Chatuchak - weekend market, Bangkok Thailand
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Chatuchak weekend market

 Chatuchak - Weekend Market

Everyone seems to love a bargain and there are plenty to be had at Chatuchak Weekend Market, a happening that occurs in Bangkok every Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. To say that Chatuchak is enormous is an understatement. There are 15,000 stalls on 35 acres of land and approximately 200,000 visitors a day, making it one of the biggest outdoor markets in the world.

Getting around and finding things in the maze presented by Chatuchak isn't easy. It is usually hot and humid, always very crowded and not especially well organized. Most people, however, find the place so interesting and the lure of bargains so enticing that they quickly forget about the discomforts.

Because of the heat, it is important to wear light clothing and to drink lots of fluids as you walk about. There are numerous places to eat and drink so finding a spot for a break is easy, although it is sometimes difficult to find a place to sit.

Maps of the market are available, including a charming and informative one by a woman named Nancy Chandler, but most people simply wander slowly up and down the lanes, stopping when they see something that interests them. Like any crowded area, there are occasionally problems with pickpockets so keeping a close watch on your valuables is a good idea.

To get the best prices, you will have to bargain, a process many initially find disconcerting. However, the more you do it, the easier it will become and after a few tries, you will find that you have developed your own style. About the only generalization that can be made is that smiles seem to work better than scowls.

Changing money or using one of the ATM's on the periphery of Chatuchak can be a bit of a hassle so be sure to stock up on cash before arriving. If you don't, you are likely to find yourself in the middle of the market without the funds to pay for an item you have decided you can't live without. Once you leave a stall, finding it again in the labyrinth presented by Chatuchak can be next to impossible!

Chatuchak is an excellent place to find traditional Thai handicrafts and the prices are usually low because of the quantity available and the intense competition among vendors. In addition to traditional handicrafts, there is also a wide range of attractive contemporary items. Hand-crafted stainless steel cutlery, for example, is currently at the top of tourist popularity charts and lots of it can be found in the market. Candles, ceramics, contemporary paintings and other items for the home are also a good buy.

One of the amazing things about Chatuchak is that virtually everyone ends up fascinated with something they never expected to find in a Thai market. Many people spend hours looking through stacks of old magazines and books that have somehow made their way from the United States and Europe to Thailand. Others fall in love with things like the enormous goldfish that sell for a fraction of what they would cost elsewhere or gaze in rapture at the unbelievably beautiful orchids that can be found in the plant section of the market.
The central area of Chatuchak is devoted to clothing and accessories, much of which has been copied from designer items sold in fashion capitals around the world. It is probably safe to say that most of these items appeal primarily to Thais in their late teens or early twenties.

Foreigners often seem to prefer the unique, locally designed items that frequently incorporate traditional Thai textiles into their designs.

When you are told something at Chatuchak is an antique, assume that it is a fake. Antiques are few and far between and it is frequently difficult to tell the difference between the bogus and the authentic. If the price is right and an item appeals to you, buy it because you like it, not because it is purported to be an antique. In the long run this is probably best anyway as real antiques require a permit to be taken out of the country, a process that can be both time consuming and frustrating.
Chatuchak Market can be reached in a variety of ways, but arriving by Skytrain is far and away the most convenient. Simply get off at the Mo Chit station, a terminus on the Sukhumvit line, and follow the crowd to the market.

If you have made numerous purchases and have lots of bags to carry, you might want to take a taxi back to your hotel. To ease communication problems, be sure you have a card from your hotel with directions in Thai that you can show the taxi driver.

The Weekend Market at Chatuchak is a shoppers paradise that appeals to both Thais and visitors from abroad. The authenticity of the place, the selection of merchandise available and fascinating things to see make it a never to be forgotten experience for the majority of people who visit it.


- August Issue, 2002

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