In the artist section of Bangkok’s weekend market is a funky corner filled with interesting galleries. After browsing the different shops in the area, you can stop for a bite to eat at The Pizza Bay Restaurant. The restaurant has a selection of pastas and pizzas as well as a few Thai dishes. There is a real pizza oven on site so you are garuanteed a tasty pizza, hot from the oven.
I took a moment to sit at The Pizza Bay and watch the people walking by. The thin crust pizza was delicious and the French fries were perfect. Th atmosphere was relaxing and matches the eclectic surroundings in the artist section.
For a few months now, I’ve noticed a significant difference in the number of people frequenting my favorite weekend market, Chatuchak. My regular parking lot is now half empty instead of packed and as you walk in the narrow aisles of the market, I don’t get pushed around nearly as much. In fact, the wider streets seem relative empty and the number of foreigners seems smaller. Of course, tourists do tend to come in waves and sometimes there are more tourist than others, but the crowds just didn’t seem as bustling as they normally are.
After week after week of low attendence at Chatuchak, I began to wonder if this isn’t a sign of the global economies weakening and its effect on tourism and shopping. The fewer number of tourists can be a direct effect of economic downturns in the US, Europe and even other Asian countires. The fewer number of Thai shoppers can also be explained by the crunch felt by locals as gas and food prices increase and the cost of all goods and services increase as well. Perhaps staying home is the wisest choice when simply leaving the house costs so much and money is tight.
As time progress though, I noticed the lack of shoppers in other markets around Bangkok and even on the streets of Bangkok themselves. And while, I’d never go so far as to call Bangkok a ghost town by any means, there still is a feeling of openness in Bangkok’s vast concrete jungle that was never there before.
Where are all the Bangkokians? Have they lost their regular appetite for shopping? Is it possible that everyone has fled to the countryside during the summer school holidays? Did the workers go home for Songkran and decide not to come back? Will the number of people out and about in Bangkok rebound when the school term begins?
It seems that I will find out the answers to my questions soon enough as most Thai schools will start in the next week or two. As university students flock back to their tiny flats in Bangkok and families return from their summer holidays, many more people will be in Bangkok have been in the past two months. However, it will interesting to see if there is a dramatic change in the number of cars on the streets and shoppers in the markets in the weeks to come.
On a recent visit to Thonburi, we visited the market at Wat Bangnampung, or talad bangnampung. This market is built on concrete walkways along a canal and over a protected wetland area. The temple uses the market to stir tourists and attention to the conservation efforts to protect the wetlands, which is home to the popular fireflies. The area also offers homestays for those who want to see how the locals live and learn about the local agriculture.
The market itself offers tons of delicious food and deserts, many of which are hard to find in your average market. Here you’ll find noodles alongside the canal and you must sit barely a foot off the ground on a foot stool. In the canal, you can see families renting wooden boats and paddling them back and forth in the water for just 20 baht per hour.
Noodle shop along the canal.
One of the treats available at the market was fried ice cream. For 10 baht, you can have the ice cream flavor of your choice dipped in batter and fried. Finally, the fried ice cream is served in a styrofoam dish with a few toppings like sprinkles, nuts or jellies.
Toppings for the fried ice cream in jars.
Fried ice cream with sprinkles on top.
TIn an area of old Bangkok, we sometimes go to a market called Talad Saphan Lek, or Iron Bridge Market, which is within walking distance from China Town (Yommarat) and India Town (Pahurat). The market specializes in video games and technology related items. It is the video game headquarters that Bangkokians frequent to get the latest video game system, modify their systems or purchase pirated games.
At this market, you can also get bootlegged movies, toys, and miscellaneous electronic items. True to the name, the market itself is built on a large metal bridge over Ohng Ang Canal in the Wang Burapha area of Bagkok. The 200 meter long aisles, which run along both banks of the canal, stretch from Charoen Krung or New Road, south to Yaowarat Road. As you walk through the maze-like and cramped quarters of the market, you get the feeling that all the little stores are simply squeezed in all of the available space without any rhyme or reason.
Often when we visit Saphan Lek, we’ll eat lunch at a noodle shop only a block away. This noodle shop serves Laadna, which is a form of noodles with gravy. You can get your laadna with different types of meat such as shrimp, seafood, pork, chicken or beef. You can also choose the type of noodles you want in your laadna such as large-flat noodles, thin vermicelli noodles or the crispy, yellow egg noodles. The dish is served with normal seasoning for noodles like the dried chili, vinegar chili, fish sauce and sugar so you can season to taste.
Laadna shop across from parking garage.
Interior of the ladna shop.
Uncooked crispy, yellow ladna egg noodles.
Ladna with pork and crispy, yellow egg noodles.
Ladna with pork and white vermicelli noodles.
Bangkok has an Indian Town, not far from its China Town, that is famous for Indian food, clothes, fabric, spices and other items from India. The Pahurat area is bounded by Pahurat Road, Chakraphet Road and Triphet Road, just west of Yaowarat, Bangkok’s China Town. Pahurat Road was built in 1898 and named after Somdet Chaofah Pahurat Maneemai, the son of King Rama V.
The Pahurat district is Bangkok’s Little India and center of the Indian community, who are mostly Sikh. This area is also the largest fabric market in Bangkok, so if you want to buy textiles, especially wholesale, this is the place to go. You can also find Indian jewellery, accessories, footwear, incense and even Indian movies. The market is busy and the aisles are small, so it does get crowded and people can get pushy. It appears that every nook and cranny is being used to do business. If you do get hot and tired of shopping, there are plenty of Indian foods that you can sample from street vendors and local restaurants.
You can get to Pahurt by taking a river express boat Tha Saphaan Phut, which is just to the northwest of Phra Phut Yot Fa (Memorial) Bridge. Once you get off the boat, it’s an easy walk to the market. The Thai Sikh community has a major temple, Siri Guru Singh Sabha close to the Pahurat area that is worth exploring.
Vespa’s used for deliveries in Yaowarat and Pahurat
This market is an interesting place to stop by on a Saturday night if you like shopping for second hand items. You’ll hardly see a foreigner and the place is crawling with young Thais who have a soft spot for the vintage scene. Among some of the items you’ll find in the night market are shoes, jeans, clothes, antiques, furniture, decor items and knick-knacks. While the majority of the items are used, you can find new items in among the different stalls.
The atmosphere is hip and trendy with a little bit for everyone. It’s not an organized place but that’s part of the fun. You’ll come across random items in each store and there’s plenty to look at. The highlight of the market are the vintage motorcycles and cars. Lovers of Volkswagen buses and Beetles, Mini Coopers, Vespas and Yamahas are in for a treat.
Before heading home you can grab a snack or a drink, even cocktails and whiskey are available. The main food area is located near Ladprao road but food carts are dispersed throughout the market.
A shortage of proper lighting in the market which makes parking and shopping a chore. Bring a flashlight to inspect items carefully as some stores offer little light. Most of the items will be one of a kind and used so check for damage before making a purchase. If your item happens to be flawed in some way, use it as an extra bargaining chip.
When: Saturday night from 19:00-23:30 Get there early to park or you’ll be waiting for a spot.
Where: At the Ratchada-Ladprao junction on the grounds of the former Ratchada Night Plaza. Located in the parking lot of the MRT Ratchadapisek parking lot.
How to get there/Where to park: The easiest way to get there is to take the MRT to Ratchadapisek station. by car, if you are on Ratchadapisek Road going towards Viphavadi, turn left into the MRT parking lot. It is poorly lighted so keep an eye out as you approach the junction.