by Milda Ratkelyte
Those who love a bit of bargain shopping will be in their element at Chatuchak market, which is held on the streets of Bangkok every weekend. Hard core shoppers will be spoilt for choice here; the market has thousands of stalls and is so large that even experienced bargain hunters will find it tiring. Its Southeast Asia’s largest weekend market that sells everything you can imagine. Some people might find it a bit overwhelming, but most tourists say it is unmissable and unlike anything they have ever experienced before.
So if you think you can brave the crowds and immerse yourself in the lively, busy atmosphere then don’t miss Chatuchak, it’s a shopper’s paradise. If you are travelling through Bangkok on your next trip to Thailand then here is how to tackle this extraordinary market.
If you want to avoid the worst of the crowds then make sure you head down there early in the morning. The market is very hot and extremely busy, this will take its toll on your so make sure you drink plenty of water and don’t push yourself too far. You can always come back the next day for round two. You can get to the market by train, underground, bus or taxi depending on what is easiest for you.
There are free maps available which colour code each of the areas, this should help with navigating around the stalls. It’s also well worth bringing a backpack or durable shopping bag because you don’t want to be struggling round with lots of plastic bags. It’s best to wear something light and comfortable to the market and comfortable footwear is crucial if you want to last a few hours in the market.
A lot of tourists like the intricate and unique local designs on shoes, shirts and other items of clothing. You will find lots of fake versions of designer products in Chatuchak market, so don’t go there expecting to get the real thing. If you don’t mind something similar then you can get fashion clothing for great prices. The market is so huge that if you see something you really like then buy it there and then, as you may not find it again. You will find something new at every corner, you can literally buy anything from clothes and accessories to charming souvenirs and traditional Thai artwork. No matter what it is you require, you will get it here if you look hard enough.
If you are there to shop then don’t miss out on the delicious street food. Approaching the stalls might seem a little daunting, but the food is fantastic. Try one of the coconut ice creams or if you need a full meal then sample a traditional local dish. Eating in a market like this is an experience you have to try and it is so different from any dining experience. It will give you a much needed break and time to simply take in the atmosphere of the market.
If you want some special souvenirs to take home with you, go for some of the traditional artwork, ornaments and jewellery. Some of the clothes made by the locals such as pashminas and shirts make great souvenirs, as you know they have been carefully handmade by a local designer.
How to Bargain
When you get to Chatuchak, you might be surprised that there is even a need to bargain, because everything is so cheap in the first place. But don’t let that stop you from getting some ridiculous bargains. The more things you buy from one person the better deal you get, so bear this in mind if you need quite a lot of a particular item.
The best tip for bargaining is probably the walk away technique. If you don’t think the price is good enough or if you think you can get them to drop a little more, simply start to walk away. They will most likely call you back and offer you a better price. Try not to be too forceful or stern; the local people appreciate a friendly face and a nice attitude towards bargaining.
If you are a little nervous at first, have a chat with some of the vendors at the first few stalls and you will get the hang of it. It will also help you to gauge rough prices for different items so you have a target to work towards. You will learn more at each stall and by the time you reach the end of the market you will be an expert shopper.
How to Avoid The Pickpockets
In any busy area with lots of people there will be pickpockets. When you are on a shopping spree don’t forget to have your wits about you. Pickpockets know that foreigners will be flashing their cash so keep it hidden and bargain with small amounts. Make sure important belongings such as cameras and wallets are tucked away safely, not hanging out your pocket. If someone stops you in the street and tries to distract you with something then move on to the next stall and keep your belongings close.
This is a fantastic opportunity to explore one of the world’s most fascinating markets. So brush up on your haggling skills, put your walking shoes on, have your cash at the ready and step into a shopper’s paradise at Chatuchak Market. But be warned, you will return home with much more than you bargained for.
Milda is the Community Manager @ AsiaRooms. Born in Lithuania (love it!), studied in the UK, travelled around Asia and USA, taught in Africa and now residing in Singapore where, equipped with a strong cup of coffee and surrounded by an amazing team I’m blogging about travels, cultures, events and hotels in Asia.