We missed Chatuchak Weekend Market on our first visit to Bangkok, but we made the rounds this second time around. The experience is a little intimidating, but it did not disappoint. Chatuchak, as its name indicates, only happens on the weekend and is the mother of all markets, at least in Bangkok. Chatuchak dwarfs any other market we have been to on our travels and is touted to be one of the biggest markets in the world. It is a sprawling complex of several thousand 10 x 10 stalls spread over a few acres at the south end of it’s namesake park. You actually need a map to find your way around or you’ll be guaranteed to get lost in its maze of narrow alleyways and myriad sections.
The guidebooks say get there early because it gets hot in the midday sun. We didn’t quite make the 9AM opening, but it wouldn’t have mattered too much. We ended up staying for over 7 hours, and at times it did get unbearably hot. You
can get about anything at this market: clothes, accessories, souvenirs, home decorations, linens, crafts and supplies, antiques, religious items, pots, pans, there’s even a section selling pets. Many shops sell retail as well as wholesale and there are even shipping specialists for when you need to send home the spoils of your shopping spree. There was a mind-boggling assortment of stuff you could buy at Chatuchak. Imagine a Pier One Imports on steroids under blocks of sprawling tin roofs. Even if you hate to shop, it’s worth checking out. There is no shortage food and drink stalls as well as a central food court to satisfy your need to take a break from the bustle and madness.
Our mission was to find a house temple, which the girls have been longing for since we first came to Bangkok. The ritual of leaving offerings of flower pendants, small food items and lighting incense is fascinating and fun for them (small steps along their way to becoming little Buddhists). It took a while, but after locating the traditional craft and antique section and perusing a number of sellers, we found a small teak temple that we think will be perfect. It’s about 80 years old and needs some love and furnishings to get it back in order; a task the girls enthusiastically embarked upon among the various stalls selling Buddha images and amulets. Along the way we also rescued a 100-year old teak standing figure of a Buddhist princess whose arms are missing and a pair of painted windows from a Burmese temple.
It was one hot and sweaty day at the Chatuchak Market, but we all got something to take home. At times we got so hot that we would duck into the very few air conditioned stalls (the ones selling expensive stuff) or park ourselves in front of a fan while dreaming of a Chicago winter. Despite the heat, this was a perfect experience for the kids to learn how to bargain (Emilia is a natural) and also the value of shopping around. Josephine picked up a watch for 79 Baht, which we could not find for less than 150 at the night market the day before. It’s hard to believe, but we only saw about one tenth of Chatuchak Weekend Market. The rest will have to wait for the next time we’re in Bangkok.