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.

Top 10 crazy Thai foods

Imagine the scene: you’ve just arrived in beautiful Thailand, and are wandering leisurely around Bangkok’s packed-out Khao San Road taking in the exciting new sights and smells. Fire dancers mesmerise with their daring and dangerous stunts; street sellers hawk neon t-shirts and knock-off sunglasses; a smiling local approaches you with a tray piled high with enticing looking fried snacks.

You’re peckish at this point, so you catch their eye with a smile. Hand over your 20 baht or so, and receive a crackling bag of crunchy treats to nibble. Raise one to your mouth, and catch a glimpse before you bite – what is this?! A black form with spindly antennae, hard and shiny stomach with pointy limbs crossed over… all speckled with grains of salt. Little did you know, fried cockroaches are considered a delicacy in Thailand; and if you’re brave enough to crunch your way through its satisfying, salted-popcorn flavour you’ll find out why!
A street seller prepares fried cockroaches, a popular delicacy in Thailand

Thailand, along with many other Asian countries, is known for its wild selection of unusual foods that seem a bit… well, gross to the western palette – and fried bugs pale in comparison. That said, their resourcefulness in food preparation could serve as a valuable lesson to us in making the most of what’s available and minimising waste; so read on for some truly – let’s say, imaginative dishes. Here are our top ten mad meals from the Land of Smiles.

1. Kai Khao
Let’s start with something you may have heard of. A delicacy across many Asian countries, here’s a beer snack with a difference. Sit down at a pop-up bar and order an icy bottle of Chang beer in Thailand, and chances are you may see kai khao on the menu. Don’t be fooled by appearances, though – this is no innocent boiled egg.
Kai khao is, put simply, an unborn baby duck. Crack open the pretty blue eggshell and you’ll be greeted by a veined, pale, gelatinous mass complete with large yolk sac, tiny feet and eyes and even the beginnings of feathers. Locals love the intense poultry flavour and varied creamy-crunchy texture – chew it all down in one if you can face it!

Kai Khao balut duck egg, a delicacy in Asia

2. Som Tam Hoy Dong
The delicious, fresh, tangy and spicy som tam salad is a staple on many Thai restaurant menus, but the hoy dong in this particular recipe adds a none-too-appetizing twist. Take shredded green papaya, plenty of chilli, kaffir lime, garlic and crushed roast peanuts, and finish it off by adding some deliciously pungent fermented oysters. And then, drown the whole lot in a ruby red blood sauce. Serve with rice. Yum!

3. Durian fruit
This large, spiky-shelled monster is often called ‘the king of fruit’ – but from what we’ve heard, the jury is still out on that one. Banned in many public spaces and on public transport across Southeast Asia, the durian fruit looks (and smells) pretty threatening. You’ll smell it a mile off when browsing fruit markets: the stench is said to be like rotten onions, turpentine or raw sewage depending on who you listen to.

If you can get past the formidable spiked exterior and stomach-turning scent though, the rewards are apparently worth it: the soft fruit inside has a delicate, creamy consistency and a rich, sweet, almond-y flavour.

Durian fruit, a smelly fruit banned on public transport across much of Asia!

4. Goong Dten
Another one that definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. Goong dten roughly translates as ‘dancing shrimp’, and this dish is perfect for culinary adventurers who are desperate to know what a mouth full of live shrimp feels like (we imagine squiggly).

Tiny, see-through live freshwater shrimp are put in a bowl where they toss themselves around with chopped green onion, chilli and spices (thanks guys) before being munched, still wiggling. They ‘pop’ between the teeth in a salty explosion that is meant to be really delicious. Would you be bold enough to try?

5. Bpaak Bpet
‘Nose to tail’ eating (scoffing the whole animal with the minimum of waste) has been a popular food fad in the UK for a few years now, but the Thais doubtless got there first. Bpaak bpet is a duck’s beak, a couple of which can be picked up for just a few pennies at plenty of street food stalls in Thailand. The animal’s bill is marinated in a delicious sweet soy sauce and then grilled.

Though the tough cartilage takes a lot of chewing, the rich, fatty meat inside is meant to be really tasty – just make sure it’s soft enough to swallow!

6. Larb Mote Daeng
This is another crunchy creepy crawly dish that is supposedly totally delicious – after all, why should anteaters have all the fun? Red ants are cooked in their thousands with their large white eggs to create a dark, shiny mass speckled with creamy blobs. Close your eyes and take a bite – we reckon the sweet and sour crunch of the ants mixed with the rich, wholesome taste of the eggs is impossible not to love!

Amok chouk, red andts and their eggs cooked and served as a delicacy in Thailand

7. Mok Huak
Ever felt the need to plunge your mitts into the garden pond and scarf down handfuls of wiggly tadpoles? Somebody in Thailand has, and that’s how mok huak came about. Get a big bucket of developing taddies (legs and all, if possible) and cook them up with green onions, spices, chilli… and a dash of fermented fish sauce (pla raa).

Bon appetit!

8. Luu Muu
On a Saturday morning, you may find yourself tucking into a hearty fried breakfast complete with black pudding, made of congealed pig’s blood. Sounds gross but tastes great, right? What about luu muu?

Offal and blood feature heavily in Thai cooking due to their commendable attitude about non-waste. Iron-rich blood can be extremely good for you, or extremely bad (heard of Streptococcus suis?) so approach this dish with caution. Raw, bright red pigs’ blood is mixed with a tasty spice mixture and served up over deep-friend crisp noodles and garnished with kaffir lime leaves and cab moo, fried pork skin similar to the pork scratchings you can get down the pub. The rich, iron-y flavour is meant to be quite bracing.

Let’s not forget the words of many an esteemed doctor, though: the consumption of raw blood is not advisable.
A bowl of Thai blood soup

9. Bamboo rat
These toothy, oversized rodents are admittedly kind of cute, looking like a cross between mice and guinea pigs, and around the same size as the latter. They get fat on chomping through farmers’ bamboo stocks and as such are considered a bit of a pest. When you’re roaming around local markets, don’t be surprised to see a couple of these big lads locked up in cages awaiting their fate – a swift skinning and being roasted whole on a grill.

The meat is said to taste similar to pork but with an exceptionally fatty, chewy texture – for this reason, it’s usually served boiled up with veg and spices for a rich, meaty soup.

10. Laap
Back to the raw flesh and blood for a final hoorah – laap is quite similar to raw steak tartare, which is considered a bit of a delicacy in the west. This is another great way to make use of the whole animal when you’re eating – unspecified meat (whatever is to hand!) is minced up really finely with a generous helping of blood and mixed with pulverised cooked offal and skin. Mix with fresh herbs like galangal, kaffir lime and basil; whack in some fried onion and garlic, and a special dried spice seasoning paste. Serve up the dark red, quivering mass with some sticky rice. Delicious.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour around the culinary conquests of Thailand; and remember, you can always enjoy a pad thai if none of the above tickles your fancy.

Fancy sampling some of these mouth-watering morsels for yourself? Check out our epic two month Thailand TEFL Experience by clicking here.