Chatuchak Market is every shoppers dream. Imagine losing yourself in over 15,000 stalls spread over 35 acres, where thousands of shoppers flock to get their hands on anything from collectibles, clothes and fluffy dogs to furniture, handicrafts and silk. It’s all here, ready for the taking. All you need is a bit of patience and bargaining power.
So to get you started, here is a survival guide on how to make sure your dream trip to Chatuchak Market doesn’t turn into a nightmare!
1. Go with someone who loves shopping!
Now we’re all too aware of the pitfalls of tagging along a partner or friend who hates shopping! It usually results in either you going off on your own (slightly miffed) or you both end up going home empty-handed! (Even more miffed). Chatuchak Market is likely to bring even the most dedicated shopper to their knees, so if you’re placed in this tricky position when your friend or partner wants to bail – take a break and hit one of the many bars for a well-earned Singha! Or…just go with someone as crazy about shopping as you.
2. Get a map
Pick up a map from the market and discover there is a method to the madness of this place. One main walkway surrounds the entire market, branching off into a series of numbered alleyways called Soi 1, Soi 2 and so on. A lot of the alleyways look the same so its easy to get lost or forget where you saw something you liked. These alleyways are grouped into 27 sections. You’ll find a lot of stalls that sell the same type of stuff across many of these sections so it can get totally confusing as it all looks the same! The map is not great for detail, but gives you a rough idea of where everything is and comes in useful if you get lost.
3. Go early
Go early and avoid the afternoon crowds and heat. Bangkok is hot and humid at the best of times – a combination sure to sap your energy – so try to get there around 10.00. This way you’ve had a chance to look around before the hunger and heat get to you.
4. Take your time
There are so many stalls, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Take your time and if you have the stamina split your shopping over the two days. This way you can get a good idea of what’s on offer on day one, perhaps picking up a few must – haves, then return the next day for more. Browse through the mind-boggling array of stuff on offer. There’s some real collectables and unique pieces. Vintage clothes, Buddhist amulets, embroidered handicrafts and more.
Don’t get caught up in the excitement of it all and run around buying everything you see when you’ve only been there 20 minutes! Remember, the stuff you see, you’ll see elsewhere in the market as there’s a lot of overlap. If you really like what you see, bargain and buy it and don’t forget to check it over to make sure it’s in good condition.
Do a few practice runs and get an idea of the best price that’s thrown around, then bargain from there. We usually offered 50% of the first offer, then negotiated again after that. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get the price you want. Remember it will still be cheaper than Europe. If all else fails, do what everyone does – walk away! This usually works and you’ll be offered a lower or more favourable price. Keep in mind the maximum you want to pay and stay cool. Above all, enjoy the experience and do it with a sense of humour and a smile.
6. Use cash
What can i say, you’ll always get a better deal with cash. Have you ever bargained for ages for something and then pulled out your card? The look on the face of the seller is normally a sign that pulling out your card was not the best move on the chess board!
7. Enjoy the food and stay hydrated
There are so many places to eat and drink. So after hours of trawling through the stalls, take a break, have a drink and graze your way through the day. You can have your fill of various soups, noodles or stir-fries along with a whole host of creatively made sweet and savoury snacks.
8. Leave those heels at home
There’s nothing worse than having sore feet to contend with when you’re on a mission to bring home the goods. Trust me, I’ve seen those pained expressions on the face of women who chose fashion over common sense! Wear comfortable shoes and you can walk for miles without those pesky blisters cramping your style.
9. Bring a backpack
It’ll be a lot easier to carry your stuff in a backpack than to lug lots of shopping bags around. Plus, in all the excitement, there’s more chance you’ll lose a bag along the way and only realise once you’ve left. Yes, we’ve all had that sinking feeling! Carry the backpack on your front and you won’t have to worry about anyone sneakily reaching into a half-open bag to take that lovely bracelet you’ve just bought.
10. Be careful of pickpockets
It happens the world over and not just in Bangkok. Split your cash and carry it in your front pockets or backpack carried on your front. A good piece of advice we picked up on our travels was to get a tailor to sew a secret pocket inside your trousers, large enough to fit a passport or credit cards. This is great for long-term travel and means you don’t have to wear a money belt or carry a handbag.
The weekend market is open on Saturdays and Sundays 09.00 – 18.00
Take the SkyTrain (BTS) to Mo Chit or the Metro (MRT) to Suan Chatuchak station
27 sections of temptation!
Section 2 to 4 – Collectibles, home decor, paintings, terra-cotta
Section 5 to 6 – Clothes, adornments, miscellaneous products
Section 7 to 9 – Antiques, furniture, ceramics, handicrafts
Section 10 to 24 – Clothes, consumer products, adornments, household appliances, pets
Section 17 to 19 – Ceramics, fresh and dry food
Section 22 to 26 – Antiques, furniture, handicrafts
Section 27 – Books, food and dessert shops, collectibles
Enjoy and happy shopping!