SU­PER MAR­KETS

Bangkok is known for its col­or­ful street shops with great eats and even bet­ter finds. Rebecca Lo shops un­til she drops.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SUNDAY TRAVEL -

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 sun­dayed@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Amari Atrium’s out­door swim­ming pool is ad­ja­cent to Ital­ian restau­rant Vi­valdi.

PHO­TOS BY REBECCA LO / FOR CHINA DAILY

The Span­ish chef of Viva 8 makes huge plat­ters of de­li­cious seafood paella.

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