The Chatuchak Weekend Market can bring you to your knees. We’re talking thirty-five acres, split into twenty-seven sections of eight thousand stalls.
You name it, you can buy it there.
Go ahead, name it.
Buddha statues? Yes.
Ground cardamom? Yes
Live parakeets? Yes.
Hill tribe clothing? Yes.
Vintage electric fans? Yes.
Just name it.
The following how-to advice has been culled from my first-hand experience at the Chatuchak Weekend Market, aka J.J.Market.
(Even if you’re not planning on going, read on and live vicariously.)
1. Get there and take note. Take the BTS train to Mo Chit, go down the stairs, and cut through the park to the market.
Snap a picture of the section where you enter, so you can remember where you started.
2. Go early. If you can’t get there before noon, then just don’t bother.
Seriously, don’t go.
Reportedly, about 200,000 people go to the market every weekend, and this is what the BTS station looked like when I was leaving around one o’clock.
3. Don’t go too early, however. Thinking I was being really clever, I got there at 8:30, and there was tumbleweed blowing around until 9-ish.
4. Bring a tote bag. Or a backpack – just something in which to gather all your purchases so you’re not laden with a bunch of plastic bags that are impossible to manage when you need your hands to look at something.
If you’re from anywhere else in the world, you will be gobsmacked at how inexpensive everything is, so you’re going to want to buy a lot of stuff.
Alternatively, you can buy a tote bag when you get there. (#Inexpensive)
5. Don’t use a map. Listen, I’m notorious for meticulously mapping out my travels so I don’t miss anything – but occasionally I come across locations where a map is actually a detriment. Venice, Italy was one of those places (so much better just to wander), and the Chatuchak Weekend Market is another. In fact, I saw anxious tourists trying helplessly to make sense of their war-torn, soggy maps, looking completely dazed and confused.
Meanwhile, I was calm, cool, and collected as I strolled leisurely among the rabbit warren of stalls. I do believe I was able to cover a lot more ground and find some real treasures by this non-map method.
I somehow even managed to find my way back to an embroidered bag that I had looked at three hours previously and regretted not buying.
6. If you like something, just buy it. In other words, don’t walk around for hours looking for a less expensive version, because when it comes right down to it, everything is priced pretty much the same.
Like the embroidered bag I circled back to after looking for three hours for a cheaper one.
7. Haggle with a smile. By all means, negotiate the prices, but you’ll do a lot better if you smile and speak a little Thai.
Repeat after me:
sa wat dee kah (hello)
kap koon kah (thank you)
8. Haggle with perspective. I got so used to negotiating prices, that I found myself bargaining with a vendor who was selling me a sarong for THREE DOLLARS.
Now that’s just unnecessary haggling.
9. Fuel up. If you find yourself at entrance door 23 (I wrote it down), stop and buy a cappuccino at Inch by Inch Coffee.
Best. Cappuccino. Ever.
(Yeah, it might’ve been so delicious because of the time and place, but I still stand by my evaluation.)
10. Have dessert before dinner. If you see an aisle of ultra-hip clothes, then you’ll know that the yummy dessert bar, Come Waan, isn’t far.
Find it and stop for a treat.
Name your ice cream – coconut or mango – and choose from a myriad of unique syrups and toppings.
11. When it rains, it pours, but don’t fret. It’s quite possible that it will rain, especially at certain times of year, so stay inside until it passes.
The sun will come out and then it will be so hot you’ll wish it was raining.
12. Know when to leave. There will come a moment when sensory overload hits, your eyes glaze over, and you’ve had enough.
When you get that feeling, just avert your eyes from the merchandise, head to the nearest exit, and keep walking.
If it’s one o’clock and you’re still going strong, then leave anyway.
Go back to #2 to be reminded why, but also curb your spending by remembering these three words:
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road
Fri, 6 pm – midnight; Sat – Sun, 9 am – 6 pm
Here’s a few more Chatuchak moments: