Chatuchak Weekend Market
Skytrain: Mo Chit
subway: Kamphaeng Phet
HOURS: Sat.-Sun. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Covering 14 hectares of land north of Bangkok, the gigantic Chatuchak Weekend Market is like no other shopping experience in Thailand, or the world for that matter. Clothing, furniture, scented candles, Thai crafts, dog food, dogs, squirrels—you name it, you can find it among the open and covered stalls that make up the maze that is Chatuchak.
Only open on the weekends, the market draws in hundreds of thousands of people each week. Old, young, rich, poor, local, tourist, or expatriate, it seems like everyone comes together at Chatuchak with one goal in mind: shop. And while you’ll find plenty of cheap, generic stuff here, you’re likely to find the best bargains in souvenirs, some funky, creative housewares, and very cool T-shirts and casual tops for women.
By noon the place is packed with people, which can be a bit tough if you’re carrying lots of packages or it’s hot outside. It’s always hot in Bangkok, so you’re better off getting there early, when the crowds haven’t yet arrived and the goods haven’t yet been too picked over. When the hordes arrive, don’t just leave. Instead, head to one of the casual Isan stalls, cafés, bars, or sit-down restaurants in the market.
Like no other place in Bangkok, you’ll need a strategy for Chatuchak. Whatever it is you’re hoping to find, chances are it’s there, and you’ll be able to get it for a better price than you would pay at a market in the city, but the place is confusing and very big.
Don’t set out aimlessly wandering around unless you’re just there to browse and people watch. If you’re looking to get some shopping done, pick up a map at one of the entrances. The market is broken into sections and, within those, smaller sois that are numbered. Similar vendors are generally in the same areas, which are either totally obvious (like the pet area) or at least well signed, like the decorative housewares area.
Pick a couple of sections to browse in and spend some time comparing the goods and the prices. While some vendors may give you a 10-15 percent break, Chatuchak is not a big bargaining market. There’s so much competition that prices are already fair. Once you see something you like at a good price, buy it on the spot, as chances are you won’t even be able to find the stall again once you walk away.
Although not quite an official guide, www.jatujakguide.com has an online map of the market and some vendor listings. Nancy Chandler’s Bangkok map has some fairly detailed information about Chatuchak as well.
© Suzanne Nam from Moon Bangkok, 5th Edition