The most popular place for every tourist who loves shopping is Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok. The largest outdoor market in south east Asia, tourists can’t believe how many stalls there are – at last count about 15,000. Chatuchak market though is hot, crowded and exhausting so, if you want to get the best enjoyment out of your day of Chatuchak shopping, make sure you follow these quick tips.
Drink Loads of Liquid – Keeping cool at Chatuchak means drinking lots of fluids. Half the shops in Chatuchak (also known as J.J. by the locals) sell bottled water, cokes, cans of juice and another five hundred stalls sell coffee, iced tea and fruit smoothies, so you won’t have any trouble staying hydrated. There’s loads of bathrooms too and, if you want air conditioned ones, head to the back of the market to Chatuchak mall where you’ll find lots of them.
Watch Your Wallet – Just like anywhere in the world with crowds of people (more than 500,000 hit Catuchak every weekend), J.J. does have pickpockets. Keep your money, wallet or purse at the front of your body, not behind, and be aware at all times of people standing too close.
Another great tip is to conceal cash on various parts of your body (in your purse, in your jeans pocket, in a jacket) so if some is stolen, you still have more. Overall though, few people have money stolen at J.J. I’ve lived in Bangkok for 10 years and shopped at Chatuchak more than 1,000 times. Not once have I been pickpocketed.
Enjoy the Street Performances – Chatuchak is a draw for street performers who know just a few hours at J.J. could fund their living expenses for a week. Singers, traditional Thai musicians, kids dancing or playing traditional Thai instruments are all part of the fun. Stop for a minute to listen, then donate a few baht. Supporting a local artist – a great cause in any country.
Always Bargain – Bargaining at Chatuchak Weekend Market is expected. Don’t be too aggressive and always be polite and you should be able to knock the original price down by 20-25%.
Buy Lots of Goodies– If you bargain well, you won’t find prices much cheaper than Chatuchak anywhere else in Bangkok. They also sell millions of items (literally) and many are unique to J.J. See it, like it, buy it. Then figure out later how you’re going to get it home. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.
Try The Food – Thais know Chatuchak has some of the best street food stalls in Bangkok. When you arrive, you’ll see one food stall, cafe and restaurant after another selling Thai food, western food, snacks, desserts, fruit, even cookies and cakes.
I hit J.J. almost every weekend just for the food. I eat to my fill, then drag a few bags of it home with me and I recommend you do the same. Prices start at 75 cents for fried chicken, noodles, Vietnamese rolls, pad thai, fried rice and more and cookies, fruit and dessert can be had for 40 cents.
Don’t Buy Animals at Chatuchak – If you’re unfortunate enough to stumble into the animal section of Chatuchak, you’ll know it. With the rising stench of animal feces and the yelps of dogs and cries of cats, you’ll soon see stall after stall of dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, birds – you name it, they have it.
Problem is, many are not taken care of, they’re bred through interbreeding, which isn’t healthy, and many Chatuchak animals are sick. Until Chatuchak animal sellers begin to take care of their animals better and give them more humane conditions, I advise anyone to avoid buying pets here.
Get There By Sky Train or Underground – Don’t spend a ton of money on a taxi getting to Chatuchak Weekend Market. Buy a ticket on the BTS skytrain or MRT underground train. The Mo Chit sky train station is next to Chatuchak and Kampeng Phet’s underground station comes up for air right in the middle of it. At $1 a ticket from most areas of Bangkok, it’s cheap too.