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