“ Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok. „
The Chatuchak Market is, in my opinion, THE place to go if you fancy a bit of bargain shopping whilst in Bangkok. It is huge with over 8000 market stalls and approximately 200,000 people visit it every weekend.
About the market
The whole market place is like a massive maze, a rabbit run with lots of lanes going off the main walkway in each direction and a wide range of items available to purchase. There is a system in that each of the lanes are numbered and grouped into sections so you can track where you are going and where you have been but I found it more enjoyable just to walk at random wherever my feet took me. As it is so big I would advise you to wear comfortable shoes as you may be doing a lot of walking if you intend to see at least the majority of the market.
Although the market is covered it is not entirely weather-proof and therefore when it starts pouring with rain water leaks through the temporary roofing so you can get quite wet even when you are 'inside'. Also the pathway that runs round the middle of the market is not covered so again be sure to protect yourself from the elements - not just the rain but if it is a very hot day don't forget your sunscreen!
What can I buy?
The market sells pretty much everything you can dream of from candles to Levi jeans, silk dressing gowns to jewellery and shoes to pets - yes you did read that right, there are animals on sale there. We saw bunny rabbits, puppies and kittens when we were there but apparently you can also buy reptiles too. The rabbits that we saw looked quite healthy and content but the puppies not so much so - a few of them had patches of fur missing in places and just seemed to be lying there a bit sad, although I am not sure if this means they are mistreated or not.
Roughly speaking the goods at the market can be divided into the following categories:
Clothing and accessories
Furniture and Home decoration
Food and drink
Plants and gardening tools
Art and gallery
Pets and Pet accessories
Antiques and Collectibles
Miscellaneous and Used Clothing
There are also lots of options for eating and drinking at the market. As you turn into the road where the market is there are street vendors selling snacks such as chicken skewers and spring rolls (roughly 10 baht each), and there are also makeshift street restaurants selling a variety of Thai food and cold drinks. As you would expect the prices here are very cheap and at the street restaurant we ate in the food was really tasty too (roughly 80 baht a dish). There are also more places to eat and drink inside the market where you can get everything from fresh coconut juice for 30 baht to Jack Daniels for £?? (we didn't have any alcohol at the market so I'm not sure of prices there.)
How do I get there?
Obviously you can get to the market in either a taxi or a tuk-tuk but it is also really easy (and a whole lot cheaper) to use the public transport system. Depending on where you are located in the City you may opt to use the Skytrain (BTS) or the subway (MRT).
For the BTS you need to take the Sukhumvit line to the last station, Mo Chit. On arrival you will see signs for the exits and the one you want does state that it is for the market - although you will already have worked this out by the huge crowd of people that are all heading that way! On the roadside leading up to the market entrance you will also see lots of street hawkers with various products and as you turn in to the market entrance there are lots of food stalls around.
For the MRT go to Chatuchak Park Station and take Exit 1. As above there will be a huge throng of people heading that way and following the crowd will lead you to the markets entrance.
The market is open 09:00 - 18:00 on Saturday and Sunday. It is advisable to get there in the morning because it is not so busy and not so hot. Also, if the weather is really bad the market sometimes closes early as it did when we went - the torrential rain at about 4pm led to many of the stalls closing early.
It's all about the money, money, money...
Due to the popularity this now infamous market is not necessarily going to be the cheapest place in Bangkok to purchase items. However haggling goes a long way here and is actually expected - I think the vendors enjoy it as much as you. In terms of price my philosophy is that whatever you are happy to pay for something makes it a good price, put it into context and don't get too caught up in trying to get the biggest bargain - at the end of the day these people are trying to make a living and that extra 50p will mean more to them than it does to you. Generally I think you can expect to pay between a half and one third of the original asking price - the best tip I can give you is to be polite, friendly and smile a lot, it works for me! If the vendor won't come down to what you want to pay then be prepared to walk away - they will either call you back or you will find the same items on another stall and the process begins again. Most of the vendors we spoke to did speak some English and the ones that do like to engage in a bit of banter with you (especially about football teams if you are from England!) It is easy to build up a rapport with them, compliment them on their products and ask them questions such as are the items handmade.
There are ATMs at the market but not loads and they are not the easiest to find. As a lot of the vendors do not accept card payments I would advise you to carry enough cash with you for any purchases you may want to make.
I think the Chatuchak Market is a great place to visit and I will definitely go back there next time I am in Bangkok. Even if you are not planning on buying anything it is worth it just to soak up the atmosphere and see what all the fuss is about.
The entire market, even the outdoor bits, is non-smoking. This is not particularly well-advertised but if you get caught there is a 2000 baht fine so be warned!
*Just to give an indication, at the time of writing (Sept 12) we were getting approximately 50 baht to the £.