There’s no other city like Thailand capitol Bangkok – the heat, the hospitality, the history, the chaotic streets and nightlife, the amazing food… and that smell. Sure, there are some great high-end shopping malls too, but Bangkok’s true Thai character and its East-West collision is captured in its street markets.
Here are some of Bangkok’s best-known markets that you really must visit.
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Silom and Patpong Night Market
Stretching along Silom Road and into a couple of side streets, it’s easily the best-known night market in the city. It’s also easy to get to, with the BTS station Sala Daeng and the MRT station Silom easily accessible. Be prepared for a full-on experience, with crowds, traders selling everything from knock-off designer underwear and illegal DVDs, street massages, food stalls and fashion to locally-made souvenirs, jewellery and trinkets. It’s right near the gay bars and go-go bars, so beware – or be excited, depending on what floats your boat.
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Khao San Road
Made popular – and infamous – by the novel and film, The Beach, this stretch of road is lined with overpriced bars and eateries (both Thai and ‘international’) but is a hit with backpackers and European tourists. As a market, there are stalls selling clothes, sunglasses, touristy knick-knacks and handcrafts both day and night, but nothing you can’t get anywhere else. More same-same but same rather than same-same but different. Watch out for pushy tuk-tuk drivers!
This is an old-school Thai market, known for its wholesale prices. It’s a claustrophobic but fascinating maze of small stalls piled high with products, mostly fashion and clothing, from t-shirts to hand-made shirts and tailored suits. But for those with a love of bling and tawdry glamour, you can get yourself a sequined frock or feathered headpiece custom made on the premises. Not surprisingly, it’s popular with cabaret performers and drag queens.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
One of the biggest outdoor weekend markets in the world, the tone and atmosphere changes regularly. Early morning (and we mean 5AM) is when you’re likely to get good bargains, but later on it becomes quite festive. With over 8,000 stalls, selling everything from plants, ceramics and furniture to food and fashion, you can’t NOT give it a go.
Sukhumvit Road Night Market
Along Sukhumvit Road and near Soi Nana is another collection of sidewalk stalls that open up around 5-6pm every night except Monday. It’s not as big as Patpong, and a little seedier, but worth a look-see nevertheless. Again, watch out for the occasional pickpocket and pushy peddlers, touting everything from suits made to measure to ping pong shows, ‘sensual massage’ and sex DVDs.
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Bangkok’s Chinatown district comes alive at night with restaurants opening up and selling great street food from stalls and carts, and as such, is one of Bangkok’s best night street food markets. While tackling it under your own steam is always possible, because of its random streets and alleys, it’s best experienced as part of an organised food tour.
Train Night Market
Opposite Chatuckak is a recent go-to night market on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. It specialises in antiques, retro furniture, vintage clothing and bric-a-brac, including cars, Vespas, bicycles and all manner of old toys and memorabilia – and food, of course. This is as hip as Bangkok markets get.
How to hack a Bangkok market
- Give yourself a day or night for each of these markets, just so you pace yourself and don’t shop till you drop. They are exciting, vibrant places, but can be overwhelming.
- Remember, bartering is part of the culture here, so don’t settle for the first price offered, and don’t be afraid to walk away, even if you are keen on buying it. The more you haggle, the better price you’ll get – and you won’t look like a wide-eyed tourist ripe for picking.