I don’t really remember my first market in Asia, but I was thinking back on this experience when we visited the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok.
I remember during that first trip to Asia we walked through Bangkok Chinatown. We found an alley that was loaded with Chinese goods, crap from wall to wall, people everywhere, Eric towering over them all. I could never lose him in the crowd.
I also remember the excitement of walking the night market in Luang Prabang, Laos, enjoying the shopping but recognizing it was entirely touristy. I remember my first tour of the wet market in Luang Prabang, with a chef who explained the various kinds of rice, strange meats, and different kinds of vegetables I was unfamiliar with.
Typical travel writing always dictates that the way to understand the local culture is to walk through the local market. And, to some extent that is true. But, I have seen so many markets, and many of them are so similar, particularly in Southeast Asia. In most tourist spots, the market has turned into something entirely inauthentic – the same collection of Chinese made goods, both clothing and toys for locals as well as the souvenirs that are ubiquitous across the region – each pretending to be a locally made artifact that explains something about the local culture.
I have wandered through numerous wet markets, the markets that sell the foods, fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish. I have smelled them, I have walked carefully in my flip flops through the oozing goo on the floors. Until I live some place long enough where a trip to the market is necessary in order to buy my groceries, I don’t generally rush right out to the local market in every town I visit.
This is why I ignored the conventional advice that dictated I tour Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok.
But for some reason, during this visit, I wanted to go. So, we boarded the BTS and rode it out to Mo Chit with the rest of the market-goers, to explore Chatuchak.
Chatuchak Weekend Market In Not Your Typical Market
I was entirely surprised. Yes, I saw the same souvenirs I have seen for sale in Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, and Siem Reap (all made in China I am sure) …I saw the requisite I Love BKK t-shirts and the Singha Beer t-shirts. Eric and I each bought a pair of sunglasses, for a $1. I saw buddha statues in every size, shape, and form. Some might be authentic, but more likely than not, they are made in China.
I saw more than that, though. In the dozens of alley ways loaded with stalls, I saw:
A Cheesy Spanish Guy Hawking Tapas
Kitschy Lawn Ornaments
Fashion at Chatuchak Weekend Market
Rows and rows of fashionable items, artistic t-shirts, trendy, Thai hipster garb, and more, which obviously attracted the locals for a weekend jaunt to the market, more than the tourists (sizes were often not big enough for tourists). In fact, Eric tried to buy a few really great aviation related t-shirts, but there were none in his size. No surprise there.
Costume Jewelry at Chatuchak Weekend Market
There were dozens upon dozens of stalls, set out in the fashionable hipster area, all hawking brightly colored costume jewelry. I ended up with three pairs for a dollar.
There were fruits, teas, desserts, and more, typical of a local market, but often brilliantly arranged. Some of it actually looked more like what I would see in a European market than a typical Southeast Asian wet market.
Stacks of Bright Red Thai Rambutan
There were also loads of stalls selling traditional Thai food, grilled seafood, Thai fried chicken, and and more. We knocked back a lovely bowl of spicy noodle soup.
I also couldn’t pass up a bubble tea. One of my favorites.
We even got a massage in the middle of the market.
I was entirely surprised by the experience. Although tourists swarm to the market like mosquitos to a lamp post, there seemed to be locals there too, particularly trendy youngsters looking for unique clothing items. I saw things in the Chatuchak Market that I have just not seen elsewhere. That was refreshing.
Although the size of the Chatuchak Weekend Market can be intimidating (yes we got lost trying to escape it), it was a lovely way to spend a few hours on a Sunday. And, it was one of the few markets I have seen where I would actually return to get lost again.
Have you been to the Chatuchak Weekend Market?