Ordinarily we’d say markets are a great way to get a slice of local life and eat authentic foods, but the Ratchada Train Market is much more than that. Not only does it have authenticity, delicious food and fashion in abundance, it’s also incredibly cool; the distinct vintage aesthetic is different and great for photos, whilst the bars nearby are well worth a visit. Its vintage shops offer the chance to pick up rare pieces and trinkets that you’ll struggle to find elsewhere, whilst the low prices and potential for bartering could see you leaving with bags full of bargains.
Unfortunately, if you’re not coming to Bangkok for more than a couple of days, you might miss it. Like many markets in the city, this one isn’t on every day — after all, all good things must come to an end — and the main market is only open Thursday to Sunday, from 5pm until past midnight. Select bars nearby and some stalls however have different opening times, so it’s still worth popping down for a look outside of these times.
Getting anywhere in Bangkok’s traffic can be a pain, but this is one place that’s worth the effort. For those arriving by taxi, asking for the Ratchada Train Market, or “talat rot fai Ratchada” for its Thai name, should do the trick. Make sure you mention Ratchada, as the original version of this market is in a different place altogether. For those who can’t be bothered with the hassle of asking for the meter to be turned on in the taxi, it’s also easily accessible via MRT; simply get off at the Thailand Cultural Centre stop and cross the road towards the Esplanade Complex and you can’t miss it.
As you might expect, there’s a large array of Thai dishes to choose from; from fresh seafood, boat noodles and som tam to delicious Thai desserts, it’s a great place to both discover new favourites and enjoy your old ones, with prices that are low enough to allow you to experiment. For the adventurous among us, fried insects are available to try here, but not worry; there’s also pizza, for those who like to stick with what they know. Free tables and seats can be hard to come by given how busy the market is, but it’s a great place to relax and enjoy your food once you do manage to find them. Some foods though, such as the grilled meat skewers, are easy to eat on the move.
Given the market’s late closing time, it’d be rude not to stay and have a drink there. As well as being able to enjoy fruit smoothies, fresh coconuts and cocktails and beers with your food, there are also some top bars at the market, often with cheap drinks and live music. Its bars are quirky, to say the least; with many made from shipping containers and old Volkswagen parts, they’re in keeping with the cool, vintage vibe of the market, and are great places to take a break from the shopping and the crowds inside. Speakerbox is a top spot to catch live music, whilst the likes of Sorry, I’m Gay and Dot Box are great for live DJs and a more upbeat atmosphere.
Ratchada Train Market has plenty of different shopping options. As well as toys, souvenirs and accessories, there’s also a number of stalls selling t-shirts, dresses and other en-trend pieces. Whilst there aren’t exactly any high-street names here, there’s a wealth of clothes and accessories from local labels for sale at incredibly cheap prices that are bound to help you stand out from the crowd back home. There’s also a great deal of vintage clothing and antiques here for sale too, where real bargains can be found– a welcome change from the sanitised shopping experience at Central.