We’ve left the best for last. Well, I’m not sure about best – we really loved the local and cultural vibes of the floating market and the railway markets we visited. Maybe we should say the craziest – we’ve left the craziest and most chaotic market for last.
Far and away, the craziest market we visited in Bangkok was Chatuchak Weekend Market. With over 15,000 stalls, that sell just about everything you could ever think of or be looking for, Chatuchak is just enormous and absolutely insane. Covering over 27 acres, this is one of the largest weekend markets in the world, selling goods from all over Thailand and Southeast Asia.
Originally just a very popular market for the Thai locals, going shopping or looking for something a little more specific, Chatuchak has now become a must-visit for tourists and visitors coming to Bangkok for the first time.
Here’s our Chatuchak market guide with everything you need to know for your visit.
To be super honest, I hadn’t heard of it before! When I was researching Bangkok, I was looking at all the beautiful temples, the Royal Palace, and more of the uniquely Thai markets, like the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and the Maeklong Railway Market. But we landed in Bangkok on a Saturday afternoon and I was in the mood to shop. I wanted to walk around aimlessly and look at everything in a market, until Thom got tired of it and told me it was time to leave!
Boy, did I hit the jackpot. Even if we had spent all day at Chatuchak, we never would have been able to see the whole market. Maybe not even one section! It just went for miles and miles – every corner we walked around had more stalls, more food trucks and more people. It was HUGE.
History of Chatuchak
The Chatuchak Weekend Market actually originates back to the time of Fiel Marshall Phibulsongkram, who was the Prime Minister of Thailand between 1938 and 1957. He had the idea that there should be a flee market set up in every town.
The first flee market in Bangkok was set up in Sanam Luang, which was moved around a little bit over the years, until it finally settled on it’s current site and renamed Chatuchak Weekend Market.
The market is split into several different sections, taking you on a winding journey through the inside and outside sections of the markets, twisting through extremely narrow walkways, through food courts and past just about every souvenir, gift or trinket you could be looking for.
One of the best things about Chatuchak is that almost everything for sale can be bargained for at a local price – rather than the tourist prices that you would traditionally find in the shopping malls. Many items or stalls also display their prices – which you can either use as a starting point for negotiations or decide whether it’s even worth it.
Many of the vendors actually come straight from local factories that produce clay handicrafts, antique wood carvings, silk, hill-tribe outfits, ceramics, modern fashion, and souvenirs from every part of Thailand.
Due to the sheer size of the market, there is actually a free app you can download on your phone to find your way around. This is definitely a good idea if you’re looking for something in particular and don’t really want to spend hours wandering aimlessly around the aisles.
The free app is called Chatuchak Guide and guides you through a map of the market, as well as allowing you to search for items or categories you might be looking for. It can be downloaded from app store for iOS devices.
For more of an understanding on just how big we’re talking, save this map of Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok:
If you’re like us and just rock up to Chatuchak Weekend Market without doing any research or knowing really anything about the market (I just wanted to go shopping), figuring out where you are or where to start can definitely seem impossible. But there is actually a system in place to help you get around.
One main walkway circles around the entire market, and different alleyways branch off the main walkway, throwing you straight into the midst of the market. The alleyways are numbered – Soi 1, Soi 2, Soi 3, etc. There are 27 sections in all, which can help you know where you are, but to be honest, you can find many different things in every section, so it doesn’t do heaps for helping you figure out where to start looking for something in particular.
Here is a rough guide we found on the Chatuchak Weekend Market’s website to the different sections of the market, that might help you know where to start when you first arrive:
- Section 1 – books, collectables, amulets, food shops and cafes
- Section 2 to 4 – Chatuchak flower market, collectables, home decor, paintings, terra cotta, plants & gardening
- Section 5 & 6 – clothes, adornments, miscellaneous products
- Section 7 to 9 – antiques, furniture, ceramics, handicrafts, art
- Section 10 to 24 – clothes, consumer products, adornments, household appliances, as well as Chatuchak animal market, with pets and pet accessories
- Section 17 to 19 – ceramics, fresh and dry food
- Section 22 to 26 – Chatuchak furniture shops, handicrafts and antiques
- Section 27 – books, food and dessert shops, collectables
Let’s be honest though, from that guide you’re probably still going to be spending half of your time wandering around and looking at what’s on offer. But that’s half the fun of visiting one of Thailand’s largest markets right?!
It’s always a good idea to double and triple check anything you’re buying to make sure it’s not damaged. Many stalls sell factory reject items, so even though it might look pretty and brand new, there might be something off with it somewhere. For antiques, take special precautions, as vendors will be super ready to tell you that their products are genuine when they’re not.
Even if you’re not shopping for anything in particular I would still definitely recommend a visit out to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It’s an awesome place to explore at your pace and just spend a few hours. The market attracts more than 200,000 visitors each weekend and just about everyone who visits would agree, you can find just about anything here.
While you’re in the area, why not also check out Chatuchak Friday Night Market. After the normal days trade the vendors of the market open up again at night time and continue to trade until midnight! You will find much of the same items you can find from the market during the day time, with a unique buzzing vibe during the night.
How to get to Chatuchak Weekend Market
Arriving on the Skytrain (BTS) – jump off at Mo Chit Station, take exit no. 1 and follow the crowd until you come across stalls selling clothes. Turn right and follow the crowds through a small entrance that leads straight into the clothing section of the market.
If you’re arriving via the Subway (MRT) – jump off at Chatuchak Park Station, take exit no. 1 and then follow the crowds the same way as above. To start right in the Flower & Plant section, get off the MRT at Kampheng Phet Station and take exit no. 1 as well.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is open on Saturdays and Sundays, 09:00 – 18:00, and Fridays 18:00 – 24:00. Plant sections are also open on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 07:00 – 18:00.