Thailand’s Top Markets

Think you might need a snake, a coconut plate, some spices or a cure for insomnia? Or perhaps you are simply on the look out for some fresh fish and vegetables for dinner. If it’s bargains you are after – of any variety – then sampling Thailand’s markets is a must.

Even if you don’t fancy buying, markets in Thailand are worth a visit. The bustle, noise, colours and smells of a busy Thai market will either energise or exhaust you (or possibly both) – but either way, it will give you an experience to remember.

If you are in a purchasing mood, remember that bartering <link to How to Barter in Thailand> is an essential (and fun) part of the process. However, don’t worry too much about always “winning” a haggle. If you end up with a price you are happy paying then you have got yourself a bargain.

You don’t have to look far to find a market in Thailand. Here are a few of our favourites to get you started.

 

Chiang Mai’s Sunday Walking Street (Chiang Mai)

Chiang Mai Sunday Walking Street

You might think you would be able to walk down Chiang Mai’s Walking Street. It’s a bit tricky though. Mainly because the huge array of handmade arts and crafts, coupled with delicious food and fantastic music, means that nobody moves very fast during this Sunday market.

In our opinion Chiang Mai’s Sunday Walking Street beats even the town’s Night Bizarre (Chang Lang Road, Chiang Mai) – although admittedly the Night Bizarre’s amazing variety of high quality silks, clothing and rugs do mean that the dusk to midnight bizarre is definitely worth a visit too.

However, we reckon Chiang Mai’s Sunday market is even better. The market showcases craftsmanship from northern Thailand – often made by the person standing by the stall – and really comes to life after dark. This is when the musicians, dancers and street entertainers make their entrance, giving the market a festival atmosphere.

Lasting from 4pm until midnight every Sunday, the market runs for about a kilometre from Tha Pae Gate to Ratchadamnoen Road.

Linger to buy a fresh fruit juice from a street-side temple food stall, have a break with a relaxing foot massage, or simply wander amongst the stalls as the music floats on the breeze – this will be a Sunday evening to remember.

 

Chatuchak Weekend Market (Bangkok)

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Whether it is a potted plant or a temple bell that you are looking for, head for the Chatuchak Weekend Market on (yes, you’ve guessed it) a Saturday or Sunday and shop to your heart’s content.

Covering an area of 35 acres and with around 8,000 stalls, the Chatuchak Weekend Market sells pretty much everything you can imagine – plus quite a bit more that it never occurred to you to buy. On top of that, you can watch artists and craft makers at work and enjoy scrumptious treats at the numerous food and drink stalls.

Whilst it can be disorientating when you are in the heart of it, Chatuchak Market is actually organised into 27 sections, based roughly on types of products. Maps are available from the information centre and throughout the market to help you find your way through the maze of stalls.

Try to come early, to beat both the crowds and the heat. And make the most of the food and drink stalls, to pace yourself throughout the day.

 

Khlong Toey Fresh Market (Bangkok)

Khlong Toey Fresh Market

Khlong Toey Fresh Market sells fresh products (I bet you would never have worked that out from its name!). A lot of fresh products.

In fact, it is said that if you have ever eaten a meal in Bangkok, at least one of the ingredients will have come through this market.

Khlong Toey Market is where chefs from five star restaurants mix with street vendors, all on the hunt for the freshest goods on offer in Bangkok.

This makes it a great place to pick up fruit and vegetables. Or crab, chicken, lobster, herbs – in fact pretty much any kind of seafood, poultry, fruit or vegetable that you might come across in Thailand is likely to be sold in Khlong Toey Market.

Arrive early (around 6am) to get the best on offer – or simply to watch and photograph, if that’s more your thing.

Just remember, most of it arrives at Khlong Toey Market alive. So if you are squeamish, make sure you look away before the chicken or crab you picked out for your lunch is “prepared” for you to take home.

 

Lard Yai / Sunday Market (Phuket)

Lard Yai Sunday Market

The Sunday evening Lard Yai market in Phuket is a great antidote to that end-of-weekend feeling. Combine a bit of souvenir hunting with sampling of southern Thai cuisine and make your weekend end on a high.

Lard Yai is a relative newcomer to the “walking street” market industry across the country (it made its first appearance in 2013). However its beautiful location in the heart of the Old Town district of Phuket definitely makes it one to visit.

The heart of Lard Yai can be found between 4pm-10pm on Sundays along Thalang Road, where the lovely old Sino-Portuguese houses are lit up with an ever-changing display of colour. Meanwhile, on the busy street you will find an array of mainly local arts, crafts and souvenirs sitting fighting for space with open air performances and stalls serving up freshly made edible delights.

Arrive ready to eat – as you will definitely want to be tempted by the huge variety of food on offer.

 

Pak Klong Talat Flower Market (Bangkok)

Pak Klong Talat Flower MarketPak Klong Talat (literally, “market at the mouth of the canal”) has been around in one form or another for over 200 years. Originally a floating market during the reign of Rama I, it has been a fish market, a produce market and is now one of the largest flower markets in the world – with fruit and vegetables also on offer.

The market is based on Chakphet Road and is open 24 hours a day. However, if you really want the genuine flower market experience, try visiting before dawn. This is the time that the boats and trucks arrive loaded with flowers from all across the country – and the local florists and traders visit to choose their day’s stock.

You are best simply watching, yawning and keeping out of the way of the professionals during an early morning visit. However, smaller purchases are welcome during the rest of the day. So if you fancy some fresh blooms to brighten up your room, this is the place to come.

 

Amulet Market (Bangkok)

Amulet Market

If you think you need a bit of luck to spot the bargains in all these markets, why not head for Bangkok’s Amulet Market.

Running south from the Phra Chan pier, the capital’s largest amulet market is a dense network of covered market stalls.

Here you can mix with monks, men working in “dangerous professions”, taxi drivers and tourists to search amongst the thousands of talisman for that perfect token that will ward off evil spirits or transform your fortunes.

The amulets tend to be quite small (generally holding-in-the-hand size) but otherwise take numerous different shapes and forms. You can find Buddha images, pendants allegedly with particles from sacred temples, or even body parts such as pieces of bone or hair.

It is up the individual buyer to discern whether their potential purchase has any real value (whether spiritual or otherwise) – which can make this a fascinating place for people watching.

Oh, and when you have finished bartering your way through these land-based markets – remember there is whole set of floating markets to move onto next.

Ten Things to Do in Bangkok for Under $10

To help you make the most of your teaching wage, here are ten of our favourite things to do in Bangkok for under $10.

 

 1. Be Mesmorised by a Traditional Thai Puppet Show at Baan Silapin (Thornburi)

Performed in a 200-year-old wooden house, in the company of human-sized statues dangling their feet towards the river, this is certainly not your stereotypical production. Bann Silapin (the Artist’s House) is worth a visit in itself. However it is the traditional Thai puppet shows, using intricate, hand-carved puppets to narrate stories based on Thai folklore, that is the main draw. With free performances most afternoons, you can relax and be entranced.

Puppet show in Bangkok

2. Learn Meditation at the Wat Mahathat (Na Phra Road)

Free meditation classes in both Thai and English are held daily at the Wat Mahathat. Learn how to focus your concentration on your breathing and rid your mind of thought through the “Vipassana” meditation.

3. Escape the City at Lumpini Park

When you crave a break from the hectic city life, pop into the huge inner-city Lumpini Park. Whether you want burn off some energy in the free, open-air aerobics sessions, read a book in the shade of a tree, spot some rare indigenous flora (or even a passing water monitor lizard), or simply people watch, this is a perfect spot in which to do it.

Lumpini Park

4. Watch Money being Burnt in Chinatown

Be prepared for your senses to be assaulted when you take a trip to Chinatown’s array of street vendors, market alleys, gold shops, temples and vibrant energy. Wander down here by day or night and the assortment of smells and colours – not to mention the possibility of sampling “insect snacks” – will give you an unforgettable experience. If you have money to burn, you can literally do so and no-one will bat an eyelid. Burning of money and pretty much any other goods are part of the offerings to ancestors at Chinese New Year (though, on a $10 budget, you might be better following the locals in using replicas only!)

5. Ferry Yourself Around

If you fancy a different viewpoint of Bangkok, why not take a river ferry? A simple crossing of the river only costs 3 bhat, river taxis cost from 10 bhat or buy a day ticket to the tourist boat for 100 bhat (around $3) and hop on and off all day long, visiting the attractions as you go.

Ferry around Bangkok

6. Select a Bloom at Pak Klong Talad (Chak Phet Road)

For the early risers (or those who haven’t yet gone to bed) Pak Klong Talad – Bangkok’s largest flower market – is at its most lively at around 3am. An early-hours visit will allow you to glimpse wholesalers delivering blooms from across the country whilst traders come to purchase their stock. However, if you fancy a more leisurely experience, 3pm is an equally good time to marvel at all the colours and smells and sheer volume of flowers – and perhaps even select a few to take back at bargain prices to brighten up your room.

7. Be Invigorated with a Massage

After a long day at the office (well, in front of the class anyway), what better way to wind down than with a massage? Local massage shops are everywhere in the city and – at an average of 200-300 bhat ($6-$9) for an hour’s massage – they are also pretty good value. Just be aware that Thai massage focuses on pressure points and is rather more vigorous than its western counterpart. Ask staff from your school for their recommendations or simply pick one that takes your fancy on the street.

8. Let the World Float by at Taling Chan Floating Market

Officially just outside Bangkok, but close enough to justify its inclusion in our list, this is one of the smaller and (for now, at least) less commercialised floating markets. Sample the fish cooked fresh on the boats and listen to the traditional music drifting through the air. Not a bad way to spend a morning.

Floating Markets

9. Say Hello to the Giant Crocodiles at the Wat Chakrawat (Chinatown)

For a different type of thrill, pop into the Wat Chakrawat temple complex and peer at the three giant crocodiles lurking in a small pond, ready for their next meal. There are several theories as to why these crocodiles live here, although the most prevalent is simply that they were found in the local river. Whatever their origin, cleaning out the crocodile pond certainly adds a new dimension to the monks’ practice of mindfulness!

10. Experience Muay Thai at the MBK Shopping Mall

Muay Thai, or Thai Boxing, is a martial art and national sport of Thailand. Whilst fights are held in stadiums all over the country, these tend to be expensive. However, each Wednesday evening you can watch a series of fights live and for free outside the MBK shopping mall. Even if you don’t like boxing, the energy of the crowd makes this worth dropping by – and you can always pop into the shopping centre if you find it all a bit much (although with around 2000 shops to tempt you, we can’t guarantee you will keep to your $10 budget there!).

Muay Thai Boxing

Ready to start exploring Bangkok? Check out our Paid TEFL Internship in Thailand! You’ll get plenty time to take in the sights and smells of this epic capital plus a whole lot more!

Don’t Visit Thailand Until You’ve Read This!

There are many differences between Thai and western culture. First and foremost, Thailand is a very modest country. This was one of the first lessons I learned before coming to Thailand. No packing my usual summer wardrobe of tank tops and mini skirts! Especially when going into temples, the dress code is pants or a skirt over the knee, and a top that covers the shoulders with no stomach showing. I can get away with shorts when I’m not visiting temples, but it’s important to dress smart when in public and also while swimming (no bikinis). With the exclusion of temples, Thai people will never tell you to cover up, but it is respectful to follow the cultural guidelines.

i-to-i Thailand interns together in front of a statue of the Buddha

Not only will a Thai person not tell you when your outfit is inappropriate, but they will never confront you. Thai people are extremely non-confrontational, and it is a bad idea to back them into a corner. During orientation for my program I learned that a Thai person will never show it when they are upset, so it is important not to push them into a situation where they lose face. This is most likely due to the fact that Thai people are raised to always show respect, and to care about the needs of others. They will therefore choose to remain kind and say “Mai Pen Rai” which translates to “never mind” or “it’s not important”. Thai people follow the philosophy of “Jai Yen” or “cool heart”, which means that even in stressful situations, they put others needs above their own and respond with a smile. It is possible for Thai people to have “Jai Rawn” or “hot heart”, but this is not the custom. During my time here I have seen both sides. The teachers and students I interact with show nothing but mutual respect towards each other, but I have also seen a few bus drivers loose their cool on passengers or traffic. Despite the few encounters I’ve had with a frustrated Thai person, I think we could all learn a lesson from their style of dealing with negative feelings or conflict. This is also not to say that you should take advantage of a Thai person’s good nature. It is important to be aware of the cultural norms and follow them as closely as possible.

i-to-i Thailand intern Jessi in front of a traditional temple

There are many daily rituals and occurrences that tourists must be aware of. First, Thai people constantly use the wai. A wai is a bow, and Thai people will always bow to you as a sign of respect. They do this by pressing their hands together as if they are praying and moving their head down. The height of the hands varies by the amount of respect the person wants to display. Elders, monks, and the King would get a higher hand placement. It is polite to return this gesture and to say “Sawadee” which is “hello” in Thai. I must also mention that while you may encounter monks and it is perfectly respectful to bow to them, it is forbidden to touch a monk. If you do accidentally touch a monk nothing will happen to you, but it will be very bad for the monk and his vows. Among monks, you will also encounter many Buddha statues. Buddha is a revered figure and it is illegal in Thailand to use Buddha as decoration or to defile Buddha. Do not ever touch or climb on a Buddha statue, and always be as respectful as possible. Lastly, Thai people believe that the head is the holiest place in the body, and the feet are the least holy. Therefore, never touch a Thai person on the head and never show a Thai person your feet or point with your feet. You also must be aware of restaurants and temples where shoes are not permitted. This may seem like a lot of rules, but I promise it starts to feel normal after a while.

i-to-i TEFL intern Jessi with a member of the long-neck Karen tribe in Thailand

The last Thai cultural norm I would like to touch on is my personal favorite. Thai people constantly say “sabai sabai” which translates to something like “relax, easygoing, happy, comfortable, etc.” This is how many Thai people live their life. I find this especially interesting because Thai people do not have many luxuries. Their happiness does not stem from physical possessions and material wealth. Rather, happiness comes from within them and with the bonds they create with their families, friends, and communities. “Sabai sabai” has definitely been impressed upon me, and it is something I will take home with me as I encounter the stress and fast-paced style of western living.

i-to-i intern Jessi in class with a fellow teacher and her students at school in Kanchanaburi, Thailand