Chatuchak for Dummies
Now any one who knows me, knows that I am market mad. Chatuchak is the market to beat all markets. (Actually, there are four others that beat it, in size at least but what in the small details right?)
My long suffering husband knew it would only be a matter of time before I managed to get him there, having successfully avoided it last time, citing that the Russian markets in Ho Chi Minh, the tourist markets in Phnom Penh and the night markets in Chang Mai were more than enough.
Any trip to Chatuchak requires careful planning and forethought. I had been pre warned by a number of friends who had varying degrees of experience and were happy to give any number of tips on how to plan my attack.
First tip: Get a map – I’d read on the net that Nancy Chandler’s Market Map 25th edition was the one to find, so when browsing in a bookshop off Khao San Rd I was ecstatic to come across it. And how useful was it? Well it had LOTS of pretty colours!
Second tip: Use the pretty coloured map to plan your offensive. There are two ways to approach Chatuchak. Firstly you can wander up and down stalls with no particular aim other than to see what takes your fancy. If you are not after anything specific this method might work well, but you might want to stay away from the dried fish – you’ll know when you get close. Alternatively, if you have specific targets in mind, find their general location on the map and launch a direct attack. Again you will want to avoid the dried fish, but this time you’ll know before you get close.
Third tip: Get there early – the markets are officially open from 9am till 5pm. All the guide books will tell you that early is better for a few reasons. Firstly, you get there before the heat of the day kicks in (although in Bangkok that is relative), secondly you get there before the crowds (again, relative). What they don’t tell you is that you get there before most of the stalls open. Which in reality seemed to be between 9.30 and 10am. Now if you’ve planned your attack with the precision of a military campaign it can upset things quite a bit, when two thirds of the stalls are closed, as they will naturally be the ones with all the bargains. This means doubling back over ground already covered.
Fourth tip: Take plenty of water with you. This takes up room better used for carrying your hard earned spoils of war. Cold bottled water is available from thousands (literally) of vendors for 10 baht.
So, dragging along my second in command (also known as packhorse) we embarked on a full scale offensive of the the fifth largest markets in world.
Well, so much for a well oiled machine.
In the end we scrabbled through stalls, pushed and shoved our way through thousands of other sweaty tourists (ended up next to the dried fish stall at least 5 times). People say if you see something you love buy it as you probably won’t see it again. Not true – we saw the same t-shirt stall no less than 8 times!! There was a lot of walking around in circles. By about 2pm though, the sights and smells had taken their toll, happily and laden down with t-shirts, fake watches and shoes (I only bought 3 pair) we headed back to Khao San Rd for a well earned foot massage.