Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market: A Taste of Thailand

Of the 4 weekend days I’ve spent in Bangkok, I’ve gone to the Chatuchak Weekend Market on 3 of them:

  • First time – went for a ‘look-see’ to scope things out, sample the snacks, and take note of things I might want to buy next time (the idea being to return after my upcoming jaunt through Southern Thailand, so I wouldn’t have to carry around extra crap for those couple of weeks)
  • Second time – went with some boys and didn’t want to drag them along to do some girl shopping
  • Third time – went on my own to finally do said shopping!

Thus, given my excellent market attendance ratio, I feel like I’m fairly qualified to give you the lowdown on the Chatuchak Market (aka the JJ Market, to locals). It’s definitely a must-do if you’re in Bangkok on a weekend – even if you’re not big on shopping, there is plenty else to see and do. It’s supposedly the biggest market in Southeast Asia – and you’ll find locals and tourists alike browsing the stalls.

independent travelPhoto Credit: worldeasyguides.com

What I love about the Chatuchak Market is that you’re never hassled or ripped off there. You’re free to get lost in the maze of stalls and play the bargaining game whenever you feel like making a purchase. With a great mix of souvenirs vs. common goods, tourists vs. locals, and shopping vs. dining, the Chatuchak Market is the perfect place to get a balanced taste of Thailand.

Getting to Chatuchak Market

The JJ Market is very easy to get to. You can either take the skytrain to Mo Chit, then traverse the park to get to the outskirts of the market… or the BTS to Kamphaeng Phet which will let you off right into the market. Note: You could also take the BTS to the Chatuchak stop, but it’s actually not as close to the market.

Navigating the Chatuchak Market

The Chatuchak Market operates on Saturdays and Sundays and spans over 35 acres, which basically means you’ll never see the entire thing. Many sources recommend Nancy Chandler’s comprehensive map to the market, but it’s more fun to get lost exploring on your own!

chatuchak market
 
Similar types of items tend to be grouped together in the same section (e.g. used goods, clothing, shoes, jewelry, plants, home goods, food). At the entrance to each aisle, there is a sign above that denotes the section number and category.

Tip: If you see something you’re very interested in buying, don’t wait to buy it – you may never find the stall again!

Eating and Drinking at Chatuchak Market

I highly recommend coming to the market with an empty stomach. Food there is cheap, plentiful, and delicious.

bangkok chatuchak market
 
As with the whole of Bangkok, or any city/town in Thailand, you’ll find food offered by three sorts of proprietors:

  • Street Cart Vendors – Perfect for a quick snack or drink, you can snag some meat on a stick, fresh fruit, an iced tea/coffee, or a fruit shake. I’ve also seen some more exotic snacks, like fried quail eggs, on offer.
  • Open Air Cafes – Duck into a cafe on the market walkways for a small meal for about $1.50. The standard soups, noodle and rice dishes are most commonly on the menu.
  • Restaurants – Tucked into the market are some actual restaurants that have AC, proper seating, and alcoholic beverages. A great escape from the heat and crowds outside!

adventure travel

I’m a big fan of the fresh coconut ice cream, served in coconut shells with various toppings of your choice. Also, the fresh coconut shakes at the market are possibly the best I’ve had in Thailand.

Tip: Be warned, bottled water is much more expensive in the market than outside of it. BE FRUGAL! – If you can bring a large bottle in with you, you should be set for most of the day.

Shopping at Chatuchak Market

You can easily do the bulk of your souvenir shopping at Chatuchak Market. Everything you could possibly want to buy for yourself, family, and friends can be found here.

chatuchak marketPhoto Credit: jaajo.fi

As usual, you should bargain for everything. Always start out with a super-low price, then work your way up to something a bit more reasonable that the shopkeeper will agree on.

Other Services at Chatuchak Market

Don’t worry – if you’ve had yourself a shopping spree, there are a few outlets in the market that will ship packages overseas for you.

chatuchak market
 
And if you’ve spent too much time on your feet carrying shopping bags, you can treat yourself to a massage right in the market! Hour-long foot, neck/shoulders/back, and full body massages can be had for 200-250 baht ($7.50-9). I had the most satisfying foot massage at Chatuchak Market – it was at times painful, but felt so amazing after the fact! (Those are my feet on the right in the photo above!)

Chatuchak Market: A Must-Do in Bangkok

To sum it up, every visitor to Bangkok should check out the Chatuchak Market to:

  • get all their souvenir shopping done
  • sample typical Thai dishes and drinks
  • get a great, cheap massage
  • experience Thai culture

The Chatuchak Market makes for a perfect taste of Thailand. IT IS AWESOME – don’t miss it!

 
Note: I did not have a working camera during my last 2 visits to the market, so I had to borrow a few images from the web!

Lindsay Buckley is the photographer and travel blogger behind Frugal Frolicker. She's a New Yorker currently based in Sydney, Australia, documenting outdoor travel experiences Down Under and beyond. Follow along with Lindsay's travel photography on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for the monthly Frugal Frolicker newsletter!

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