How To Survive Chatuchak Market, Bangkok, Thailand
How do I love thee Chatuchak Market, let me count the ways …
It’s ridiculous how much I love the world’s largest weekend market. I mean, it’s huge, hot, and hectic. With over 15,000 stalls to choose from for your shopping and eating pleasure, you rarely manage to get around the whole thing in one go.
In fact, I’ve been to Chatuchak Market many a time on my various trips to Bangkok and I still find new alleys and shops to explore. This is not surprising given the site covers 25 acres of land!
I think it’s fab. It’s like a mini adventure, every time you visit it’s different.
That being said, Chatuchak Market can be incredibly overwhelming the first time you visit. Check out my tips below to help you on your way and I highly recommend getting hold of the map.
Chatuchak Market is a vast weekend market in Bangkok. It’s a huge tourist draw and it is easy to see why. Everything and anything is on sale there, from Thai antiques to clothes and souvenirs. You can easily find vintage clothes as well as furniture for your home.
In the past I have bought t-shirts, handbags, candles, fairy lights, purses, photo frames, notebooks, jewellery, silk scarves, and children’s clothes.
Sometimes I have stopped halfway through my shopping to get a 30 minute foot massage at the many massage shops in the market.
I always stop for food several times as we wander around the market. My favourites include chicken on a stick, coconut ice cream, and the mini fried eggs with soy sauce.
I’ve also had some fantastic barbecued pork and a lovely pad thai.
Raj’s favourite is the barbecued squid with spicy dip and the coconut water.
There is so much variety of food. I even had garlic bread on stick on my last visit!
I also appreciate the regularly dotted around coffee stalls serving excellent iced coffees. Perfect for a cooling caffeine fix!
We also spotted a couple of awesome looking bars in some sections.
It’s not uncommon to see people buying suitcases at Chatuchak Market and then filling them up with all of their purchases.
Chatuchak Market is vast, diverse in product offerings, and if you’re not in the mood for shopping you can simply work your way around the street food stalls and spend a few hours people watching.
How to Get Around Chatuchak Market
There is a main, wide path around the market in an almost almond-shape. Off this path are small entrance ways to the narrow ‘soi’ paths to more stalls. The sois are numbered and the market is divided into sections. If you look up you will see signs featuring the section number and soi number, e.g. 3/12 would indicated section 3 and soi 12.
There are currently 27 sections. Each section roughly corresponds to a type of product on sale.
Chatuchak Market can be roughly divided into 11 categories:
Clothing & Accessories (sections 2-6, 10-26)
Handicrafts (sections 8-11)
Ceramics (sections 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 25)
Furniture and Home Decoration (sections 1,3,4,7,8)
Miscellaneous and Used Clothing (sections 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 22, 25, 26)
As with most markets you need to exercise some caution when it comes to antiques, if you’re spending a lot of money it might be best to seek the advice of an expert.
Likewise there is an animal/pet section which I’m personally not keen on or sure how ethical it is. I tend to avoid that area.
Otherwise, go easy on yourself and remember that it’s probably not possible to visit the entire market in one day.
13 Top Tips For Surviving Chatuchak Market
1. Get there early
The general market is open 9am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday.
2. Get haggling
Most vendors will expect to haggle so flex your haggling muscles. My recommendation is to have a price in mind you want to pay and start a little lower than that. Usually you can meet somewhere in the middle that you are both happy with.
Some stalls have started to put up signs indicating a fixed price so do respect their wishes.
As always in Thai culture, a smile and being polite will help you on your way.
If in doubt though, don’t be afraid to walk away. Sometimes this prompts the seller to meet closer to your haggled price or you can find something similar at another stall. Likewise, you can always head back to the stall later – just make a note of where it is!
3. Be prepared for the long haul
However long you think you’ll be at Chatuchak Market… double it. The place is vast and it takes at least 3 to 5 hours to walk around the entire site getting a decent look at the stalls.
4. Stay hydrated!
There are plenty of food and drink stalls to choose from but it’s easy to get dehydrated from the heat, humidity and walking around the market. Keep on top of your fluid intake! And if you do feel queasy, sit down and sip water. If it gets worse there is a first aid point near gate 1.
5. Send it home already
If you end up buying more things than your luggage allowance will permit you can package up and post your purchases home to yourself. There are a few courier companies based at Chatuchak Market so you can do all of this there and then.
We did this on a previous visit and it was a really affordable option for sending our souvenirs and gifts home and saved us lugging them around on our travels.
6. Take some shoulder bags or a backpack
I pack lightweight reusable fabric bags with long straps which I use to fill with my purchases. Most stalls will give you a plastic bag but I find a shoulder bag or backpack easier for carrying my shopping whilst still being able to look around the stalls.
7. Wear the comfiest shoes you own!
It’s a long day of walking at Chatuchak Market so wear comfy shoes or you’ll have sore feet by the end of the day. I recommend wearing covered shoes as some of the soi’s can get wet with puddles and waste.
8. Comfy clothes
Likewise, wear loose comfy clothes. You will get hot, and be prepared to feel sweaty. I like to wear a loose dark t-shirt.
9. Protect from the sun
It can get HOT at Chatuchak Market and some paths are out in the open sun, so be sure to cover up, wear sunscreen and pop on a hat.
10. Pack the cash
There are ATMs on site if you need it. And some stalls will accept card. But on the whole it’s best to have your Thai baht in cash ready for shopping.
11. Be safe
As with every market in the world, be aware that pickpockets are around. Try to keep valuables close by and hold onto your bag.
12. Grab a map!
The information point near gate 1 gives out free paper maps of Chatuchak Market. Or if you want to be super organised you could download and print one from their website here.
13. Get lost!
Some of the best finds are when you allow yourself to wander deep into the market away from the main path. Just go with the flow and see where you end up – deeper is cheaper! Who knows what treasures you’ll find?!
How To Get To Chatuchak Market
Take the skytrain (also known as the BTS) to Mo Chit station (on the Sukhumvit line). Follow the signs for exit number 1. There will usually be a crowd of people heading towards the market. There will be rows of stalls and between them will be a small entrance into the main market.
Take the metro (also known as the MRT) to Kampheng Phet station.
Use one of the many taxi’s to take you to Chatuchak Market. Be sure to ask for the meter to be put on so you pay the correct fare. Ask them to drop you off near Kampheng Phet station.
The most important advice, above all else, is … enjoy yourself! Go with the flow and enjoy the craziness that is Chatuchak Market.