Newbies Guide to Chatuchak Market

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Newbies Guide to Chatuchak Market

Category : Thailand

Chatuchak Market is one of the best places to shop in Bangkok. Its variety is some of the best around, but its immense size can be daunting for first time visitors. Here is your guide to Chatuchak Market and getting the best out of it!

Getting to Chatuchak Market

Chatuchak is easy to get to! Catching public transport like the BTS (skytrain) or the MRT (subway) is cheap and convenient. If you catch the BTS, Mo Chit station is a short walk from the market. If you’re traveling on the MRT, get off at Khampaengphet station – its closer than Chatuchak Park station. The BTS website has great, easy to read maps and even shows the MRT line. If you hop on the BTS Sukhumvit line, just ride to Mo Chit station and hop off there. If you’re the BTS Silom line, change for the Sukhumvit line at Siam station. Should you be staying near the Chao Phraya river, catch a boat to Sathorn pier and you can catch the BTS at Saphan Taksin which is only a minute away – just follow the signs overhead.

Almost every taxi and tuk tuk driver in the city will know how to get to Chatuchak market, so hopping a taxi will not be a problem. You can expect to pay upwards of 100 baht, so it is an expensive option. Keep the Bangkok traffic in mind too, but I haven’t found it to be a real problem. After hours of shopping and more purchases than you can carry, sometimes a taxi home is a good option.

Bangkok BTS Skytrain

Early morning sun in Bangkok, waiting for the BTS (skytrain).

How to navigate Chatuchak

To be honest, I have no secrets of my own to navigating Chatuchak Market; I’m more than happy to wander back and forth through the rows of aisles. However, I am definitely a browser. My husband also has a fantastic sense of direction, and manages to find his way through the market by, I suspect, the scent of food or beer in the air. Maps are available from the information centre, near Gate 1 on the western side of the market. They’re colour coded and detail what is available in each section. Blayne from Leaves From The Vine recommends using OffMaps, to navigate. OffMaps doesn’t require internet or wi-fi connection and you can drop pins to remind yourself where certain shops are. You can find Blayne’s post about her Chatuchak journey here. In my opinion, the number one rule of Chatuchak navigation? If you see something you like, buy it then and there. The chances of making it back find it later are slim – you’ll get distracted by everything else on offer here!

One of the sois in Chatuchak Market.

One of the sois in Chatuchak Market.

What to buy at Chatuchak

This is one of the best places to shop in Bangkok, and stock so much more than the usual tourist souvenirs. The market is particularly good for vintage and retro items, as well as local designers. Think less ‘Same Same’ t-shirts and more quirky and funky designs from local up and coming labels. Jeans, skirts and dresses appear in every imagination at Chatuchak. Sizes do run small for women (as with most of Thailand) so don’t get disheartened. Children’s clothing is a great for the little ones in your family – super cute and super bright patterns, baby harem pants and elephant print everything. Jewellery is also popular, and not the gold of questionable authenticity kind. Hand made, braided, beaded and woven pieces are popular, cheap and quite well made. There are also quite a few shop selling stands of beads in every form imaginable, including jade. I always buy some to take home to my mum, for her jewellery label. Chatuchak is also a great place to buy souvenirs or gifts, with plenty of cute embroidered purses, colourful scarves, elephant key rings, stationery and magnets. If you’re looking to design your own clothes, you can buy beautiful material by the metre as well. Looking to adorn more than yourself? you can find an amazing array of homewares at the market, including statues, rugs, furniture and artwork. Fancy decking out your kitchen? There are all the woks, pans and utensils you can think of available for purchase too. And if you’ve bought too much or too big to fit in your suitcase, you can swing by the UPS or TNT office at the market to box your purchases up and mail them home.

One of the many sois of Chatuchak market.

One of the many sois of Chatuchak market.

JJ Mall – air conditioned paradise right next door!

If the heat becomes unbearable, take refuge at JJ Mall, just to the north of Chatuchak market. JJ Mall sells a lot of fare similar to what you’ll find at the markets, but there are also stalls catering to locals including some very expensive and impressive looking paintings and sculptures. You will find wedding supply stores and shops selling incense in every scent and form imaginable. Need a foot massage after traipsing through the markets? JJ Mall has that too. You’ll also find a large, clean food court inside JJ Mall. I can recommend egg noodles with barbeque pork, combination fried rice and wonton soup. Vendors in the food court do not accept cash, instead you put baht on a reusable card at the service desk near the food court. Use this to buy your food and drinks at the food court and any unused baht on the card will be given back to you.

Dried chillies and spices on sale at Chatuchak market.

Dried chillies and spices on sale at Chatuchak market.

What I love most about Chatuchak Market

The people watching at Chatuchak Market is excellent. Thai locals come to shop and socialise at the market, and if you’re visiting around holidays there is often dancing, music and local groups showcasing their talents. Pull up a seat at one of the small bars or coffee shops around the market, take a breather and watch the market bustle around you. Teens shop for the latest fashions, grandmothers haul bags of spices and plastic trays though the skinny aisles, men continually rearrange their shop fonts. Its a riot of colour and sounds and scents, which will overwhelm and delight you.


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Football in Bangkok – Muang Thong United v Bangkok Glass (or that time we got into a totally sold out stadium!)

“Yes, sir! Miss! Please!”
I clutched my camera as the crowd heaved and I was shoved toward the voice calling out to me. A ticket stub was pushed into my husband’s hands and we were ushered through the gate.

It was match day in Nonthaburi, Muang Thong United against Bangkok Glass, and SCG Stadium was sold out. As avid football fans ourselves, my husband and I thought we’d try to squeeze in a match on a trip to Bangkok. Patrick had found some details about the match on Twitter the week before, but we were not expecting it to be so popular or such chaos! We caught the BTS to Mo Chit station and, having failed to locate one of the stadium shuttle buses we had read about on Twitter, hailed a cab to take us the rest of the way. The driver did not speak a lot of English, but enthusiastically gave us the thumbs up when we mentioned Manchester United. Once we crawled our way through the traffic, we jumped out at SCG Stadium and were instantly blown away. It. Was. Packed.

Muangthong United supporters.

First thing was to find tickets. Patrick battled his way through the crowd to a small ticket booth near the main road. I was busy watching the locals. Singing, dancing, drumming. There were people selling match programs, scarves and jerseys. Singha and Chang beers were passed around and soft drinks were handed out. It all seemed like a huge, out of control party, with everyone wearing black and red jerseys. Patrick was not having much luck, as the girls at the ticket booth kept shaking their heads.
“Sold out!” they said.

Bitterly disappointed, we stood and watched the crowds swell while trying to work out what we should do. One of the girls from the ticket booth appeared and asked us to follow her friend, gesturing to a grinning man in a Muang Thong United jersey.
“Yes! You will go to the football! Follow me!” he shouted. Righto, Football Fairy Godmother.

I still don’t know where the ticket stubs came from, but I think they had already been checked by the gate staff – who waved us through happily as our Football Fairy Godmother lead us through the crowd. Inside the stadium the noise grew, as the supporters chanted and waved flags madly. Almost all the seats were filled with giggling, excited Thais.

Muangthong United players on the pitch.

“Here, you sit here! My friends will look after you!”
The Football Fairy Godmother pointed to the steps in the aisle at the northern end of the east stand and gestured to some Thais around us. Other Thais were sitting on the steps further up the stand and waved to us happily. This was obviously the “done thing”, so we followed suit and pulled up a spot on the steps. Every few minutes, more Thais elegantly picked their way between us and filled the steps behind. After about 15 minutes, the entire stand was packed; some Thais were squeezed three across in the narrow aisles! More people filed in and sat across the walk way at the bottom of the stand. The entire southern stand was occupied by “Ultra Muang Thong”, a very coordinated and loud group of supporters. The northern stand was occupied by “N Zone”, a rhythmically quick and noisy group lead by a few shirtless Thai men with Muang Thong scarves tied around their neck. Not to be outdone, the Bangkok Glass supporters took over part of the western stand, clad in green and waving enormous flags with carrots on them (no, I am not kidding – Bangkok Glass’ emblem features a white rabbit).

The match itself was equally dramatic. The crowd rose as one as Muang Thong players ran at goal, and howled with disappointment at each missed opportunity. The was much arm waving, and hand gesturing, as the locals questioned the referee’s decisions (or his parentage, my Thai swear words are not that good). The drumming, singing and flags did not stop for the whole match. The crowd booed as the opposition coach kicked water bottles onto the pitch as a decision went against his team, and his bench argued with the fourth official. Eventually, Bangkok Glass broke the deadlock and the ball swished into the back of the net. The crowd wailed collectively, as the away supporters celebrated wildly. Muang Thong United returned fire not long after, slotting home a penalty at the southern end. The stadium exploded with noise, as Thais and farangs alike celebrated.

Muangthong United supporters.

After 90 minutes, Muang Thong United had slipped to their first defeat in an extraordinary number of matches – we appeared to be a bad luck curse. The singing and chanting continued well after the final whistle, as N Zone and the Bangkok Glass supporters chanted back and forth to each other. Ultra Muang Thong held their scarves aloft and gave rendition that sounded like a Thai version ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ (in all seriousness, I don’t know what the song was, but if you do, please drop me a comment below and clue me in!). As locals clambered down the stands and headed for the exits, they chattered excitedly –
“Miss, did you enjoy the game? It was very good! Sorry we did not win, today we tried very hard!”
I had thoroughly enjoyed the game – it was very good to watch, and the atmosphere was fantastic as neutral spectator. My husband declared himself a Muang Thong United supporter, and received many high fives and hand shakes.

Bangkok Glass supporters

Outside the stadium, we met our next challenge – getting back to Bangkok. We followed the crowd to the main road – aptly named “Popular Road” – and tried in vain to hail a cab. Traffic was at a crawl, and every available cab and mototaxi was occupied. Also mysteriously missing were the shuttles back to Mo Chit BTS station. After a while, and no more luck, we walked back toward the Novotel Bangkok Impact Hotel, about 10 minutes away. Here we thought we would be out of the traffic, and would have a better chance at flagging a cab to take us back to Rambuttri. It took another 10 minutes of trying to wave down an empty cab before we found a driver willing to pull over for us. There must be an easier way to get back to Bangkok, or at least Mo Chit BTS, from SCG Stadium – I am still convinced we were looking in the wrong spot. However, standing outside the Novotel did make it slightly easier to hail a cab.

Muangthong United supporters.

Football at SGC Stadium in Nonthaburi is a crazy, squeezy and noisy experience. I can guarantee you will have a great time – just go with the flow and let yourself get swept up in the hype. Book ahead though, you can buy tickets online from Thai Ticket Major. Tickets cost between 120 and 200 baht, depending what ticket level you purchase or where you want to sit in the stadium. Beer and street food is available around the outside of the stadium, and consumed by locals with reckless abandon.

(excuse the shaky camera word, it was tricky to film and wriggle out the way of people trying to climb down the steps!)

The details:

  • Muang Thong United plays out of SCG Stadium, in Nonthaburi. The stadium is about 30kms from Sukhumvit, Bangkok. Take the MRT to Chatuchak Park, or BTS to Mo Chit station. Then take a cab from there to SCG Stadium – on the meter, this should be about 150 baht.
  • Buy your tickets from Thai Ticket Major, or risk it being sold out once you arrive!
  • Beer here isn’t the cheapest, but you can buy it in huge quantities… bucket of Singha, anyone? There is also small food carts, soft drinks and water outside the stadium.
  • Getting home – try to jag a cab close to the stadium (you might even split a fare with some locals). If you are on your own, there are plenty of motorcycle taxis around. If you struggle, walk back toward to the Novotel so you are a bit further from the traffic and main rush of people. A taxi on the meter back to Sukhumvit is about 300 baht (it is a 30km trip after all!).

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Bangkok bike tour: from Chinatown to the plantations

I ask you, what idjit would do a half day bike and boat tour of Bangkok in the hot season? That idjit would be me (and my husband). On a sweltering 38°C afternoon, we took to the back alleys of Bangkok on some rather funky little bicycles as part of our tour with Co Van Kessel.

The tour was the first time I had ridden a bike in about ten years, but its true what they say… you never forget (but you still get the speed wobbles). After setting off from Co Van Kessels offices, our first stop was a beautiful and intricately decorated Chinese temple off a tiny, weaving soi in Chinatown. The temple was built using only interlocking slabs of wood and decorated with brightly-coloured murals. Incense hung heavy in the air as our guides quickly showed the prayer ritual. Some quick drinks before we hit the pavement again to catch the cross river ferry and more pedal to pavement. The ride from the Din Daeng cross river ferry terminal to Wat Kalayanamitr was probably the hottest slog of our ride, as we were facing right into the blazing sun, but our guides bought plenty of cool water for us.

IMG_6360 Figures inside a Chinese temple, downtown Bangkok.

Wat Kalayanamitr is home to one of the largest seated gold Buddhas in the country. It was a beautiful temple, and since we were visiting close to a Buddhist holiday there were lots of Thais lighting incense and making offerings outside. The gold Buddha is enormously tall, dwarfing all his worshipers below as he looked down on them with a perfect serene face. It was an interesting temple to visit, it somehow seemed more real than other that are swarming with noisy, excited tourists.

Once we’d caught our breath in the shade, we rode through Bangkok Yai and head for the long boat pier for our trip the Bangkok Yai khlong. Our group split in two, half going in the first boat with Mr Paksoi and our half going with Amy. The long boast were fast and it was wonderfully cool after our hard slog in the sun. I couldn’t tell you exactly where we ended up – the journey took so many twists and turns, and I was too busy to take notice, admiring the beautiful (and beautifully dilapidated) wooden homes on stilts right on the edge of the khlong. We passed monks standing at the fence of their temple, and people feeding catfish and lizards from the balcony of their stilted home. Amy pointed out local ladies in tiny wooden boats, selling green vegetables, lunch dishes and plastic baskets. I unashamedly waved at everyone, and they all waved back, calling out ‘Sawadee Kha!’.

IMG_6402 Riding up the Bangkok Yai khlong.

Somewhere in outer Bangkok, we left the long boats behind and hit the pavement again, riding past small school children who chattered excitedly and giggled as we went. Some more weaving past small houses and tiny local stores and we came to the plantations and rice fields. It was much cooler out here, and the greenery made for a wonderful change of scenery. The pathway was raised, with no railings and quite thin – maybe two meters wide. At first I had to concentrate hard on staying in the middle of the path and not stacking it, but after a few minutes I had the hang of it. Paksoi and Amy pointed out different plants along the way and waited patiently while we stopped half a dozen times to take photos.

IMG_3927 In rice fields of Bangkok! Lush and tranquil.

We stopped for lunch at a tiny local restaurant perched on the side of a khlong. Spread across a long table were so many dishes there was hardly room for our water bottles. There was massaman curry, pad ka prao gai, clear soup with vegetables and tofu, Thai omlettes and sweet and sour chicken, all made from scratch in the small kitchen behind us. The owner was so lovely and friendly, with a huge grin as she brought us Cokes and water from the seemingly bottomless ice chest on the floor. My favourites were the omelettes and the soup.

After lunch, we set off again weaving through the small streets heading back toward Bangkok. Some of the paths we followed ran along side a khlong and were very thin – thank goodness these ones has railings or I might have ended up swimming with my bike! By this time, the sun had gone down and the temperature had dropped off nicely, and it wasn’t too long before we had arrived at the pier to get the long boat back down the khlong and out to the Chao Phraya.

IMG_6436 Locals on the khlong. Sawadee kah!

The half day tour was fantastic and we were so ‘on the go’ the whole time, it seemed to fly! Paksoi and Amy were fantastic, patient and extremely helpful. We did have a group member who was feeling unwell after riding in the sun, however Paksoi and Amy arranged for her to take a long boat back to the office early, and she was well looked after. She was almost back to her normal self by the time we had cycled all the way back to the offices. The tour gave us a great insight into local life behind the big streets and skyscrapers of Bangkok, and we got to see so many great places. The food was brilliant, and we were supplied with more than enough cold water along the way. The bikes were in very good condition – when we returned from our tour, we dropped them at the maintenance shed so they could be checked over and service before they went back out again. If you’re looking for something different to do in Bangkok, a bike and boat tour is a great option! I highly recommend it. It’s hot work, but so rewarding – I had a great sense of accomplishment by the time I got back!

The details:

Co Van Kessel
Co Combo – 5 hour bike/boat tour (1650 baht each)
Mountain or standard city bikes available, helmets available on request.

Meal, water, bike hire and boat fares included.

Head to Co Van Kessel for more information.