Every weekend without fail Chatuchak Weekend Market comes alive in Bangkok, and it is absolutely huge. If you are a keen bargain hunter you will be in your element here; the seemingly endless labyrinth of shops and stalls would defeat all but the most meticulous and determined shopper.
There is a staggering 15,000 stalls in Chatuchak and once you get stuck into the browsing you can soon become overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the place. It’s become a major tourist attraction in Bangkok and well worth a visit even to simply window-shop and people-watch.
Many of the stalls sell souvenirs and handicrafts so it’s a great place to stock up before you return home. Reams of luxurious Thai silk are on sale at rock-bottom prices, fake designer clothes barely distinguishable from the genuine articles can be bought, and jewellery, ornaments, watches, DVDs, CDs are all on sale. The list is endless and if you want to seek out every potential bargain, perhaps you’d better come to the market on both Saturday and Sunday!
If you need a break from the haggling and the shopping, there are many food stalls in and around the market selling a wide range of cheap Thai dishes. Usually it is of the snack variety, so expect barbequed satays, phad thai (fried noodles) and curry broth. Or, if you are feeling particularly adventurous, a bag of fried grasshoppers or crickets can be purchased from one of the insect stalls.
Since the market appeals mainly to Bangkok’s Thai population, the prices of the goods on sale here are extremely low, and you will often be cursing yourself for paying double the Chatuchak price for something elsewhere in Bangkok. Often the first price quoted can be lowered simply by haggling with the shop’s proprietor – usually the ‘real’ price will be about 25 to 50 per cent less than the price first given.
Be careful not to be too stubborn with your haggling, though. It’s not worth being picky over 10 or 20 baht, it just causes friction and both buyer and seller lose face – not a situation anyone wants.
If you get too carried away with your expenditure and you need to replenish your funds, there are a few ATMs and foreign exchange booths. There are also a few toilet blocks, a meeting point and a police booth.
If you’re particularly sensitive to animal cruelty, be warned, you may be appalled by the squalid conditions in which some of the animals are kept in the many pet shops in the market. Everything from koi fish to gibbons, snakes and exotic pets can be found here.
To get to Chatuchak Weekend Market, take the BTS Skytrain to Mochit station or the MRT to Chatuchack Station. You can’t really miss the market from there, but signs point the way anyway. Opening hours on Saturday and Sunday are 06:00-18:00.