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Bangkok Stories: Episode One
A Market Tour Satisfying Five Senses,
Meet the Real Bangkok.
There is a saying: “If you are curious about a country’s dining habits and culture, you should check out its markets.” If you want to see and experience the vivid lives of local people more closely, you must visit their markets. There are lots of interesting markets in the world but Bangkok has markets that are as diverse as they are numerous. Therefore, you should experience the markets at least once when visiting Thailand.
There are various night markets that have become popular because of the hot weather, weekend markets that are very big even though they aren’t open every day, floating markets in the canals and some unique markets on the railways. Bangkok definitely has a lot of markets!
These are places where you can immerse yourself in a vivid atmosphere deeper than any other tourist attractions, drawing you in with a taste of Thailand that you wouldn’t be able to experience without going there and seeing the unique, original wares on offer. Let’s visit some Bangkok markets where you can see, taste and satisfy your five senses.
Markets of Bangkok PATH
The top seven markets in Bangkok, which we are going to see, are more spread out than you might think and their opening hours vary. You can go where your feet take you but you can also plan ahead, find their locations and opening hours and look around efficiently.
Chatuchak Weekend Market, Talad Rotfai Night Market, Asiatique and Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market are typical markets located in the heart of Bangkok. Of these, only the Asiatique is open every day of the week, and there are many markets that are only open on some weekdays or at weekends. So it might take you 2 or 3 days if you want to look around all these markets. If you don’t have enough time, it can be interesting to learn about the characteristics of each market and pick the markets you want to visit. In terms of where to stay, Sukumvit is recommended. This area is in the middle of the four markets in the centre of Bangkok and no matter which market you go to, it’ll only take 30 minutes to 1 hour to get there. Markets in central Bangkok can be reached by public transport or taxi, but markets in the surrounding towns and villages are not very easy to get to. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Amphawa Floating Market and Maeklong Market, which we will introduce as outside markets, are very typical Thai markets. You can get to these markets very easily if you book through a travel agent, and there are lots of tour packages too. If you get a package tour service, you can look around two places at once.
1 Chatuchak Weekend Market
Chatuchak Market is a weekend market that is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but it is the quintessential Bangkok market and city’s biggest. It is similar to Namdaemun Market in Korea in terms of its atmosphere because locals visit this market, as well as tourists.
You won’t appreciate the market’s scale at the entrance, but when you turn around you’ll be surprised at its size, which covers 1.1 km2. It is divided into 26 areas and is home to more than 10,000 stalls. The market information centre distributes free maps and the stalls are clearly separated into areas. It appears complicated, but all you have to do is take time to look around to find yourself learning about the unique order of the place. Even so, you might get tired before you’ve looked all the way around because of its size. So it might be an idea to plan ahead if you want to buy something in particular, in order to save the inconvenience.
The most important thing when you visit Chatuchak Weekend Market is that you should buy things straightaway if you like them. If you plan to come back and buy them after looking around other places, you might never be able to find your way back to the place that sells them. If you do want to come back, make sure you remember the area, the soi (alley) and the stall number.
As well as retailers, you can also find wholesalers at Chatuchak Market. They sell items cheaply at wholesale prices if you buy them in bulk, even if they are not really wholesale goods.
The must-buy items include quality natural aroma products, hand-made products which you can buy cheaper here than in Korea, and Thai souvenirs, clothes, accessories and so on.
As the saying goes, if you can’t buy something at Chatuchak Weekend Market, you can’t buy it anywhere in Thailand. One of the things you can’t miss, of course, is food.
You can try everything, from coconut ice cream and cool fruit beverages to Turkish kebabs at the closely packed vendors’ stalls. Seafood paella cooked for 100 people by a Spanish chef has already become one of the best spectacles of Chatuchak.
If you don’t want to miss the chance for inexpensive shopping and tasty food, go to Chatuchak Weekend Market and you are sure to have a happy weekend in Bangkok.
2 Talad Rotfai Night Market
Talad means “market” and Rotfai means “train” in Thai. So, Talad Rotfai can be translated as “train market”. This market got its name because it began on land which once had been a railroad. Rotfai Market used to be located next to Chatuchak Weekend Market but it moved to where it is now in 2013 after the land was redeveloped. This new location is a little way out from the centre of Bangkok, which means locals visit this market more often than foreigners do, giving it a more authentic Thai atmosphere. This market is famous for its wide range of vintage items that have been sold here since the market opened. These include toys from the 60s or the 70s, which contain a lot of memories. Today, there are various types of stalls and a lot of spectacles. It takes 30 to 40 minutes to get from the center of Bangkok to the market but if you are interested in vintage and antique items, this is a hot spot for you to visit.
Talad Rotfai is largely divided into the plaza, with continuous roofs and walls looking like a house, and the tent market outside. The plaza is open from Tuesday to Sunday but the tent market opens on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Make sure you check the day before you go there. When you follow the signboard and enter the market, the first thing you see is the plaza. Benches are located along the central passage of the plaza, which reminds you of its name the “train market”, and help you to enjoy the atmosphere. If you go all the way through the passage, you’ll find outdoor restaurants selling Thai food. Then, you will find the tent market across the street from the plaza. That’s where the antique market stalls are closely packed together – the pride of Talad Rotfai.
There are places that sell inexpensive clothes, bags and shoes lining the streets as well as hand-made handicraft stores. The antique items and furniture on sale serve a practical purpose, as well as being works of art in their own right. Some places exhibit cars or bicycles separately or are embellished with items containing special memories. These spectacles will allow you to find unexpected moments of joy here and there as you look around the market.
You can’t leave out the centrepiece of the night market – the food. It’s easy to find something to eat if you’re hungry, because restaurants and cafés stay open late at night, as well as the skewered and fried food you can buy from street vendors. Don’t just pass by these places, because there is unique food that only night markets have, which is different from the food you can eat at markets open in the daytime.
If you eat heartily and still feel like something is missing, you might as well go on to the bars or pubs embellished with unique interior designs and antique items. If you are lucky, you can watch a live musical performance in a pub. If you drink in one of these places, that will attract you in their own unique ways, you will find yourself very quickly becoming good friends with the locals.
If you want to experience local tastes and insights for vintage and antique items under the night sky of Bangkok, don’t miss the chance to visit Talad Rotfai Night Market.
3 Asiatique: where you can find yourself in a European atmosphere
Asiatique has become Bangkok’s typical night market with an exotic atmosphere since it opened in May 2012. Old buildings that had been used for the teak trade port since the 19th century have become the Asiatique of today. This night market is focused more on tourists than locals, and offers a much more modernised and cleaner shopping complex when compared to other markets. There are various kinds of night markets in Bangkok but in terms of the size and product range on sale, Asiatique is the most recommended. As it is a large-sized outlet type of place rather than a boutique selling luxurious products, you can learn about Bangkok’s trends at a glance.
Asiatique is composed of 4 sections with 4 different characteristics. Pick up a map from the information centre and set your course for each section in turn. In the food court, it seems like there is no food you can’t find – Thai food, Asian food, Western food and fast food. Outside, you’ll find performances for children and for any passing visitors. So have a good look around. If you get tired from walking all over this big area, go and get some fresh air in the rest areas dotted along the riverbanks and enjoy your time at leisure.
Asiatique opens at 5 pm. You can get here earlier to watch the sun setting on the Chao Phraya riverbanks. You can also visit here later when it’s getting cool and dark in order to enjoy the night views. When the sun sets, you can ride the Ferris wheel which is the trademark of Asiatique and look down on the calm Chao Phraya River, the lifeline of Bangkok, and the glamorous night view of Asiatique at a glance.
1.The Factory District
This district is closely packed with more than 500 small stores that sell small and cute handicrafts made by designers as well as Thailand’s special natural aroma products, souvenirs and so on.
This district is located close to Asiatique Dock, which makes this district the first thing that meets your eye when you disembark from a free shuttle boat. There are many restaurants in this district where you can enjoy a nice dinner while watching the landscape on the Chao Phraya riverbanks.
This district is home to many Thai, Western and fusion restaurants, as well as sophisticated cafés and bars where you can have a drink. Some small events are also held in this district.
This district is closely packed with more than 1,000 retail shops that sell handicrafts and Thai souvenirs, as well as home decor.
In comparison with the other night markets in Bangkok where you can just eat and go shopping, Asiatique is Bangkok’s best night market complex for enjoying amenities and amusement facilities in an exotic, European atmosphere.
4 Khlong Lat Mayom Weekend Floating Market
Bangkok used to have so many canals (Khlong) that it was nicknamed the Venice of Asia, but today most of the canals are covered by roads and you can only find remnants of them. The markets that grew up around the canals, which used to be the centre of people’s lives, have disappeared. Unless you go to out of the city, it is difficult to find markets on the water. However, one such market still exists, and it is called Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market.
Compared with Damnoen, Saduak Floating Market, which is little more than a tourist attraction, does not really look like an interesting place but you must visit it if you want to feel the free atmosphere of the local culture. Khlong Lat Mayom is all the more attractive because it is not really decorated and still has natural scenery, and it is more frequently visited by locals than by tourists. The most attractive thing in this place is its honest prices that do not discriminate between you and the locals.
It takes 30 to 40 minutes to get here from downtown Bangkok and it is not difficult to find. You can drive here, because there are car parks. However, this market only opens on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Stalls open in the morning, but in the afternoon they often look like they are going to close soon. Therefore, you should plan carefully so you can get here on the right day and at the right time.
Don’t forget that Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market specialises in organic produce. You can also find stalls with the OTOP mark, which is awarded to indigenous products approved by the Thai government, and can buy souvenirs.
There are various stalls but the most crowded places are definitely the restaurants serving food. The most popular item here is grilled tiger prawns. They’re called “kung pao” in Thai. So, let’s shout, “kung pao”. Grilled fish, grilled squid, Thai fried noodles called pad thai and papaya salad called somtam can also be found. You can order food from various stalls and eat at a table at your leisure. The price tags are obvious, so you don’t even have to worry about asking questions. It won’t be very hard to order food even if you are an inexperienced traveller.
Once you’re full of all this food, you might as well go for the canal tour on a boat. It costs 50 baht – that’s cheap. When enough people are gathered, the boat departs. You can see floating homes where real locals live, as well as the fields, orchards and natural environments around the canal. There is also a small museum on one side of the canal. Here you can take a look at various pictures and materials showing the history of Khlong Lat Mayom Market, the canal and the ship markets for free. This market is for locals, so there are painting classes for bored kids brought to the market by their parents. It’s also very fun to these Bangkok kids painting pictures.
Lunchtime here is the busiest time, and you may have to queue. After 4 pm, stalls begin to look like they are going to close, so make sure you’re aware of the time.
This is a floating market you can find near the centre of Bangkok without going out of the city. For this reason, if you want to experience floating markets in spite of your tight schedule, this is the best choice for you. This place is even better if you are tired of the Thai tourist attractions which are so beautifully decorated. This is the locals’ real floating market. Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market is a place you must visit.
5 Thailand’s typical floating market: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Bangkok has some really good one-day tour programmes that take you into the surrounding towns and villages very easily and conveniently – probably some of the best in the world. The price is 250 baht, which is inexpensive. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is located 70 miles (110 km) outside of Bangkok to the southwest. However, if you join one of the one-day tour programmes that depart every morning, you can visit this market within 1 and a half hours or maybe 2 hours.
This is the most well-known floating market in Bangkok. Therefore, you might not be able to experience the atmosphere of the locals when compared to Khlong Lat Mayom. On the other hand, the tourism programmes are very well organised. The market items are mostly for tourists rather than for locals, so it is a good place to look for souvenirs.
The market opens early in the morning and closes before lunch time. You’re best joining a tour, but if you want to get there on your own, try to be an early bird and get there at 8 am, and definitely by 10 am at the latest.
If you just get off and look around, you can’t really say you’ve visited a floating market. You have to get in a boat. You can choose between a small boat and a Thai long-tailed boat. Most people on the boats are tourists from various places in the world. On both sides of the canal, general stores and the bases of the locals’ lives meet your eye and boats full of fruit, groceries and miscellaneous goods are gathered closely together. Merchandisers have their boats anchored on one side or move around on their boats when they sell goods. Unlike other floating markets, tourists can ride on a boat in order to buy items from merchandisers who are floating on their boats in Damnoen Saduak. Sometimes they serve Thai rice noodles called Kue Tiao or fried food for you, after cooking these on the spot right on the boat. This taste of Thailand that you can experience in a swaying boat is a unique feeling.
There are no other places which will show you various aspects of Bangkok at one go, as Damnoen Saduak Floating Market does. Locals leading their lives floating on the water, and dappled objects of all different colours, and the clear sky of Bangkok are mingled all together here. If you want to cherish your memory of Bangkok in a picture-perfect location and experience shopping while floating on the water, go to Damnoen Saduak – Bangkok’s typical floating market
6 Ampahwa Floating Market
Ampahwa Floating Market is considered the hottest place these days among Thailand’s floating markets. It only opens at weekends and is mostly visited by locals, similar to Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market.
Join a tour starting in the morning to visit this and Damnoen Saduak Floating Market together, or a tour starting in the afternoon to look around this place as well as Maeklong Market. If you want to spend a special day in a small and cute lodging at Ampahwa Floating Market, you can let the tour bus leave without you, or you can just visit on a regular bus.
Even if there are not many people at the entrance of the market or if some places are closed, don’t get disappointed. As soon as you walk into this market along the riverbank, you will experience the real atmosphere of Ampahwa, which is really vivid and crowded. Autonomous communities and merchandisers directly manage the prices, which allows you to do your shopping at reasonable prices.
The channel is wider than at Damnoen Saduak but you can’t go shopping on a boat. From boats anchored on both sides of the canal, you can purchase fruit and food and buy various things from stores lining the inside. This place is not as glamorous, diverse and photogenic as Damnoen Saduak but it has its own charm and is very natural.
There are also clothes stalls with sophisticated displays and massage shops for your feet, small cafés serving coffee and toast, and charming little stalls selling hand-made products which are seldom found in other floating markets. With its romantic atmosphere, this place is popular with local couples on a date.
Ampahwa Floating Market is also a food heaven, where you can taste all the various kinds of food in Bangkok. In particular, it has various kinds of fresh seafood. You have to eat the seafood here, which people sell on their boats while looking at the canal. You can also taste various kinds of desserts and food at stalls in the alleys.
Ampahwa is more crowded in the evening. In the evening, boats constantly carry people on tours to the place where the fireflies appear. The round trip tour takes an hour. You can see fireflies shining in the dark from some big trees in the dark at an inexpensive price.
This is a 100-year-old traditional local floating market and you can also enjoy the firefly tour that is very hard to find anywhere even in Bangkok. If you don’t want to miss this chance, go to Ampahwa Floating Market.
7 “Dangerous market”, Maeklong Market next to a railway
Maeklong Market is famous because it has been introduced on TV as the most dangerous market in the world. It is located 15 minutes from Ampahwa Floating Market, so you can visit both places at once.
It is a market, just the same as any other market, in spite of its infamy. The stalls sell vegetables, fish and fruit. But if you become doubtful about its reputation, you might soon hear the sound of a train. Choo-choo!
As soon as the sound is heard, merchandisers quickly put away the things that they were displaying on the railway tracks. The shoppers also run off the tracks for their safety. Not long after that, the train passes through the “market” and stops at Maeklong station. The train passes through 7 times a day and is the main event in Maeklong. Don’t worry too much about safety, because merchandisers and shoppers become safety workers for tourists as soon as a train approaches. The train is not very fast either. So don’t worry too much.
The train station is very compact, as most small countryside train stations are. Even though the train operates according to the schedule, if you try to go there on time, you might not be able to see it because of the tourists crowding the place. Try to remember to get there early so you can look around the market and find a good place to watch the train pass in advance.
The market prices are very cheap compared to other tourist attractions. If you can’t choose what to buy, just buy fruit. There are restaurants for a snack, as well as street food. There are not a lot of things to see but this railway track full of stuff for sale is passed through by a big train, and you just don’t want to miss the chance to watch this.
You can’t find this spectacle anywhere else but here and photos or videos are not enough. Witness the world’s most dangerous market – Maeklong.
Chatuchak Weekend Markets
Address: Chatuchak Weekend Market, Kampaengphet 3 Road, Khwaeng Lat Yao, Khet Chatuchak
Opening times: Saturdays and Sundays 10 am – 6 pm
Getting there: MRT to Kamphaengphet station, Exit No. 1/ Leave from Exit No. 1 of Mochit BTS Station and walk for 7 minutes.
Website Opens in a new window (www.chatuchak.org)
Talad Rotfai Night Market
Address: Srinakarin Road Soi 51 Seacon Square, Talad Rotfai
Opening times: Plaza: Tuesday – Sunday
Vintage Market: Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 5 pm – 1 am (depending on the stores)
Getting there: Udom Suk BTS Station / Take a taxi from Punnawithi BTS Station.
Get off at Secon Square, Talad Rodfai
Address: Asiatique, 2194 Charoenkrung Rd, Wat Prayakrai
Opening times: 5 pm – 12 am (depending on the stores)
Getting there: Take Exit No. 2 of Saphan Taksin BTS Station
Use an Asiatique shuttle boat from Sathorn dock (4 pm – 11:30 pm at 30-minute intervals, free)
Website Opens in a new window (www.thaiasiatique.com)
Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
Address: Khlong Latmayom Floating Market, Bang Ramat
Opening times: Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 9:30 am – 4:30 pm
Getting there: Leave from Exit No. 1 of Wongwian Yai BTS station and take a taxi.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Address: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Ratchaburi
Opening times: 9 am – 12 midnight
Getting there: Find a Bangkok local travel agent and sign up for a one-day tour.
Ampahwa Floating Market
Address: Amphawa District, Samut Songkram, Amphawa
Opening times: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 3 pm – 9 pm (depending on the stores)
Getting there: Find a Bangkok local travel agent and sign up for a one-day tour.
Getting there: Kasem Sukhum Rd, Mueang Samut Songkhram, Samut Songkhram
Opening times: everyday 8 am – 5 pm (depending on the stores)
Getting there: Find a Bangkok local travel agent and sign up for a one-day tour.