Bangkok’s Chatuchak weekend market is not for the faint of heart. With the number of visitors to the market potentially as high as 200,000 a day, even the market’s 35 acres isn’t enough to alleviate crowds, so expect to spend a lot of time squeezing awkwardly past your fellow shoppers in the narrow walkways. But it's all part of the fun.
History of Chatuchak
It all started back in the 1950s when the late Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsongkram, then PM of Thailand, decided that every town in the country ought to have a flea market. After much to-and-fro relocation, it was eventually decided that the Bangkok flea market would rest at its current location, in Phaholyothin.
Since then, Chatuchak, or Jatujak, as it’s pronounced in Thai (and therefore sometimes shortened to 'JJ') has blossomed into one of the world’s biggest open-air markets. The market is at its best on Saturday and Sunday (hence the term weekend market), but some stalls remain open all week long.
How to “Do” Chatuchak
It’s safe to say that you can find almost anything at Chatuchak. From household goods to kitchenware, to books, to clothes, to makeup, to antiques, to puppies to local art: it’s all here. It is, however, entirely possible to spend a full day at Chatuchak (there are about 10,000 stalls), and not see anything of any use at all, so any visit with a purpose is best planned ahead of time.
The first thing to keep in mind about Chatuchak is that much of your time will be spent lost and/or walking in direct sunlight. It’s therefore important to keep well-hydrated, and keep an eye out for overhangs where you can walk in the shade.
Pick up a map of the area from the Tourist Information Booth that you’ll pass on the right, on your way in. While you’re likely to get lost anyways, it’s useful to have some kind of direction in mind so that you don’t end up going in circles.
Remember to bargain, bargain, bargain. Especially if you are foreign, the Thai vendors expect you to bargain, and will therefore quote you a price that is more than double what it ought to be. However, sometimes, the prices are fixed – this will be obvious when they are written on a laminated sheet, or otherwise advertised for all to see through-out the shop. In this case, everyone has to pay this price.
When your feet start to hurt and your tummy starts to growl, head for the main road near the entrance, which is lined with street food (pad thai for 40 baht) and massage stations (one hour foot massage for 250 baht). There is also refreshing and yummy coconut ice cream (from the person with the stainless steel cart) available for 20 baht. Take a break, relax, recuperate, and get ready for more. When you're done, head to Chatuchak Park and collapse on the grass with the locals.
Great Recent Finds
- So Beautiful – Gorgeous vibrant notebooks, picture frames and clocks, expertly crafted and sold at great prices. Small notebooks for 80 baht, larger ones for 120 baht, frames for 190 baht. Section 13, address no. 16, soi 11/1.
- RST Shop – Natural herbs and spices. Includes dried fruit tea that looks as lovely as it tastes. Licorice root tea for 60 baht, dried bael fruit tea for 60 baht, bags of curry paste for 60 baht. Section 25, address no. 192, soi 3/1.
- Time + - Trendy, flowing fashions in soft lavender, pastel blues and off-whites. Section 26, address no. 307, soi 1. (kitty-corner to this, there are some gorgeous antique boxes)
How to Get There
Bangkok city planners have made Chatuchak quite simple to get to. The last stop on the Sukhumvit BTS line, Mo Chit, is about five minutes from the market. The MRT goes right there too, at Kamphaengphet station. If you take a taxi there, tell the driver Suan Chatuchak, which means Chatuchak Park.