Saturday at Chatuchak

I am not very fond of shopping, even in a place like Bangkok. Or perhaps, particularly in a place like Bangkok – all the malls seem the same after a while – all glass and steel and selling characterless branded (whether genuine or spurious) clothes and electronics.

It was on my second trip to Bangkok that I discovered the Chatuchak weekend market, thanks to a friend who lives there. Chatuchak is popular among both tourists and locals and prices are very reasonable, with bargaining not just acceptable but actually expected from buyers.

Chatuchak (pronounced Jatujak) is the largest market in Thailand, and for a nation known for it shopping, that is saying a lot. I am told that the market has over 15000 stalls – divided into sections – and if you are the ‘shopping types’ that means you could spend the entire day there and not have covered all of it. I spent a few hours on a Saturday morning and was exhausted at the end of the first thirty minutes.

Saying cheeeeeese

Like all self-respecting markets, there are street performers all along the lanes of Chatuchak – from a group of children in school uniform playing classical Western music to lone musicians on traditional instruments, this market has it all…

Not to mention the other kinds of street artists – jugglers, magicians, painters…

Tricks of the trade

Bored of posing

The fine art of shoe painting

Chatuchak is a great place to buy local, Thai handicraft and souvenirs. Tourists are however advised to be cautious before buying expensive antiques; some of them are brand-new antiques, made specially for this market!

The Buddha of suburbia

This is one of my favourite cluster of shops – selling wooden toys and musical instruments – I picked up a lampshade shaped like a small elephant and several pretty candle holders in dark wood.

If music be the food of love...

Thankfully, there is plenty to eat and drink in the market – again, try the local fare – I was there in summer and had sticky rice with mango every chance I got, washing it down with coconut water or these cooling agents…

Cool off!

This is what these little dots of colour are… and this is how I want to be when I grow old (not all grey and wrinkled but young-at-heart and enjoying the simple pleasures of life)…

Never too old

Tip : Take a sky-train or metro to the nearest station, grab a couple of bottles of water and a map of the market and find the zone that has the stalls that are of interest to you – that way, you get to spend time and energy where you really want to, avoiding the other zones (says, pets and live animals, for instance!).

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Vidya says:

    I just returned from Bangkok – absolutely loved the market! I didn’t buy much, but I enjoyed people-watching oh so much!

    These pictures are fantastic, btw. 🙂

  2. shalini says:

    We missed going here on our trip to Bkk….friends had recommended this market as a great place to try local food, especially during the night market.

  3. Kate C says:

    Funny! I just got back from Thailand as well! I spent two weeks down south, rock climbing near Krabi, and one day in BKK. On that one day, all I did was go to this market. It was awesome. Total immersion in all things Thai. I loved every minute of it. 🙂

    We’re putting photos and reports from our trip up on our site at: http://colocalders.com .

  4. charukesi says:

    Vidya, thank you! I didn’t shop much either – was too busy looking around and taking photographs..

    shalini, every chance you get to see a local market, grab it 🙂

    Kate, confession – this is from a trip a couple of years ago (am putting up stuff from my overflowing photo folders) – but markets are really the best places to enjoy the full flavour of a city…

    and I look forward to seeing your trip reports and pics…

  5. Nisha says:

    That was great. Yet to go there.

    I particularly liked the last picture.

  6. Yogesh says:

    Great write up as usual ! The one time I was in Bangkok, I was hounded by touts, pimps, travel agents, hawkers and everyone in between. I guess it was one of the risks of being a solo male traveler.

    I did get a chance to go to the Sukhumvit night market and I really really enjoyed the coconut milk and durian flavoured ice sticks and sticky sweet rice cooked inside bamboo

    I am planning a trip to Turkey in a few weeks. I have 8 days and I’m visiting Istanbul and Cappadocia in that time.. any other suggestions

    Really cool posts and great pictures !

    Yogesh

  7. charukesi says:

    Nisha, you *must* go if you get a chance – great place for people-watching and browsing! (I love the pic of the old lady too)

    Yogesh, single male in Thailand, uh oh. Re. Turkey, I think 8 days is just about enough for Istanbul and Cappadocia. If you have the energy and interest (history / ruins), then squeeze in Ephesus – avoid Kusadasi (ugly beach town) but head to Pamukkale if you can – E and P will take 2 days min.

  8. somethingtosay says:

    Hi, I am a big fan of the travel genre and came upon your blog through the TOI Diva supllement. Really liked your blog and coulp empathise with a lot of stuff here. Loved the photographs.

    I too went to Chatuchak during our second trip to Thailand 4,5 years back. Wasn’t much into shopping and was overwhelmed by the life, colour and food.

    And yes 8 days is just about enough for Istanbul and Cappadoccia

  9. somethingtosay says:

    Wanted to comment on the Chai Chai post but saw that you had closed comments. Still had to add my two bits even if it is out of context here.

    I was surprised to hear some of my friends praise the book. I bought the book. I am heavily into travel books nowadays.

    I was extremely disappointed. The writing was ‘simple’ to the point of being trite. And, like you said, fitting a fomula – reach – drink – run.

    Travelogues would always be superficial. Specially that of amateurs and bloggers. But one had higher expectations from a commissioned writer of a book. Travel writing is not so much about the facts as it is about a personal style and the ability to bring alive a place or ones memories. Chai Chai under delivers.

    A contrast would be Sanjeev Bhaskar’s ‘India’ which I picked up after that. Not the most definitive text on India. But I enjoyed the fluidity and honesty of his writing.

    I know that I am writing from an anonymous id but no, I am not Sanjeev B. Nor do I hold a card for him.

    But Charukesi, congrats on getting a retort from Ghosh. That makes you a celeb doesn’t it 😉

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