Market Mania

24 Jun

One of the things I really enjoy about Thailand is the wide variety of outdoor markets one can find all around the country. Every market has a different vibe; some are huge and packed with tourists, some are tiny and filled with Thais buying food and produce, and some are of the floating variety, meaning they are on or near a body of water. Here are three of my favorite markets in Bangkok:

Chatuchak Market a.k.a. JJ Market

Orestes and I ended up in Chatuchak somewhat inadvertently during our first seventy-two hours in Thailand four years ago. In an effort to shake off the jet lag, we asked the concierge of the hotel what he recommended as a Sunday afternoon activity. He popped us into a taxi headed for Asia’s largest open-air market. Let’s just say we were rather unprepared. After an hour or so of wandering, we found ourselves lost in the pet section, sweating bullets, and dazed and confused. We must have passed the sign for farang (foreign, i.e. imported) fish and aquariums ten times. Strategic iced-coffees saved us from madness, but the experience was a tad overwhelming. Looking back, this memory is now hilarious.

IMG_2305These days, I hit up Chatuchak once a semester or so. The market is enormous; upon exiting the closest BTS station, one gets a bird’s-eye view of the sprawling metal roofs and stalls. It covers blocks, and extends almost as far as the eye can see. Despite our initial impression, there is a semi-logical system of organization to the place. Alleys have a letter and number designation, and the stalls tend to be in the same spots. The market is a great place to grab cheap clothing and accessories, as well as some more eclectic items. Knock-off Ray Bans? Got ’em. Giant gilded fire hydrants? Check. An ottoman shaped like a rhinoceros? Clearly. The merchandise runs the gamut from classy teak furniture to silkscreened glitter cat t-shirts with decorative fringe. There are also some great food stalls, and good spots to grab an ice-cold beer, which are very refreshing after several hours of wandering and shopping.

 

Train Market Srinakarin

The Train Market is a night market that used to sprawl along the abandoned train tracks behind Chatuchak ~ the Thai name, Talad Rot Fai, comes from the Thai for market (talad), and train (rot fai – rot is pronounced more like ‘loat’). Our second year in Thailand, the market was forced to move; these days, it occupies a huge space off Srinakarin Rd. I love the train market because it’s totally Thai hipster, IMG_2553and almost completely void of tourists. Srinakarin is a bit off the beaten path, so the only farang about are usually expats. It is the polar opposite of Chatuchak in that respect. More importantly, the market is filled with super eclectic merchandise and amazing street food. One can buy anything here: vintage Coca-Cola memorabilia, used car parts, leather jackets, antique furniture, and snazzy ballet flats woven in a northern hill tribe pattern (which I may or may not be wearing as I type this). When I decided, after much debate and careful research, to get a tattoo inspired by our time in Thailand, the train market was the venue I chose. The artist I selected came highly recommended, spoke excellent English, and was super hipster. In addition to the zillions of merchandise stalls, the train market is filled with food stands and bars with live music. It is a great place to grab a beer and people watch on a Friday night.

 

Kwan Riam Floating Market

The Kwan Riam market is great because it is near our house out in Minburi, directly across Ramkhamhaeng IMG_2223(the main road). An easy ten-minute walk brings you across a pedestrian bridge, through a decorative archway, and around a bend to the market. Most of us call Kwan Riam the 166 market because of its location opposite Ramkhamhaeng 166. The market qualifies as a floating market because it occupies space in and around Khlong San Saeb, the canal near us. There are barges with restaurants floating in the khlong, and wooden stalls set up on either side, as well as a snazzy bridge spanning the two banks. Being out in the suburbs, Kwan Riam doesn’t see many foreigners; it’s a very Thai market, and we are frequently stared at when we visit. The market has a Facebook page and a roving photographer ~ I’ve lost track of how many times he’s taken my picture.

Like many markets in Thailand, Kwan Riam offers an eccentric mix of products. Discount clothing, wallets, home decor items, and knick knacks are readily available. The market also has some good offerings when it comes to food. One stand that sells iced coffee is a particular favorite of mine as the coffee comes with a performance: IMG_5381a gentleman mixes the milk and coffee by pouring them dramatically back and forth between two silver frothing pitchers, twirling and flourishing as he does so. Aside from the shopping options, the market boasts several pens of animals: flamingoes, wallabies, and groundhogs are on display (none of these are native to Thailand). Children can take a ride on a miniature horse (although I’ve heard they bite), and adults can purchase turtles, fish, or birds to release to make merit (which are then promptly caught again to be sold to the next customer). My favorite animal is the large tortoise that roams the market with a folded shirt on its back; people slip baht into the shirt to donate to charity, and a market employee is paid to follow the tortoise around, ensuring he is safe and does not leave any *ahem* items behind. Overall, it’s good to know what when I’m craving tasty soup, cheap leather goods, and an interaction with a wallaby, all of these things can be found with minimal effort.

 

 

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