It’s Chatuchak Time
Yes, it was Chatuchak time, the largest market in Thailand with over 15,000 stalls. Would we be able to find what we are looking for?
Chatuchak Market was a place that I definitely wanted to visit, but Tim was not keen. Oh well, he will miss out on the 201 points on our Lonely Planet Top 500 spreadsheet – Yay!
George, Laura, Rosie and I hopped in a cab, with our pocket-money secured, and 30 minutes later arrived at the largest market in Thailand covering 14 hectares of land. We joined some of the 200,000 visitors who come here each weekend, and luckily, according to Rosie, it was not as busy as usual. Perhaps many visitors were either recovering from their New Year escapades or flying home.
Each of us had one or two things that we wanted to buy, I needed a new cap, as mine had flown off my head while we were zooming down a carriageway in a souped-up tuk-tuk. Tim needed some baggy trousers as we were planning to go and volunteer at an Eco-village, painting or making mud bricks (sadly we didn’t go as I became unwell…again!). Also, I fancied a new lightweight summer dress, as I had given away a load of winter clothes from our trip through Arctic Russia and Mongolia and had room in my case.
With over 15,000 stalls we had plenty of choice here. I was impressed at the diversity of stuff. So often we have seen rows upon rows of shops and stalls all selling the same products, like in Cusco, Peru. They must have all got a job-lot of the same colourful woollen cardigans from China to sell.
Here you’d find a wide variety of clothes including independent hip designer fashion as well as trendy second-hand clothes. There are sections for antique lovers, homeware, collectables, as well as street food and drink to quench your thirst.
A bit of history for you; back in 1948, the Prime Minister set up a policy that every province had to have its own market. Sanam Luang was the location for Bangkok, in front of the Grand Palace, but in 1978 this was converted to a recreational area and eventually Chatuchak market was fully established in 1983.
We arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday. Rosie usually comes on a Friday night when the Market first opens at 6 pm until midnight. It’s always good to be the vendors’ first sale as it is believed to bring them good luck, and it gives you better buying power. Mind you, the prices are usually reasonable and it’s fun to haggle a bit. Saturday and Sundays are open from 9 am to 6 pm.
We wandered around the outside ring of the Market first, diving into several clothes stalls. My first purchase was a retro-style orange cap for £3.50, not the cheapest, but I was pleased with it and got full approval from the other three.
After a stop for drinks, we ventured into the middle, which had a very different feel from the outside. It was like being in a maze of Aladdin’s caves, stacked with a plethora of goods; crockery, bags, plants, pet treats and kitchen equipment. Occasionally, the sun burst through the roof gaps, elevating the dim environment.
I stopped for a few seconds to look at a dress and to my astonishment, had lost the other three. Where were they? I looked down a number of alleyways, carried down the main one, and retraced my steps. What to do? We hadn’t any contingency if one of us got lost. Well, I had the address of our apartment so I could always find my way back. At last, they found me.
George spotted some trousers for Tim, lightweight Khaki cotton with a drawstring, perfect, and later I found a stall selling tie-dye clothes. I am sure I am a hippy at heart, despite my punk teen years. I do love a bit of tie-dye! There were rows upon rows of dresses – so much choice and I didn’t want to waste the other’s time. Eventually, I found a sweet orange and blue dress and managed to reduce the price a bit, mainly with Laura suggesting I handed them the money that I wanted to pay – which worked a treat.
We were all marketed out, and it was time to leave; George, Laura and Rosie had a massage booked. As we exited from the stalls, I noticed stands packed with piles of books, and realised that we had only seen a small part of this enormous complex. What a place!
When we arrived at the apartment, we decided to trick Tim and pretend to have bought him a pair of Elephant trousers – definitely not his thing! George had a navy and white elephant shirt so quickly zoomed up to his room and folded it as if it was trousers. Ah, you can’t fool a fooler. Tim realised immediately. He seemed ok with our real purchase for him. Let’s see if he wears them.