market has a "prime time" of day, where they're most busy. First Vegetable, then Fruit, then Flower. We were there during the flower time. Although the flowers were breath taking by themselves, it was even more impressive just watching the 'action.' I generally hate to include videos in posts, but this one gives you a better idea of the commotion going on as thousands of people buy millions of flowers. Make sure your sound is on...


  1. So, do you shop at this market regularly now, or is it worth the markup to shop at a local produce market? (We're headed there next year.)

    1. We do not. It's a fun place to take visitors, but it's not really worth the time/effort for us. Our housekeeper does most of our shopping and is generally watching our son at the same time, so it's hard for her to 'buy in bulk.' Koyambedu is a decent distance away; if she did go there, any savings would likely be lost in the commute cost. Also, while the price difference can be substantial in percents... it's generally not enough to be worth our while. E.g. A 4 kg water melon is listed as 25 cents at the market and a local store will sell it for 80 cents. That's 320% more! ... but still only 80 cents for 9 lbs of watermelon; vegetable mark-ups tend to be even lower. Congrats on your assignment!