What do you want? Actually, no need to answer – whatever it is, just head to the Weekend Market. Approaching Chatuchak Market (or ‘JJ’) from Mo Chit station can be slightly intimidating; sprawling stalls line the edge of the park from the very bottom of the BTS steps to the entrance of the main market, and hoards of hungry shoppers swarm to find the cheapest knick knacks.
These stalls outside the official boundaries of the market are open longer and can be fantastic value – the vendors do not pay to be inside the market and prices often reflect this. Our favourite purchases here have been small leather bags for 80 baht (about £1.70) and white work shirts for 100 baht (about £2.10).
The market itself is a shopping heaven for some (Sarah), a disorientating sauna with no escape for others (Charlotte)! Widely known as the largest market in Thailand, and one of the biggest open air in the world, it is a huge maze. Although there are maps that attempt to help tourists find their way around the 27 sections, prepare yourself for getting lost anyway, and never seeing the same stall twice!
There is a very diverse mix of shops, and pretty much anything sellable is sold here. Some sections are blatant at targeting tourists, and retail everything from T shirts to boxer shorts with the classic Thai slogan ‘Same Same’ printed on them, but many areas are simply for the locals – selling piles of electrical appliances and home textiles. The vintage clothing section is fantastic; studded jackets with rolled sleeves, vintage printed T-shirts, rainbow bright high-waisted jeans and rows of intricate costume jewellery.
A short walk around the corner will reveal something entirely different again; several pet dealers hawking tropical fish, puppies and lizards. Be careful to pay attention to the warning signs – don’t take any photos (we were very sneaky about it) or play with the animals; you wouldn’t want to insult anyone or catch anything!
Make sure you take a break from the heat and crowds and head for the less claustrophobic open area centre of the market. There are loads of food vendors – try the fresh seafood on a stick, the 10 baht cola ice lollies and the ice cold fruit punnets.
To make JJ market as pain-free and as enjoyable as possible follow a few simple tips:
1. It’s hot so wear light clothing, comfortable shoes and carry as little as possible
2. Bargain – it’s expected and can cut prices by half
3. Go early – after lunch it gets extremely busy, so head for opening time at 9.30am
4. Take your time and take plenty of breaks – there’s so much to see!
Sarah and Charlotte x