On an overcast Saturday, a humid breeze drifts with the threat of rain over Chatuchak Market’s hustle and bustle. Some vendors call out from the entrances of their booths and shops, while others wheel rickety carts along the narrow streets. Customers who have come from all corners of the earth to walk from shop to shop with their wallets out, hungry for cheap deals that can’t be found in their home countries.
With its crowds, noise, and sometimes unbearable heat, the sprawling weekend market is not for everyone. But for those who can tolerate a certain amount of stress, Chatuchak is a wonderful and unique place fit to satisfy one’s shopping needs. Lose yourself among the extensive selection of clothes and shoes, art and home decor, jewellery, and delicious food – to name just a few of the products offered there – for a successful trip to the largest market in Thailand.
Clothes and shoes
The taxi driver drops me off at the Mo Chit BTS station, and I walk through the park to the entrance of Chatchuak that I know best. I usually need to be on the main street to orient myself; I can’t go wrong if I have JJ Mall, the big building under construction, or the clock tower in my line of vision. When venturing into a maze like Chatuchak, it’s good to be aware of familiar landmarks that can keep you from getting lost.
The first store I stop at is blue with vintage denim – as are most of the shops that line the alleyway. Levi’s saturate shop walls in the form of jeans, shorts, jackets, skirts, overalls, and more. Denim fades into leather and suede, along with other high-end materials sold at a fraction of their worth. Floor-to-ceiling shelves house Converse, Vans, and Birkenstocks, while hangers display coats, tops, and bags from brands that are famous worldwide.
Across the alley from my favourite denim shop is a shop that overflows with t-shirts, polos, and Hawaiian shirts so cheap, they will barely dent your wallet. Further up the main street is another favourite secondhand store of mine, which is full of gorgeous dresses sold for just 200B each. It is also often full of women just like me, amazed at the low price of these beautiful items.
Chatuchak also has an endless supply of new brands of clothing, most of which follow trends that are popular worldwide. You can find shirts depicting abstract art on the front, strappy summer dresses decorated with floral prints, and pretty hand-braided sandals – all for 200B or less – along with sportswear, bags in every shape and form, and bathing suits. In what I consider a more high-end section of the market, due to the sleek look of the shops, there is a wide array of linens.
Tailored suits are also available for a much lower price than you’d expect, and traditional Thai garments are sold all over the market in an endless array of colours and designs. Needless to say, when it comes to clothes at Chatuchak, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Art and home decor
After I’ve exhausted myself clothesshopping, I like to wander into the alleyways that house artworks. Shop walls are covered with large paintings in a range of styles and from many different cultures. These shops are pleasant to explore because they are in the shade, and many are air conditioned, so you can cool off after the outdoor humidity. Of course, the art section is only for those who are looking to make a substantial investment.
Beyond this area, there are also plenty of shops devoted to home decor. Many people choose to shop here because they can find more affordable pieces of furniture than elsewhere, without sacrificing the quality. Chatuchak is home to a wide range of home decor products, including full room sets in many shades of stained wood – enough to style any room in the house. If you’re looking for new pieces to furnish your home, Chatuchak could be the place for you. This is also true for those seeking simpler decorations, such as picture frames, clocks, or string lights, all of which – and more – can be found there in abundance.
Jewellery merchants are a prominent part of Chatuchak. Some focus on the sale of antique jewellery, with rings and necklaces from previous eras available to anyone who is interested in old-fashioned items. Other shops throughout the market are lined from floor to ceiling with bohemian-style bracelets, anklets, and necklaces, with beads and stones in turquoise, scarlet, and other colours.
“For those who can tolerate a certain amount of stress, Chatuchak is a wonderful and unique place fit to satisfy one’s shopping needs.”
These items are usually handcrafted locally, and are sold for just a few Baht each. The anklets, whose tiny charms tinkle when you walk, are perfect to wear for a few weeks when you are in a fun, summer-soaked mood. I like to walk among the stalls trying on different pieces, to see which best suit my skin tone; there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for jewellery to last longer, you won’t be disappointed.
There are also more high-end jewellery shops in the market. These elegant spaces with clean white walls offer simple displays of silver and gold. Here, the price of pieces can get into the thousands, if you wish to purchase something of high quality. That said, it’s important to be aware that many items at the market are fake, so if you are seeking an original Rolex, you might want to take your shopping endeavours elsewhere. Along with jewellery, accessories such as sunglasses, headbands, and pins are available throughout the market.
I don’t believe a trip to Chatuchak to be complete without a snack to top it off. This may be because the food at the market looks so appetising, it’s impossible to resist. One large section by the entrance closest to Chatuchak is constantly sizzling and steaming with yummy treats. Fried shrimp, Fish balls on sticks, spicy pad thai, vegetable spring rolls, and mangoes with sticky rice are just a few of the options you can find there.
Throughout the market, stalls offer cold sodas and juices from fresh local fruit, including pineapples and mangoes – wonderfully refreshing bites during the blistering summer months. There are stalls that sell sweet coconut ice cream you can eat straight from the fruit, fried roti that drips with Nutella and sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate covered bananas. Iced coffees are available, too, if you’re looking for a cold refresher along with a caffeine boost.
There are also several options for proper meals. One of Chatuchak’s main attractions is the paella from Viva 8, which often draws crowds with its world-famous reputation and blaring upbeat music. Other restaurants along the alleyways offer perfect dishes to satisfy Thailand cravings, like fried rice and noodle soup tinged red with chilli peppers. Venturing into one section, you will find a number of restaurants, many of which are enclosed in plastic tarps to hold the air conditioning.
These spots are suited to those looking for more refined service, and a place to sit down and relax for a while before resuming your shopping spree. Clothes, accessories, art, and food – these are just a few of the items that Chatuchak has to offer. The market is full to bursting with products ready to please eager customers from all over the world. A trip there, especially if you’ve never been, is certainly worthwhile. Venture there one weekend, to shop or just to experience the wonderful world of Thailand’s largest market.