The Chatuchak Weekend Market, or “JJ” as the locals call it, was a definite must to take my mother. It boosts 15,000 stalls, has competitive prices, and is a bit awe-inspiring. Each time James and I would go (for the past year), we’d joke that my mom would love it and that it would probably blow her mind. That she wanted to bring back presents for people conveniently also gave the visit purpose (which is not entirely necessary because it is easy to find something you “need” there).
The market is over 27 acres and an aerial view from the BTS sky train showed how the market sprawled with it’s patchwork of metal roofs across blocks. We arrived as it started pouring and hundreds of people were huddled under the BTS station waiting out the rain. We’d planned ahead and donned ponchos so that the rain immediately stopped and we started sweltering in the crush of the crowd trying to get down the stairs to the market. Their website estimates they get about 200,000 visitors each day!
A short walk down the road and around a corner took us to the first market entrance. We passed numerous pop-up stalls with a nice variety but nothing like what is inside the overwhelming maze of booths. The entrance was packed with people momentarily stunned by the massive collage of booths in view.
Where I usually bolt down a side road to escape the crowd, I kept our course to the main walkway so we could get our bearings and she could officially dive in.
The market is divided into sections: clothing, ceramics, art supplies, paintings, books, “antiques”, handicrafts, and pets. Some booths, especially those dedicated to souvenirs are repeated throughout the market but handmade and other unique wares do definitely exist. I like to say if you can’t find it at JJ, it is probably not to be found (although not entirely accurate for electronics.)
Bargaining is generally expected and something I’ve yet to truly develop a skill for. I think, “The new purse is $8? That seems reasonable…” but you frequently can get a dollar or two knocked off, especially when purchasing multiple items.
I think my mom was overwhelmed for we walked a bit without stopping and I had a moment of clarity that we would be there all day, which we were. My mom will claim not to be a shopper (which some would argue), but her need to bring everyone and their grandmother a souvenir from Thailand won. So we combed through the stalls searching for the perfect gift – TWO weekends in a row.
And while JJ can verge on being a little window into hell (it is easy to get overwhelmed at this market), I was happy she found just about everything she needed. She kept me bribed with birthday prizes too so I have nothing to complain about. Right?
Chatuchak Market is definitely worth diving into and well-know in Bangkok and through-out SE Asia, praised (or cursed) by anyone who has ever visited.
Visitor tips –
- Purchasing – Haggle with a smile and make it a fun game for both of you! Always try!
- Better prices are typically found off a main (busier) row.
- When to buy – If it looks handmade and unique, you may not see it again.
- Rest assured that scarves, hill-tribe wares, table runners, etc. can be found at multiple booths. You don’t need to settle if you don’t like the price.
- Hydrate – Drink lots of water, even under the roof it is hot!
- Bottles of water are 10 Baht.
- Rest – There are a few restaurants that have AC, confirm before settling for outdoor seating.
- Toilets – Especially for the ladies, steel yourself against how potentially gross the toilets are, they get a lot of use and are typically packed.
- If possible, use the ones off the beaten path, like in Section 13. The charge is 2 Baht.
- If you have any energy left after the market, beat the heat and go to Chatuchak Park.
- Open Saturday and Sunday 6am – 6pm (although some vendors stay a bit later).
- Take the BTS Skytrain to “Mo Chit” -OR- MRT to “Chatuchak Park”, follow the crowd to the market and Gate 2, at Section 6.
- Pro tip – Take MRT to “Kamphaeng Phet”, Exit #2, which exits into the market at Section 2. You avoid the busy road and outside vendors.
- Map – http://www.chatuchak.org/map/chattuchakmap.jpg
- Market website – http://www.chatuchak.org/
- Additional tips and recommendations – http://www.bangkok.com/shopping-market/popular-markets.htm
Connect with me in the comments –
Anything catch your eye? What would be your first purchase or would you run screaming?
If you’re too busy, leave me a thumbs up or down!