Visiting markets is a fantastic way to experience local life in any city. In many Southeast Asian countries, these spaces are bustling hubs of commerce where people converge and gather, and they are often a good bet when it comes to finding cheap goods and delicious food. Nowhere is this truer than in Bangkok, where markets play a significant role in Thai culture. There’s always a new one opening in some area or another, while others have stood for decades in the same spot. Some are only open during the day, while others only come alive when night falls. Below, we tell you where to score the most amazing deals in the city:
- Chatuchak Weekend Market
No list of Bangkok markets is complete without mentioning the world-famous Chatuchak Weekend Market, which holds the distinction of being the largest market in the country. As of 2019, there are more than 15,000 stalls and over 11,000 vendors in the market, which is divided into 27 sections. It’s been open since 1942 and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the district of Chatuchak each weekend. It’s impossible to list down all of the things you can find here given its sheer size and magnitude, but it’s a good place to score antiques or unique pieces of art on the cheap. A sizable chunk of the market is dominated by clothing and accessories to suit almost any style imaginable, from punk to country chic. There are food stalls aplenty: check out popular Isan restaurant Foon Talop for traditional north-eastern Thai favourites such as som tum and nam tok muu, or cool down with a fruit shake at Café Ice.
- Pratunam Market
One of the easiest ways to save money when shopping is buying wholesale—the more you buy, the bigger the savings. At Pratunam Market, you’ll find clothing suppliers snatching up stocks in bulk—this is one of the best places to grab fancy traditional costumes and casual clothes at rock-bottom prices. There are over 4,000 stalls inside, and it’s easy to get lost in the maze-like interiors. Open 24 hours, it’s only a couple of blocks away from the Sovereign Group Hotel Pratunam Bangkok, which is a great place to stay if you intend on shopping ‘til you drop. Should you wish to have a costume or dress custom-tailored to your specifications, many stalls in this market have vendors that can sew clothing to order while you wait.
- Rod Fai Ratchada
You’ll come to find that there are two Rod Fais in Bangkok: one in Srinakarin and a newer one in Ratchada. Of the two of them, the Ratchada location is much more accessible to tourists: it’s near the Thailand Cultural Centre MRT station and is open every night. Rod Fai means “train market”, and is a call back to these markets’ original locations next to train tracks on the outskirts of Bangkok. Rod Fai Ratchada stands out because of its retro-cool vibe: you’ll find vintage clothes, accessories and antiques – all at reasonable, even friendly prices—under the technicolour canopies of its stalls. Snap a photo from the area overlooking this rainbow-coloured sea of stalls before heading in to sample a wide variety of delights from trendy food trucks putting their own unique spin on Thai street food. This is also a fantastic place for a drink and taking in a live music performance—just head up to the rows of dive bars bordering the area.
- Asiatique the Riverfront
If you’d like to do your night market shopping with a view, head to Asiatique the Riverfront, a lifestyle complex that has managed to combine a night bazaar with a mall at a gorgeous riverside location that just so happens to offer a stunning panoramic view of Chao Phraya. The place is absolutely breath-taking at sunset and is actually a decent place to thrift shop; with over 1,500 boutiques, you’re sure to find something. Peek inside the warehouses for independent retailers selling organic skincare and bath products, essential oils, locally-made handicrafts and souvenirs to take home to your friends. After a productive shopping session, unwind with a glass of wine or a cocktail from any of the 40+ restaurants, wine bars, and beer gardens in the vicinity, many of which have al fresco dining areas that take full advantage of the view and the breeze coming up from the water. It may well become your favourite Bangkok shopping experience yet.
You can be sure that there’s a market or shopping mall in Bangkok that will fit your budget and schedule. To avoid overspending, exceeding your luggage allowance, or getting distracted by the myriad of goods that you’ll see during your trip, set a limit or create a list of must-buys in mind and stick to it.