Travel, Teach, Live in Thailand
Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, also known as Jatujak, is a marvelous marketplace to spend your entire day leisurely browsing around the diverse array of seemingly limitless stalls. If you love spending quality time strolling through the Thailand market scene, then this is one market you should definitely not miss.
The only prerequisite you need here is to plan your vacation so that your stay in the city includes a weekend. Any weekend will do, as the market is open to the general public on Saturday and Sunday. All other markets in the city open daily.
Set shopping times for the broader public is generally from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm or sunset on Saturday and Sunday. The market is however also open on a Friday for wholesaler trading. If you wish to do bulk buying, this would perhaps be the ideal time to make your purchases. If it's garden plants you require, then you will find this section open on Wednesday and Thursday from 7:00 am until 6:00 pm.
Although this particular market caters mostly for local trade, it is also extremely popular with tourists. I have shopped at this market on many occasions but also enjoy the active atmosphere that prevails and there is plenty of that here too.
This very lively and engaging market caters for virtually anything and everything. Here you will find book stalls, music stalls, clothing stalls, handicraft stalls, flower and plant stalls and just about everything else in-between. There are so many unexpected and startling goods on offer to suit a variety of tastes. The market is as astonishing as it is appealing and an extremely exciting experience of note.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is without doubt, the undisputed king of all the markets around Thailand. The sheer size of it may initially overwhelm you at first but once you've overcome any form of trepidation due to potentially crowded places, it is fairly easy to become accustomed to the friendly and unpretentious ambiance.
The market covers an area of 70 rai or 35 acres. Enough space to accommodate 15,000 shops and stalls. I am also told that more than 400,000 visitors frequent this market each and every weekend spending something like 60 million baht or approximately US$1,500,000. You only need to see this huge place to believe it.
A word of caution when trying to purchase traditional Thai products, particularly any sort of antique item. Make sure you fully understand the difference between what is potentially legitimate and what is actually fake. The majority of antiques on offer are reproductions of bona-fide objects and you may find it extremely misleading at times to objectively recognize the authenticity of any such item.
There are a couple of factors you need to be aware of when wanting to acquire traditional Thai artifacts at this market. One is that genuine antiques including Buddha Images, requires a permit to be taken out of the country which in most cases, will not be granted. In some cases even replicas can be mistaken for the real thing and can sometimes fool custom officials. This is more an exception than the absolute rule.
The other more important factor of note, is that the majority of vendors at this market, speak very little English or as in most cases, none at all. Sign language is the order of the day. It may be advisable to go with a companion who can speak Thai. For the most part, it is indeed both a challenging and rewarding experience.
A principal opportunity requiring surprisingly little skill, would be to try your hand at bargaining. It's mandatory, if not expected. Goods are typically much cheaper than many of the shopping centres and street stalls around Silom or Sukhumvit. You may even stumble across some shops at the market who have branches in other areas of the city, only here, the prices are much lower. Go grab your slice.
Another thing I discovered at the market to my horror, is that it is even possible for anyone to purchase live animals including some rare and endangered species. Occasionally you will get to see young Thai girls selling cuddly dogs as pets too. Promise me that you won't engage in anything illegal.
It has since come to the attention of a number of conservationists as well as the World Wildlife Fund that the Chatuchak Market is a hub for the illegal trafficking of endangered animals. The Planet in Peril series as viewed on CNN, highlighted these actual activities but despite all the subsequent publicity, Thai law rarely pursues any action in preventing the illegal trade. Nothing I've seen surprised me during my travels throughout the far east. I have observed dogs being sold as a food source in China. I urge you to refrain from entertaining any such practice.
One other thing you need to be aware of and that is to pay particularly attention to your personal belongings at all times as the market is often a hive for potential pickpockets. I have not had the misfortune to detect or to have had to confront any such situation but there is always a first time. You surely don't want to have your outing marred by an unnecessary incidence that could have been avoided. Prevention is always better than any cure. You need to remember that it is wise to be cautious. Most pickpockets successfully operate in crowded conditions.
One of the easiest ways to get to the market is to simply hop on the train. It is probably best to use the BTS Skytrain Sukhumvit Line and once on board, look out for Mo Chit Station as this is where you disembark. From here, it's a matter of a short walk. About a 5-minutes. My suggestion is to just follow the crowds. You can't go wrong. Entrance is on Kamphaengphet II Road. The market is also adjacent to the Kamphaengphet station on the MRT Bangkok Metro Blue Line.
Should you prefer to travel by car, then this too is relatively easily accessible by road. Simply head for Chatuchak Park, (Suan Jatujak). Most Bangkok taxi drivers know both the park and the market very well. Although I've personally not used this form of transport, you're welcome to catch one of the air-conditioned buses that travel to and from the market. It is however a lot easier to take a bus from the market than it is from the city centre. Should you be unfamiliar with the bus routes, then simply ask one of the traffic police to direct you to the right station.
The market is divided into sub-zones depending on the type of merchandise sold. Although there are maps freely available for all the designated sections, trying to follow a map around the market, can prove a trifle frustrating. You may even feel somewhat disorientating at times but should this happen, stop whatever it is you are doing and go for as spot of lunch or whatever else may take your fancy. This is definitely not the place where you want to rush into anything in a great hurry.
It's best to go as early as possible in the morning as the market can get very hot and humid during the day. There is no air-conditioning here, so it can get a little uncomfortable at times, especially when negotiating the narrow alley-ways. One way to cool down (if that is at all possible) is to find an ice-lolly seller, then buy one or two refreshing frozen coke suckers. They are perfect on hot humid days. The invaluable benefits gained at Chatuchak Weekend Market outweigh any disadvantages.
Hi my name is Grahame Pike and the author of this article. My passion is travel, art, writing and meeting new and interesting people in strange and exotic locations. If you enjoyed reading this page and would like to see the photos relating to this article as well as some of my other editorials on Thailand, please follow me at: http://www.luxury-thailand-travel.com/