Labuan – Duty Free Island
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Other than the standard affairs of local food at the Labuan weekend market, there is also the Labuan farmers market to check out. As the stretch of the former dwindles off at the end, so begins the latter sheltered under extended blue-coloured tents. Instantly, you would be hit by the smell of salted fish gathered in molehills and other dried condiments neatly stacked atop one another in vacuum-sealed packets.
Compared to the rowdy weekend market, this part of the town is much quieter and sleepy. Underneath the fanned ceilings, farmers and their wives perk up from their daydreams whenever customers approach their stalls to check on the fresh vegetables and fruits, before resting their face on their knuckles again as the customers moved on to the next stall selling exactly the same things, arranged in almost the exact same order as the stall next door. (Well, at least you know the market will not run out of what you want to buy!)
Here you can find rare items like the authentic sambal sticks/slabs, made in Labuan and those shipped in from Sabah. They are made in the most organic way possible; no preservatives or added flavours just a lot of smashing in the sambal pounder. One way to differentiate such sambals from the ones you buy at the supermarket, is that these sambals you could still see the teeny eyes of the dried shrimps in the sticks and slabs.
You can also find more sago slabs, the main ingredient for the Brunei-Malay food Ambuyat sold here, as well as ragi balls, big and small, for the known tapai.
The Labuan farmers market is open every Saturday and Sunday at Jalan OKK Awang Besar with a large variety of agriculture products on sale, such as fruits, vegetables, fresh spices, fish, dried shrimps, dried seafood, and much more.
At the end of the line, located diagonally from the farmers market is the Labuan weekend bazaar. Relatively small, the bazaar sells everything and anything you need to get souvenirs and gifts for your friends and family back home. From tacky Labuan map T-shirts, to cheap ukulele toys, to footwear with questionable durability, locally made decorative ornaments the bazaar has it all.
If you are not into these shabby souvenirs, stop by the bazaar anyway, because the few shops selling pearl accessories will make your trip there worth your while.