Tag Archives: market

Sunday Market in Chiang Mai

If you are planning on visiting Chiang Mai, I would recommend that you include a Sunday in your schedule. That is the day when Thailand’s best handicrafts market spreads out in the streets of the old city – a perfect opportunity to buy souvenirs and presents. It stretches from Thapae gate almost all the way to Wat Phra Singh, and well into the side streets to Wat Chedi Luang and the Three Kings Monument, providing hours and hours of distraction even if you do not actually want to buy anything.

A couple of years ago, an ex-friend commented that the Sunday Market is “full of cheap junk”, which I took very personally. I vividly remember that it was the time when I really started to consider Chiang Mai my home, and all the unjustly negative remarks just strengthened my feelings. The Sunday Market is one of my favourite “playgrounds”, something I take for granted: I enjoy having some consistency in my life. I hardly ever do any shopping, though many of my household items come from here. If I was a genuine shopoholic, I would probably buy a couple of dozen paper lamps – they look so much better in large clusters than one by one!

Of course the market has some junk as well, but the majority of the vendors offer good quality or unique items on their simple stalls or from mats and boxes spread out on the ground. There is usually a row of OTOP labelled handmade clothes near the Three Kings, with beautiful Lanna designs and hilltribe-inspired patterns. The old Lanna style is definitely having a comeback as more attention is given to local culture and traditions at schools. Hilltribe patterns are often blended into more modern lines and designs and appear on accessories and household items as well.

Junior sales assistant

I also enjoy getting a massage in one of the temples when I get tired, listening to the music and all the people coming and going in the meantime. It is actually in one of these temples that I met a teacher who helped me get the job I have had for over three years now. I trawled through four years of photos to find pictures of my favourite place, but to my surprise, I only found dozens of drink stalls.

The temple yards are all transformed into open-air food markets, where vast quantities of mostly traditional fare feed the masses. The prices are very reasonable, and everything is on offer from insects to grilled fish, fresh fruits to phat thai. I am a creature of habits and I always have dimsum, coconut-filled dessert, and fresh orange juice.

It is not only the food vendors that always set up at the same spot: most of the stalls seem to be exactly the same as four years ago. The range of handricrafts changes and shifts, but if you remember a lampshade stall in this corner or magnificent desserts over there last year, you can almost be sure you will be able to locate them at the same place.

These elderly musicians play traditional Thai tunes near Thapae gate every week.

The temple buildings are usually open, and they are a good place to sit down for a while and relax. Wat Phan Tao, a wooden temple near the great chedi, is beautifully lit in the evenings, with floodlights outside and candles inside, and meditation music floats in the air. A couple of fortune-tellers set up their tables in the yard, and the queues never seem to get any shorter.

Of course, people-watching is just as exciting as the handicrafts. There are always large groups of youngsters collecting donations for their education projects. Musicians or wannabe musicians play guitar or Thai musical instruments and deliver inspired covers of classics. The source of inspiration is often debatable, but everyone seems to be having loads of fun. In addition, quite a few young girls are always out there in traditional Thai dress, dancing or singing, surrounded by foreigners. I am often wondering how they get up and go to school early in the next morning.

The large square in front of the Three Kings Monument is often the venue of cultural events. More often than not, there is a stage set up, and some kind of show going on: competition of school bands, beauty pageants, hilltribe dancing, lukthung music, game shows, Japanese culture day, merit-making – you name it. I have not been able to find a source or events calendar to tell me what is up next weekend so it is always a bit of a surprise. On the Sundays when there is no special event going on, skateboarding kids dominate the scene, and a couple of performing troupes such as fire-breathing school kids take over the area.

I sometimes see these puppet-dancers near Three Kings.

One would think that such a market attracts mostly souvenir-hunting foreigners, but actually most of the visitors are Thai. I cannot tell though whether they are locals or visitors from other provinces. It is absolutely not a tourist trap.

As you can see from some of the photos, the vendors start setting up their stalls well before sunset, some as early as 3 p.m. However, the road is only closed to the traffic a couple of hours later. More often than not, prices are clearly displayed and do not seem to be negotiable, but it is always worth a try, especially if you have experience in telling the normal price for certain things. Contrary to Chiang Mai’s daily tourist market (the Night Bazaar), the Sunday Market is not a vendors’ hunting ground and favourite rip-off spot: most prices are very reasonable, and if you start a fight over a few baht, you may end up embarrassing yourself. However, it never hurts to shop around. The vendors start packing up at around ten, or sooner if it rains, but then they do so with breakneck speed. This year, they have been lucky with the weather so far.

Overview of the area in front of Thapae Gate.

Parking is difficult, to say the least. Residents and even temples charge 10 baht or so for the privilege of leaving your vehicle in front of their premises or in their yards. However, it is always possible to find a quiet little soi nearby or plenty of free spots five minutes walk away – if you have a motorcycle. If you drive a car, either set off early to secure parking, or forget it.

I have posted some more photos of the handicrafts, foodstalls and people at the Chiang Mai forum.

Boat Trip on Nakhon Chaisi River

A good market near Bangkok is Don Wai in Nakhon Pathom Province. I was there recently to do a report for thai-blogs.com. It is a great food market if you enjoy Thai food. However, you can also join boat trips which makes it a more enjoyable experience. I thought I would only be an hour or two at the market before moving onto my next location. However, because of the boat trip I ended up staying all morning. As you know, I love boat trips and cruising down a river with natural air-conditioning is a fun way to spend the day.

There seems to be a number of different companies running boat trips at Don Wai. As you walk down the market it is easy to find them. Most organize two trips. The first lasts 75 minutes and costs 60 baht for adults and 30 baht for children. The second lasts 120 minutes and costs 100 baht for adults and 50 baht for children. The brochure is only written in Thai. However, they have basically the same route though obviously the second one goes further down the river. The first tour starts at 9.30 a.m. and continues at roughly one hourly intervals until late afternoon. The second tour starts at 10 a.m. on Sundays and 11 a.m. on Saturdays. This continues at roughly 90 minute intervals until mid afternoon. During weekdays there are only two rounds during the middle of the day for lunchtime crowds.

The boats are converted rice barges. Most have arrangements of tables and chairs. The boat didn’t actually go anywhere as such which was a bit of a disappointment. Our destination was the Rose Garden, but all we did was go that far and come straight back. However, what the trip is really about is buying food in the market and then taking that on the boat trip with you. I didn’t realize that but luckily a Thai family felt sorry for me and decided to feed me. People often do that. I don’t know why. As long as you bring some food along, and maybe a few bottles of beer, then you will have an enjoyable and relaxing trip. Maybe snooze a little. The people at the table next to mine certainly slept the whole way.

Overall, I did spend a good morning at the market. I would advise that you go as early as you can as it does get crowded by mid morning. I would suggest exploring the market first then taking a late breakfast on one of the rice barges. The 70 minute tour is plenty enough as the seats were a bit uncomfortable for anything longer than that. You will probably end up staying here for about 3 hours. In my next blogs, I will give you ideas of where else to spend the rest of the day.

Don Wai Market

I am really happy that the Kanchanapisek Outer Ringroad has been finished. It now allows us to easily explore tourist attractions around the perimeter of Bangkok quickly and easily. So, last weekend I set off on a day trip to Nakhon Pathom, to the West of Bangkok. My destination was Don Wai Market. Some people call this a floating market. However, strictly speaking, it is a market on the banks of the Nakhon Chaisi River. If you come looking for a Damnoern Saduak Floating Market or even a Amphawa Floating Market then you will be disappointed. You won’t see many vendors selling their products on little boats. But, they all have their own attributes which makes them special. I personally enjoyed Don Wai Market and will certainly be going again.

Don Wai Market has been around for over a hundred years. However, it is only recently that it has started to become popular with daytrippers from Bangkok. From my own home, it only took 45 minutes which makes it almost a local source of good food. And I think that is why so many people go there at the weekend. The market was originally famous for the boiled ducks, but now there is a much greater variety of food. Not just curries and snacks, but also Thai sweets. Judging by all the pictures on display, a lot of celebrities and politicians also come to this market.

It is best to go to this market as early as you can in order to beat not only the heat but the crowds as well. It opens at 6 a.m. I arrived at 9 a.m. as I dropped in at Wat Rai Khing first to pay my respects to the highly revered Buddha image. They have a popular fair here in April. The temple is also famous for the fish sanctuary where you can buy bread to feed the fish. It is possible to catch a boat from here to Don Wai Market for only 60 baht. However, as I was early, it looked like they were waiting for enough people to make the journey worthwhile. As you can see from this picture, there weren’t that many people at the market when I first arrived. However, when I left at midday it was so crowded with people it took forever to move through the crowds. By that time I couldn’t wait to escape.

Tourists weren’t going to the market just to buy food. They were going to eat at one of the many floating markets that lined the river. In fact, there are so many of these restaurants that as you walk along the market you don’t get a clear view of the river. However, you do get fine views when you sit down to eat. Just don’t go too late in the morning. Maybe best to come here for a brunch. I was tempted to buy a lot of food to take home. Unfortunately, I had more places to visit on that day and so didn’t think it was a good idea to buy too much fresh food that might go off in a hot car. Tomorrow, I will tell you about my boat trip on the Nakhon Chaisi River.

To get to Don Wai Market is quite easy. I took the Outer Ring (Highway 9) from Samut Prakan. I then turned onto Highway 4 which is signposted Nakhon Pathom. Shortly after the Rose Garden you need to turn right onto Highway 3316. However, as you cannot do a direct turn here, you have to continue as far as the bridge over Nakhon Chaisi River and U-Turn under the bridge. Make sure you keep left for this. You will see a bigger sign for Wat Rai Khing rather than for the market. Keep going until you reach the market on the left. You cannot miss it nor the crowds. Make sure that you arrive early if you want to park a car. This costs 20 baht. There is more than one place to park. Just keep driving along the road.

Continued: Boat Trip on Nakhon Chaisi River