The D’Talipapa Seafood Market is one of my favorite places on Boracay, and at the same time, my least favorite.
Seafood is one of those things that I’m mostly apathetic towards (it just seems like too high prices for not too much payoff), but if I happen to get my hands on some, I don’t know why I don’t eat more of it. It’s delicious! On the other hand, D is a big seafood fan (check out the gigantic shrimp we had in Bangkok Chinatown!), so I can always count on him to bring me out of my shell (errrr… pun not intended).
The D’Talipapa market is a mecca for seafood lovers. I’ve never been anywhere like it. Tables of brightly colored fish. Prawns as big as your forearm (D could hardly contain his excitement). Tanks of lobsters and crabs. Piles upon piles of clams, oysters, and other shellfish. You want them alive and kicking? No problem! Prefer them dead instead? Sure, just means it’s cheaper.
I may have discovered that I actually like seafood, but I hate shopping here. It’s a dreadfully stressful situation. As you wander through the narrow aisles, vendors yell at you from every which way. Crabs will be dangled in front of you. Prawns with furiously kicking legs will be shoved in your face. Wiggling fish will be handed to you for inspection.
The vendors’ main goal is to get as much money from you as they can. And your main goal is to get your seafood for as cheap as possible. Here, bargaining is a game. And it takes skill to play.
However, we’re not skilled. Bargaining makes me incredibly nervous, while D doesn’t understand why they can’t just be honest to start with. A couple of times, we’ve arrived with rumbling tummies but left empty handed simply because he refused to play the game.
“It was too high. 1,200 pesos for one prawn, are you kidding me??” He’d scoff as he storms away from the vendor.
“Yes, but you know they purposely quote you high, right?? Because they’re expecting you to come down.”
“Yeah but I still didn’t like his attitude.”
“But that’s how it works! Do you not understand bargaining??”
“Fine, next time you try it if you don’t like how I play.”
After a few stressful, but successful, attempts at bargaining, the market no longer seemed like such an intimidating place. Here are my 6 steps to have a happy, delicious experience at D’Talipapa:
Step 1: be familiar with how much things should cost
Never go in completely blind. We did a little bit of research first, so we knew how much we were willing to pay (and I even went as far as to ask other diners how much they paid for their stuff). This is a good guide to use as a starting point (D’Talipapa used to have a price list posted, but no longer does), but of course the prices varied from our experience. Also know whether you want alive or dead, which is a huge difference in cost. We find that the aliveness levels come in: very much alive and kicking, barely alive (twitches if splashed water on), or dead.
From our experience, here are the prices we paid (in pesos):
- (dead) giant prawns: 8 for 650
- (barely alive) giant king prawns: 2 for 600
- scallops: 1/2 kilo for 200
- small-medium-ish lapu-lapu fish: 450
- clams and other small shellfish: 125/kilo
* 500 pesos = approximately $11 US
** note: these prices are just from our experience. These are the lowest that we’ve paid for. Maybe we still overpaid… who knows. But we were happy customers. We didn’t get crab or lobster as we feel they’re too expensive for not too much meat (for lobster, you’re talking maybe 1,500 peso for a medium one.). I think the prawns are the best value in terms of price + meat.
Step 2: come during early afternoon hours
During dinner hours, the narrow aisles are crammed full with people and the vendors may be less willing to bargain. But during the early afternoon (1 pm – 4 pm), we find that the market is mostly empty. Take your time browsing the aisles. The vendors are more likely to chat and you’re in a better position to strike a good deal.
Another tip I find that works well is saying that we’ve already eaten and we’re just looking. Immediately, the vendors go from aggressive to friendly once the pressure to make a sale is off. Then, we can chat and casually inquire about the price.
Step 3: ready to buy? Cut the price by 2/3
See something you like? Now is time to ask for the price. The vendor will type a number into a calculator and hand it to you. All communication is done via calculator, so don’t worry about language barrier or misunderstandings.
Look at the number. Do they really think you’re stupid?! Well you are not, because you’re reading this guide!
The number displayed will be much, much too high. If it’s too ridiculously high (like the vendor who wanted 1,200 pesos for ONE giant prawn), then just walk away. If it seems like a good starting point, cut it by 1/2 or even 2/3. Type it into the calculator and hand it back to the vendor. Now, this number you’re offering is probably too low. But it’s okay. We’re going to work our way up from here.
For example: Vendor quoted 850 pesos for 2 giant (barely alive) king prawns. My first counter-offer: 400 pesos (knowing this to be too low). His comeback: 650. We finally settle on 600, and we’re both happy.
Step 4: look like you’re about to cry
Is step 3 not working? Then you may have to resort to the girls’ secret weapon: crying.
I really really wanted scallops. I knew it was 200 pesos for 20 pieces as that’s what I had previously paid. But a week later, the price had mysteriously doubled and nobody was willing to come down.
“We were here last week, and we paid 200 pesos for 20.”
“No no, that’s too cheap. We never sell for that cheap. 300 pesos”
“But I know they’re only 200 pesos!”
Later, D told me I looked like I was about to cry, which wouldn’t surprise me as I was seriously frustrated (yes, I realize I was stressing out over the equivalent of $2). I can’t really attribute the final outcome to this, but they did come down on the price, just saying. Finally, we agreed to 250 pesos for half a kilo, which is a little over 20 pieces.
Step 5: make them jealous
One last resort, if you really cannot come to an agreement, just walk away. Even better, make a show of going to a competitor’s stall, which will probably be just right next door. As soon as you turn your back, they’ll call after you, “hey hey hey, come back! What’s your price?”
Now, you’ve got the power. Go back and make your offer.
Step 6: get your food cooked!
So you’ve got your seafood! What do you now? After all, you’re on vacation and you’re not about to cook it yourself.
This is the fun part! Just walk a few steps over to one of the many cooking services on the perimeter of the market and have your seafood prepared however you want, whether it be grilled, steamed, garlic buttered, stir fried, or made into soup. Here is a list of all possible preparation methods and cost (usually it costs between US$3-4 per dish).
Our favorite cooking service is Plato D’Boracay (not that we went to any other ones for comparison). We chose it based on the fact that it’s always crowded, which is a good sign.
We always just eat our seafood by itself, but you can make a whole meal out of it. D’Talipapa also has a produce section and you can buy some vegetables to have them cook it up too. Round out the meal with rice and fresh mango for dessert.
- Location: at Station 2, down a small alleyway next to Victory Diver’s Resort (very close to the McDonald’s stand)
- Getting there: either walk along the beachfront, or you can take a tricycle from the main road
- Besides the seafood market, this market also sells produce and souvenir goods. But no international grocery store. You’ll have to go to D’Mall for that.
- Last tip: make sure you ask to see what you’re buying. I heard that sometimes, the vendor switches out alive for dead when you’re not looking.
Now you know what to expect from a trip to D’Talipapa! It is certainly not the cheapest, but I think it’s one of the most unique dining experiences on Boracay, and so is definitely worth a visit. Now, go put your bargaining skills to the test! Good luck!
P.S. For a complete guide to Boracay’s 15 budget restaurants, check out Boracay Compass’s very helpful guide (D’Talipapa is listed as one of them!). Find everything ranging from budget local eats to pastries to international!
Are you a fan of seafood? How do you feel about bargaining? Have you been to a market like this?
This post is linked up with Sunday Traveler with Pack Me To and others!