The go-to place for anything and everything
Chatuchak Weekend Market, 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 as I do, then this is a market you should 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 wholesale trading.
If you are wanting to do some 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 lively and engaging market caters for virtually anything and everything. Here you’ll 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 all tastes. The market is as astonishing as it is appealing. It’s also an extremely exciting experience of note.
Exploring Chatuchak Weekend Market
Chatuchak Market is, without a doubt, the undisputed king of all the many markets in 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 ambience.
The market covers an area of 70 Rai or 35 acres. Enough space to accommodate 15,000 shops and stalls. More than 400,000 visitors frequent this market each and every weekend and spend something like 60 million Baht or approximately US$1,500,000. You only need to see this huge place to believe it.
Just a word of caution when trying to purchase traditional Thai products, particularly any kind of antique items, 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 bonafide objects and you may find it extremely misleading at times to objectively recognize the authenticity of any such item.
What to expect at Chatuchak
There are a couple of factors you need to be aware of when wanting to acquire traditional Thai artifacts. One is that genuine antiques including Buddha Images require 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 customs officials. It is more the exception than the absolute rule.
A more important fact 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’s 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 that 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.
It has since come to the attention of a number of conservationists including the World Wildlife Fund that the Chatuchak Weekend Market is a hub for the illegal trafficking of endangered animals.
The Planet in Peril series as viewed on CNN highlighted these activities, but despite 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 east. I’ve observed dogs being sold as food in China. I urge you to refrain from entertaining any such practice.
Something you need to be aware of and is to pay particular 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 encounter or even to have had to confront any such situation, but then there’s always the first time.
You 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. Pickpockets usually operate in crowded conditions.
Getting to Chatuchak Market
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 onboard, look out for Mo Chit Station as this is where you disembark. From here, it’s only a five-minute short walk.
My suggestion is to just follow the crowds. You can’t go wrong. Entrance is on Kamphaengphet II Road. The market is adjacent to the Kamphaengphet station on the Bangkok Metro Blue Line.
If you prefer going by car, then this too is relatively easily accessible by road. Simply head to 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 from the city center. Should you be unfamiliar with the bus routes, then ask one of the traffic police to direct you to the right station.
Finding your way around the Market
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 could feel disoriented at times, but if this happens, stop whatever it is you are doing and go for a 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 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 alleyways.
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 suckers. They are perfect on hot, humid days. The invaluable benefits gained in the market outweigh any disadvantages.
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