When spending any significant amount of time in the bustling metropolis that is Bangkok, it can be hard to wonder just what life was like before the shopping malls and skyscrapers. Fortunately, there are several windows into the past, in the form of the many night markets and street bazaars you can find all over the city. From vintage markets selling antiques to markets inside shopping centres selling beauty products, Bangkok’s markets offer up a slice of the real Thailand, mixing the past with the future to provide a present in every sense of the word. Here are the best of them.
The most famous of all the weekend night markets and comfortably the biggest, Chatuchak market is a place that any would-be traveller needs to visit. The sheer scale is huge; with upwards of 15,000 stalls visited by over 200,000 people per day and takes some getting around, though thankfully it has plenty of places to grab a bite and refuel. It can get a bit overwhelming and claustrophobic – which is to be expected given it’s one of the biggest markets in the world – but with bargains at hand and plenty of things to see, it’s more than worth it. It truly has something for everyone; from exotic pets to clothes, jewellery and artwork, you’ll find whatever you’re looking for. What’s more, if you’re worrying about getting something home, there are shipping companies on site to take care of the logistics for you.
A hipster paradise, the Rod Fai market is the best place in town to find all things vintage and retro. From shiny Cadillacs to beatnik jackets, it’s a trendy shopping alternative to usual tourist hotspots like Khao San Road, and offers a chance to buy one of a kind items of clothing rather than the same t-shirts and elephant pants that help tourists to stick out like a sore thumb. There’s also antique furniture up for grabs, as well as old toys that would make for a great souvenir, as well as plenty of other little slices of history just waiting to be discovered.
Much more of a local market than Chatuchak, Klongsan Plaza is a popular destination for Thais to visit on their way home from work, taking advantage of the delicious food and treats available to purchase – at local prices, too. Food isn’t the only thing on the menu; you can find clothes and accessories at this market and, unlike Chatuchak, you can browse at your leisure without fear of getting lost or swept away by the crowds. If that hasn’t swayed you, there’s also a large Buddhist monk doll that makes for an unusual sight besides an array of protective amulets for sale.
Appearing on the first and third weekend of every month, the Bangkok Farmers Market is a little different to the others as it moves around each time – usually to another shopping mall – yet is worth the extra bit of research to pinpoint its location. It’s a great initiative, offering tourists and Thais alike the chance to purchase natural, organic goods directly from the farmers, with a lot of the money then going on to be invested in charitable causes, meaning you’re really giving back to the community. There are plenty of things to sample and buy, from handmade jewellery and beauty creams to delicious foods and clothes that are sweatshop free. An ethical and enjoyable choice of weekend market.
Perhaps more highbrow than many other kinds of markets, Asiatique blends shops with stalls in order to provide a shopping experience that is much more stress-free and easier to navigate than others in the city. In a good location by the river and with a cute, nostalgic decor, Asiatique is perfect for those wanting to discover the latest fashion trends in Bangkok and willing to indulge in a little retail therapy – though there’s much more to it than that. With plenty of independent eateries alongside the usual Thai favourites of MK and The Pizza Company, it’s a great place to spend an evening. The cherry on top? There’s an illuminated ferris wheel, providing a chance to end the night in style.
Named as a “place of symbolic values” to Bangkok residents, Pak Khlong Talat is the premier flower market in Bangkok and a real feast for the senses. Once floating, yet now on land, it’s several centuries old and is famous in Thailand. There are thousands upon thousands of types of flowers here, from your usual orchids and roses to exotic types that most will never have heard of. It’s known far and wide, with traders from overseas coming to sell their wares too, all helping to contribute to a colourful spectacle that will take some beating. If you’re not a flower lover, don’t despair as it’s also home to countless fruits and vegetables. Visit for an hour or two and you’ll have the fragrance of flowers lingering in your nose all day – a welcome respite from some of Bangkok’s usual odours.
Though it’s located 100km outside of Bangkok, it’s a popular day trip and no list of Bangkok activities is complete without mentioning it. The most famous floating market in the Bangkok area, Damnoen Saduak is about as picturesque as it gets; the steam from freshly-made coconut treats rising against the backdrop of the river; vendors stirring as the sun rises, preparing their goods on their old wooden boats to sell; the vivid colours of the flowers and fruit amongst the backdrop of flats and rustic wooden buildings that stretch out of the water. It’s a must visit for anyone coming to Bangkok, and makes for a great subject for those who are photographically (or Instagram)-inclined.