Bangkok is known for its colorful street shops with great eats and even better finds. Rebecca Lo shops until she drops.
MBangkok has long been a favorite destination for market finds, and I usually start with the weekend market known as Jatujak. I’ve been going there for more than a decade and can always find something that I need, want or covet.
For novices, Jatujak is a huge, sprawling, hot and vibrant mass of anything and everything that can be sold. Situated at the northern end of the city and a short walk from Mo Chit BTS (Skytrain) station, it is near a pretty green park with bikes to rent and a children’s museum.
But shopping is the reason why Thais and locals descend upon Jatujak every Saturday and Sunday to browse the thousands of stalls. Prepare yourself by going in the morning — some stands open by the crack of dawn and your energy level for navigating the tight corridors between vendors may be sapped as the heat of the day wears you down.
Although there is plenty of the clothing, shoes, housewares and knickknacks you would find in a typical Asian market, Jatujak’s more unusual offerings include animals and an extensive nursery section for those with a green thumb.
I’m not sure if I would want to take home a lizard as a souvenir, but it makes for an interesting sight.
Jatujak also sells local designers’ products and antiques, although these have dwindled in recent years. One of my favorite stops is the Celadon shop, where I can always find good deals on its crackly glazed dishes in a rare shade of blue.
Weary shoppers will find there are plenty of places to catch their breath. Viva 8 near the Clock Tower puts on a lively show with its Spanish chef hamming it up for the cameras as he makes huge platters of delicious seafood paella. Its resident DJ, a lovely Thai woman, spins trance tunes that will wash over you just as soothingly as a cold beer.
A short walk from Jatujak is Or Tor Kor, a covered market boasting the best of the country’s fresh fruit and vegetables. It is reputed to be the city’s cleanest, as every vendor is subject to rigorous hygiene standards. y friends often mock me for being overweight. That is, I am the girl you see scrambling at an airport check-in counter trying to redistribute the goods she has bought so that her suitcase’s load doesn’t tip the airline scales. I’ve even brought home a Bohemian crystal chandelier from Prague — hand carried, of course. When it comes to shopping during my travels, I tend to gravitate toward the local markets to get a microcosm of my destination as well as the best deals.
Durian neatly peeled and packaged to resemble loaves of bread stand alongside large mango and pretty bunches of lichee. Plump crabs wiggling their claws and other fresh seafood are available along with dried goods such as Chinese mushrooms, salt fish and banana chips.
In this foodie’s haven, you can have practically any Thai delicacy prepared before you, from papaya salad to grilled prawns. There are buckets of curries and stews for folks to take away and a seating area for those who prefer to dine on the premises.
I heard through the grapevine that though the night market in Lumpini Park closed down a few years ago, there is an even better one near Jatujak affectionately known as the Train Market. It was founded by a bunch of vendors from Jatujak who took over a deserted parcel of land near former train tracks — which led to its name.
Only open on weekend evenings, it has a large outdoor series of stalls selling retro curios and second hand finds.
Along with rows of street snack stalls, there are also a few large warehouses with furniture and curios. One contains a bar with a live band and flavored sisha pipes for chilling out after shopping.
I loved that vendors drive up with their pick up trucks and vans, park, and sell anything from beer to T-shirts straight out of them. The atmosphere is fun, young and very local, with the crowds consisting mostly of kids on dates.
Khao San Road is still a lively place to stop by if you’re on a budget, as its reputation as a backpacker’s district means that you can pick up inexpensive souvenirs and a decent meal for practically nothing. The street ambience is ramped up with many of the restaurants offering live cover bands and al fresco dining.
Asiatique the Riverfront is a newer, more upscale version of the Thai night market situated along the river in Bangkor Laem district. Ferries shuttle back and forth between the main pier at Saphan Taksin to Asiatique, making it easy for visitors to get there.
Along with cheerfully lit shops and cafes, there is a giant ferries wheel and plenty of choices for visitors seeking mid-end goods. I found it a bit sanitized for my tastes, but can see the appeal of its mall and nightlife combination.
If you would rather browse in air- conditioned comfort, Siam Center has recently completed its makeover and is now a hip mall targeting young and young-at-heart fashionistas.
The top floor is devoted to casual dining with a large Food Republic at its center. Be sure to also stop by local handbag and accessories shop Naraya at Siam Discovery next door.
This branch has a wide selection of the colorfully patterned fabric bags in all sizes, and they are inexpensive, high-quality gifts for folks back home. They don’t take up much room in a suitcase and weigh almost nothing, which means you can indulge in more retail therapy. Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colorful shoes are sold at the Jatujak market, with patterns ranging from flowers to animals.
Restaurants in Khao San Road offer live cover bands and al fresco dining.
Amari Atrium’s outdoor swimming pool is adjacent to Italian restaurant Vivaldi.
The Spanish chef of Viva 8 makes huge platters of delicious seafood paella.