Chatuchak is one of the largest markets in the world and a must-see location on any Bangkok trip. Take a day to wander around to your heart’s content among the 15,000 or more stalls with over 11,000 retailers, selling everything from Buddha statues to lovingly cherished LP records featuring golden oldies.
Most of the stalls feature clothing, a huge variety, the perusal of which will test the limits of the most ardent fashionista, but fear not as there are plenty of excellent pit stops along the way to keep you fed and lubricated.
Clothing stalls far outnumber everything else
But, for those who are perennial browsers, Chatuchak is the place to be. Take a stroll through stalls selling aromatic herbs, for culinary purposes or pure decoration, fragrant handmade soaps and perfumes, lotions, essential oils and body cleansers of every description and to suit all tastes.
Chatuchak is truly and all-encompassing market that retails everything for the mundane plastic ware of utilitarian necessity to quirky antiques from around the region and beyond, and though it can seem quite overwhelming at times there is some rhyme and reason in its layout.
The Clock Tower, built to commemorate the 60thbirthday of King Bhumipol
One of the easiest ways to orientate yourself is by using the clock tower as your go-to landmark, but there are schematic maps located throughout the market, an information centre, many ATMs and foreign exchange booths, the staff of which are always willing and able to point you in the right direction. There are also clean and well-maintained toilets all around the 35 acre site.
As you venture deep into the labyrinth of Chatuchak, it will seem like there is no order and no escape, but the market is arranged into relatively coherent and distinct sections and here the various maps available at the information centre and posted around the market are invaluable.
Some of the 200,000 visitors
You are likely to be one of more than 200,000 visitors on any given weekend and this can seem a little overwhelming at times, but remember this is Thailand where a smile and a polite request for help will work wonders.
The market has one main thoroughfare which goes around the entire site off which are the many sois, numbered alleyways, that can be easily referenced on the maps provided. There are some 27 sections in the market, some of which sell products found elsewhere, but generally it makes sense.
Crafted fine porcelain
Orientating yourself can be difficult at times and finding the stall where you saw just the right thing you were looking for may be impossible to find again, so it often pays to grab it while you’re there. The various banks, MRT and BTS stations are also useful landmarks and it helps to remember the number of the soi as you enter.
Chatuchak has just about anything you might want from a market ranging from clothing and accessories, handicrafts, gardening and horticultural goods, art and crafts, furniture and home accessories and antiques (though if you’re not an expert it might be prudent to exercise your judgement or bring along someone who is).
There is a pet section, which in the past had a dubious record for selling endangered wildlife, and is today much reduced in size. There is a growing trend by foreigners and the more socially conscious Thais to avoid this sector entirely.
There are numerous food and beverage outlets which serve up both local and foreign fare of excellent quality. It’s well worth remembering that for a great deal of the time you’ll be walking under the full force of the sun so hydration is an absolute must. You might want to wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses as well as covering exposed skin with a strong sunscreen.
Chatuchak is relatively easy to get to by taxi, tuk-tuk, bus or more sensibly the Skytrain (BTS), exiting at Mo Chit station and leaving by exit number 1 then just follow the roadside stalls till you reach the entrance to the market. You can also take the MRT to Chatuchak Park and again leave through exit number 1.
Sanam Luang Square today
Chatuchak Market has existed since 1942, established as part of the then Prime Minister, Plaek Phibungsongkhram’s policy of establishing a market in every province. Originally located in Sanam Luang, it was relocated after a few months to Sanam Chai before being once again moved back to Sanam Luang. By 1983 virtually all the retailers had moved to the present location which in those days was known as Phahonyothin Market. Chatuchak became the market’s official name in 1987.
The market is open on Fridays from 18.00 till 24.00, and Saturdays and Sundays from 09.00 till 18.00. Take lots of drinking water as the sun can be fierce and sunscreen (even on cloudy days), wear light, comfortable clothes, make sure you have cash as most vendors don’t accept credit cards and it can be a long walk to the nearest ATM and keep a wary eye out for pickpockets.
Almost anything could be found there…
Chatuchak Market is truly a memorable experience not to be missed and a fun day out. There are few markets in the world that offer such a range of goods in such a friendly and genuinely cheerful atmosphere. It is ideal for a family day out and can indeed be quite romantic at times, especially as the sun sets and tired legs wend their weary way back to a well-earned rest and repose.