A Beginners’ Guide to the Best Markets in Bangkok
Featured destinations: Bangkok
Published 30 March 2016
Anyone who is planning to visit Bangkok will have considered the idea of checking out one of the city’s famous markets, however which ones to choose can be a difficult decision. Here we give you a rundown of the four markets we think a first time visitor shouldn’t miss!
Roughly about two hours outside of the centre of Bangkok is the floating markets of Damnoen Saduak. A tourist hotspot, hundreds of travellers flock here every day to take a ride on the vendor boats and discover the unique experience of a market accessed completely by water. The majority of the stalls are geared up for tourists, selling souvenirs and typical Thai memorabilia, however at some of the smaller stalls you will find Thai women wearing traditional bamboo hats who sell the most delicious and fresh Thai produce such as sticky rice, bananas and coconuts.
Handy tip: I recommend getting to the market by about 7am, just as the stalls are opening, as this will mean you avoid the crowds and may get to see the Buddhist monks taking their trips around the stalls, where they are offered food in exchange for a blessing. You can either go around the market with a guide or hire a boat and travel round by yourself, which will cost from 150B per person per hour (with a bit of haggling!).
If you’re short on time: You can pay more to have a motorised long tail boat, which will get you round the market more quickly. Visit the market in the early morning with a guide, and they may be able to show you how to offer food to the monks yourself and receive a blessing of your own!
If you are after some serious shopping, there is no better choice than the Chatuchak Weekend Market, and getting there is simple as it is located right next to the Mo Chit station on the Skytrain. The biggest market in Bangkok is held every Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 6pm and is home to over 15,000 stalls with 27 different sections devoted to flowers, food and drink, clothes and antiques to name a few.
Handy tip: The Weekend Market is a good place to pick up some serious bargains as the large amount of stalls often selling identical stock means you can really test your bartering skills. To get the best price, approach vendors with a big smile and be prepared to walk away if you don’t get the deal you want as this will often result in them calling you back and offering you a lower price.
How to get around: There is no denying that the market is huge and it can be quite easy to get lost, however there are a few systems in place to help you find your way around. If you do get lost, head to the clock tower, which is often used as a central meeting point for visitors and make sure you pick up a map, which will list all of the 27 sections and show you what you can expect to find in each. It is also a good idea to try and visit the market early or late as it can often attract over 200,000 visitors per day.
Maeklong Train “Risky” Market
Another potential day trip could be a visit to the famous Maeklong Train market, also known as the “Risky Market.” This is due to the fact that eight times a day there is a manic scramble as the stall holders quickly pack away their stock to make room for the very large and very real train that passes straight through the centre of the stalls. If ever there was a place to experience the hectic and slightly crazy way of life that most people associate with Bangkok it would be here. It is an incredible sight to see how quickly the stalls disappear to reveal train tracks that you didn’t even realise you were standing on and once the train has passed through the stalls are just as quickly whipped back out to continue the trading.
A great thing about this one is that unlike the floating market which is now predominantly a tourist attraction, the Risky market is also visited by many local Thai people, who come to buy their fresh produce, meaning that you may be able to get your hands on some authentic Thai delicacies. From exotic fruit and vegetables to dried herbs and hanging meat, there is a whole host of things to try. A word of warning, many of the stalls are selling fresh seafood which is gutted and prepared at the stall so if you a little bit squeamish or have a weak stomach when it comes to that kind of thing – this one might not be for you!
For somewhere to head in the evening, the night bazaar in the newly built Asiatique is the perfect place to go. A slightly more up market shopping experience the market is home to 1,500 stalls and shops selling anything you can think of. Once you have finished with the market stalls selling the typical bric a brac and souvenirs, there is a selection of small and medium size boutiques in the mall which offer more upscale goods including clothing and electrical.
Asiateque also boasts a range of restaurants and bars overlooking the Chao Praya River which serve a range of different cuisines, including authentic Thai (albeit a milder more western friendly version!), Turkish and Italian. Once you have found something tasty for dinner, there is a wide choice of entertainment to fill the rest of your evening from performances in the famous Calypso Bangkok Theatre, to taking a ride on the Ferris wheel.
Getting there: Getting to the complex is easy with a free shuttle running from Saphan Taskin pier, and there are regular return shuttles until 11.30pm, meaning you can enjoy the buzz of the complex until the sun goes down.
Have you ever visited any of these markets? Which one was your favourite?