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10 exotic markets and bizarre bazaars around the world

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5/09/2016 Larry Bleiberg
Bangkok's Chatuchak Weekend Market sprawls across 27 acres and includes 15,000 retailers, selling everything from teak furniture to snack bags of stir-fried insects. © Tourism Authority of Thailand Bangkok's Chatuchak Weekend Market sprawls across 27 acres and includes 15,000 retailers, selling everything from teak furniture to snack bags of stir-fried insects.

Forget about back-to-school shopping. If you want to pick up something unique this holiday weekend, it’s time to move beyond your local big box store. Around the world, specialty markets and shops appeal to both souvenir hunters and sightseers, offering merchandise from folk medicine cures to survival supplies. “When you’re traveling, shopping is a really interesting experience,” says Brandon Presser, host of the Bravo channel reality show Tour Group. He shares some favorite spots with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Bangkok

One of the world’s largest markets sprawls across 27 acres and includes 15,000 retailers, selling everything from teak furniture to stir-fried insect snacks. “It’s just this really incredible megamarket,” Presser says. “You have a football field's worth of apparel, and an entire field of fresh produce, and antiques and hand-pounded silverware, and more.”

Zombie Apocalypse Store

Las Vegas

If your neighbors start disappearing and you suddenly crave human flesh for breakfast, it might be time to visit this only-in-Vegas oddity. The survivalist shop sells supplies like freeze-dried food and stun guns, and even has a knife-throwing area to hone your battle-to-the-death skills. Or sign up for a zombie hunting experience with paintball guns, led by a special ops agent, “We’re in this funny zombie-obsessed world,” Presser says.

Akodessewa Fetish Market

Lome, Togo

Think of this as a CVS for shamans. The unusual West African market specializes in dead animals and potions, basic supplies for voodoo practitioners. Inventory includes skeletons and carcasses, which believers use to treat illnesses. “It’s a wonderful, vibrant, different place,” Presser says.

Akihabara electronics district

Tokyo

With sprawling computer stores and multi-story bookshops devoted to anime, you can find any and everything high-tech in Tokyo’s electronic shopping district. "It’s a fascinating part of the city,” Presser says. Oddities include sidewalk vendors selling scrap computer parts, maid cafes with waitresses dressed up in costume, and even video game urinals.

Wall Drug

Wall, S.D.

This roadside stand started out luring in Badlands vacationers with free ice water. But now it’s a tourist attraction itself, with 76,000 square feet of shopping with postcards, clothes and jackalopes.“Every time you talk about visiting South Dakota, people say you have to come to Wall Drug. Kudos to them for taking souvenir kitsch and turning it on its head and making it something you have to see,” Presser says.

Samburu Livestock Market

Kenya

Although Presser wasn’t shopping for a cow or goat, he loved visiting this traditional livestock market, one of the largest in East Africa. “It’s a dusty backwater. There’s not a whiff of technology in site, but most of their trading is done on cellphones,” he said. It also stands out as a peaceful gathering site for rural communities that are often in conflict.

The Kuin River in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan (Borneo) © Harri J/Wikimedia CC The Kuin River in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan (Borneo)

Muara Kuin floating market

Banjarmasin, Indonesia 

Selling produce and other staples from a traditional hollowed-out canoe started out as a necessity for residents in a city laced with waterways. “For them it’s normal, and for us it’s such an oddity. It’s a beautiful thing, so different,” Presser says.

Witch's Market

La Paz, Bolivia

While it’s a popular tourist attraction, this market is not for show. Its merchandise, which includes talismans, herbs and potions, is used by folk doctors to treat illnesses. One of the most popular items is dried llama fetuses, which are believed to bring good luck. But some of the merchandise is quite practical, Presser says.  “It’s not as much as for casting spells as for getting rid of a headache.”

Treasure Mart

Ann Arbor, Mich.

This three-story consignment shop is constantly adding to it its inventory, selling everything from vintage furniture to fossils. “This is a hoard of antiques,” Presser says. The store even has an appraiser on staff, who can be hired to assess estates and other property offered for resale.

Djemaa el Fna

Marrakech, Morocco

This central square in the old city is notable for its wares — and for snake charmers, who perform for tips. Presser visited while filming the show and found it popular with both locals and tourists. “It’s the beating heart of Marrakech, where twisting alleys let out into a courtyard. It’s one of the most not-in-Kansas-anymore experiences,” he says.

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