Port Vila’s most visited place, definitely the market…

By Pascal de Gaillande - Copyright © 2007 Pascal de Gaillande - All rights reserved


I have often wonder, what was Port Vila’s most visited place? And I have to say, I am pretty convinced it is the central market…

As far as I can remember the market has always been there, my Grand Mother has a painting of it which I grew up to see hanging on a wall, so it existed surely way before my time.

Back when I was younger, I remember it being behind a snack called “Bloody Mary” which also shared part of the building hosting the market along with a couple of other commercial spaces, but the snack is long gone. In the early 90s they completely destroyed the old building and built the new market as it is today exclusively for it.

The new building is supposed to look like a turtle, and it does in a way. Back then, if my memories do not fail me, the market was held every Saturday morning. Today, the market is held every day except on Sunday (Though if there is a tourist boat in town it might be open, it would normally be closed on public holiday). In theory each day is supposed to be reserved for a certain part of Efate people to expose, then alternating in between different parts and villages, and as well a day would also go to other islanders that live in Port Vila. Saturday all people from everywhere can expose and it is really big that day, but closes a little bit earlier than the week days, as Saturday, shops close around 12pm-2pm, and usually the town empty it self around these times. Surely there is always a lot of people everyday (Except when it is closed). Traditionally the women are exposing their products, although I am not sure men are allowed to do so or not, but even if they were, they wouldn’t anyway, because it is really dominated by women, and it has been a long tradition.

The Market is such an iconic place, mostly you will find local fresh products that are traditional to Vanuatu, such as fruits and vegetables, flowers, plants then you may also find products that are grown more with the expatriate in mind such as tomatoes, avocados etc…you can also find all kind of souvenirs, shell necklaces, shells, wooden articles, although there is a bit of competition with another market called the “women market” which I will give more information later on.

The market is always a big attraction, whether for tourists or locals, it is really a must see if you are visiting Port Vila. If you do not visit it you will surely regret it. It is so full of life, so vibrant and colorful. Get there buy some souvenirs, some bananas, some coconuts, be sure to ask for a “tuluk”, though be sure not to bargain, bargaining never was a custom of Ni-Vanuatu people, and that is something we never did as customers, please refrain from doing so, respect the pricing structure in place, and if you are not happy about a price then shop around, but do not try to lower the prices, it could be interpreted as a sign of intimidation, and insinuate that the product is not worth what they are asking for. Usually with hundreds of sellers, the prices are always competitive, as a tourist you pay the same price as locals, which is not always true in other countries. Do not forget to bring your camera, as you can shot some amazing pictures there. Further more visiting the market is a good way to meet locals and certainly learn more about the culinary side of Ni Vanuatu people, “Lap Lap” is most definitely the national dish of Vanuatu and with a bit of luck you might find a few slices to try, tourists are always welcome at the market.

Apart from the main market, they is also a market called the “women market” (Even though they are all women markets anyway) it used to be in a building in the center of town, but now it has moved behind the national museum near the water, and it is hosted under huts, and it is much better than in that building it used to be. You do not find vegetables and fruits there or perhaps on some rare occasions who knows what the day will bring, but souvenirs apparels such as “lava - lava”, wooden artifacts and artworks, shells etc…It is a nice visit surely, and since it has been moved it seems to me it has become quiet popular as well, as the place is a thousand times better than before and really more suitable, plus there is a few coffee places, where you can have a drink, this is brand new as it did not existed in 2005. If you do the round the island visit, there is also a little road market on the other side of the island which is worth stopping by, you cannot miss it as it is on the main road, you basically go thru it.

So please do visit the main market, during the week is less crowded, but on a Saturday morning it is quiet an experience. Don’t hesitate to go there more than a few times, and of course you do not want to miss the “women market” as well, and like I said this market is growing in popularity.


Pascal de Gaillande



Copyright © 2007 - All rights reserved