My first visit to a local Malagasy market was not initially as I’d imagined. “These are no good, they are Chinese and too small, you need something bigger.”

Not sure how to take this, my long suffering guide and I continued our search for some new underwear for me, having been short on time and common sense when packing in the UK. Markets are always great fun to explore and the one I found myself in at Morondava, a sleepy laid back beach town in western Madagascar, set in a huge colonial wooden building. After tracking down my own essential items, we headed deeper into the market to see what else was on offer.

Passed the clothes and colourful lamba cloths, were large sacks of rice (essential to any Malagasy meal) and bags of dried beans and sitting in the middle was the brightly dressed stall owner, weighing and measuring out orders with spoons and cups as if she were mixing cocktails. Then came the fresh fruit and vegetables, beautifully arranged and a mouth-watering mix of custard apples, vanilla and mango along with sweet potato and cassava leaves plus the fiery sakay chillies that are mixed with ginger and garlic to make a delicious but eye-watering hot sauce.

Equally as fascinating, but somewhat less aromatic were the fresh fish and meat stalls, where small rays, huge eels and octopus lay next to mountains of dried fish giving way to hanging cuts of meats of all description – it seems every part of the zebu is edible. After this, came the fresh snacks – samosas, grilled meat kebabs (masikita) and sweet kobas-a mixture of ground peanuts, pistachios and sugar water wrapped in banana leaves and baked. This is of course all washed down with a shot of toaka gasy – moonshine – also bottled up and ready to go on the stall beside.

As we left the market and drifted back to the street, we passed an older man who had clearly fallen on hard times (since the coup in 2009 jobs are harder to come by) and approaching me, he quietly asked for Mbaa (money). This was the only time it happened on my entire trip, but conscious not to encourage begging, I shrugged my shoulders apologetically and showed him the only thing I had on me – 3 pairs of fake Calvin Klein boxer shorts.