Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest market in Thailand with around 9000 stalls where you can buy almost ANYTHING. It is spread over 27 sections selling everything from pets to ceramics to books and food. Open from 6am – 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, some stalls are open during the week, but as the name suggests, weekends are the best time to go as they are all open.
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I first visited Chatuchak Weekend Market in 1998, I caught a Tuk Tuk to the markets and was blown away with amount of stalls and variety of products available. One thing stuck to mind however, and that was the pet area. Hundreds if not thousands of animals and wildlife, including endangered species, filled into cages. I found it quite upsetting at the time and vowed never to return.
Fast forward 19 years and after several visits to Bangkok, I’ve decided to take a trip to Chatuchak weekend markets again, this time by metered taxi – I don’t feel the need for that element of excitement/danger of taking a Tuk Tuk – but I soon find out this is the most expensive option and my driver explains how to catch the BTS train back to my starting point.
I have heard they have cleaned up the animal section. While there are still some minor reports of illegal trade there are signs everywhere regarding the warnings of fines and/or imprisonment regarding the trade of wildlife, also including Ivory.
I decide to steer clear of the animal section however, not only do I not support the sale of any animal whether it be endangered, wild or domesticated, I probably would’ve wanted to save a kitten or puppy and anyway, I’m freakishly scared of snakes.
I wander around the southeast corner of the market which includes jewellery, handicrafts, ceramics and food. This place is hot, it has unusual smells. It’s noisy and it’s fun. The stall holders are jovial and friendly and after a few small purchases I’m hungry, so I inspect the food stalls.
Thailand is known for its delicious cuisine and Chatuchak has an array of delectables. Seafood features strongly as does the standard Thai dishes of Pad Thai and curries but the snack foods, or street foods, are the real winners here such as fried quail eggs and octopus served in many ways.
Check out my Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai here.
I go for some octopus, while there are many versions, available I try a couple of tentacles, chopped up and fried right in front of me by a cook who treats his chopping knife like juggling sticks and throws them high. I am asked whether I want spicy or non spicy. I know that when Thai’s say spicy, they mean the real deal so I go for non spicy, guessing there will still be plenty of heat.
I am right, there is still a bit of heat, but ok for this Aussie palate. I’m a bit nervous at first bite – I’d had a touch of Bangkok belly the previous day – but it tasted delicious and I woof down the soft fresh octopus meat adorned with crunchy bits, from the quick BBQ’ing. It’s topped with a few cherry tomatoes and sits on a bed of lettuce. I steer clear of the lettuce though, I have a rule when travelling nowadays, if its not freshly cooked or you can’t peel it (i.e fruit or vegetables), then I don’t eat it.
I head to another stall and try some baby octopus – noticing a theme here? – It’s nice but a little chewy and not as yummy as the crunchy BBQ’d style.
Of course, for the those with a taste for other foods – or the Aussies wandering around the market probably with a hangover – there’s even a kebab stand with the meat cut with a very sharp knife indeed. Tourists make up around 30% of the 20,000 visitors daily.
After a couple of hours, I navigate my way out of the markets and onto the BTS station at Mo Chit just outside. Before long I am in an air conditioned train, cooling down and racing back towards my starting point of Silom.
If shopping is your thing and don’t mind getting lost in a maze of stalls for a few hours in tropical heat, then its a good place for a day trip, you’ll love it. If you prefer the air conditioned mall type of shopping then I’d steer clear. For myself, I’m glad I returned.