The Best Markets in Bangkok
Markets in Thailand were around long before the advent of the shopping mall, and especially the deluxe, hi-so varieties inherent in Bangkok these days. Thankfully though, markets have remained an integral part of Thai culture and are popular with both locals and tourists alike.
Of course, there are likely to be considerable differences between what might be termed ‘local’ and ‘tourist’ markets, although there are a few around the city that may well qualify as being able to retain elements of both.
And what with Thailand being a tropical country with high humidity and soaring midday temperatures well over 30 degrees Celsius (and in the 40s during the summer months that begin just before April), many of the best and most frequented markets will tend to be in the evenings or at night time.
The markets in Bangkok (like anywhere in Thailand but often on a grander scale and with more of an urban vibe) are often centred around food, clothes, or accessories, and may possibly contain all of these enticements. Bangkok market affairs can be anything from the organic, local, somewhat gritty ‘grass-roots’ variety to the upscale, glitzy, trendy type often located in the vicinity of some of the more well-populated city malls.
Many of the more renowned and well-established affairs have been around for decades, while the newer, shopping and community mall versions are popping up all the time, with this variety often targeting the younger, trendier Thai locals who would much rather take a leisurely evening stroll around well-lit, modern-looking set-ups than brave the more traditional and gritty markets, even with considerable differences in the prices being apparent.
The night markets usually get going after 6 pm and may well continue until midnight (or even beyond), while the daytime options may either start early and finish early or operate within general shopping mall hours.
So if you are heading to Bangkok and you fancy yourself as a bit of a shopper, it might be an idea to check out some of the markets on offer (‘talads’ in Thai) rather than limiting yourself to the well-advertised, well-known shopping malls. This guide, while by no means being exhaustive, aims to provide a few options outside of the usual tourist list of places to visit, although there are a couple that is well-known with tourists and locals alike and hence can’t really escape being drawn under this particular article’s heading.
1. Talad Bo Bae (Bo Bae Market)
One of the more established and long-serving Bangkok markets on today’s list is ‘Bo Bae’, which is housed around a huge tower that also contains an indoor market.
If you are looking for bargain prices and don’t mind buying a few extra to get the wholesale deal, then forget the tourist trap MBK and head straight to Bo Bae. This is very much a vendor’s market, with merchants coming here from all over to pick up their wholesale stocks – but don’t be put off by that as there are also a variety of other bargains to be had on a smaller scale.
The deal with the wholesale Bangkok markets (and to some extent with all markets in the region) is that the more you buy, the cheaper the items become. In Bo Bae can be found both well-known, branded items and local produce. In the outside section of the market, there is also a wide selection of fruit and other foods available, and indoors there are food courts, jewellery stands and other accessories available along with all the clothing.
When: Everyday 6am to 6pm
What is available: Wholesale clothing, fabrics, food
Where: 488 Damrongrak Road, Bangkok 10100
How: National Stadium BTS Station (from the road and take short taxi ride for about 10 minutes.)
2. Pratunam Market
This Bangkok market is much more well-known with visitors and tourists to the city but is also much frequented by local vendors as in terms of wholesale prices it may even give Bo Bae a run for its money.
Like Bo Bae, Pratunam Market is housed both along the streets and in a huge indoor market hall, closely located to the other shopping draw in this area, Platinum Mall. The market is a very easy place to find as it is located right next to one of Bangkok’s tallest buildings – the Baiyoke Tower.
Retail and wholesale purchasing are both very much in evidence at this market, with bartering being pretty much a necessity, as with any market in Thailand, and sometimes the reductions can be significant once the vendor suspects a decision not to buy has been made!
Of course, the usual rules of no returns, no refunds will also apply in the majority of retailers and wholesalers alike in Bangkok, so make sure you get what you came for in terms of size and quality.
• When: 10 am – 8 pm
• What is available: discount clothing, shoes, jewellery and other accessories
• Where: Ratchaprop Intersection, Phaya Thai, Bangkok
• How to get there: BTS Chit Lom station (a short walk from the station — take a right on Ratchaprarop Rd) #
3. Chatuchak Weekend Market
Quite possibly the biggest and most well-known Bangkok market is at Chatuchak, just a stone’s throw from the three huge parks in the vicinity. It is a huge network of indoor and outdoor lanes and alleyways that sells just about everything and is a ‘must-see’ for the majority of visitors to Bangkok.
Chatuchak Market makes for more of a day out than a simple stop-off and is usually packed with droves of locals and non-locals alike who come to shop, walk, or just soak up the atmosphere.
This place has everything from clothes and accessories to handicrafts, garden furniture, plants, and even rare animals, fish and reptiles that might otherwise not be considered as pets were this, not Thailand. There is food, coffee, ice-cream and beer, but the crowds do get a little overbearing in the afternoon heat for those not accustomed to such chaos and diversity.
Chatuchak Market is easy to get to and has more than enough of the atmosphere of a typical Thai market. However, although bartering is always part of the process, prices are unlikely to be anywhere near as low as those in some of the previously mentioned venues, due to the fact that this is a major tourist haunt.
When: Weekends 9am to 6pm
What is available: Clothing, shoes, food, accessories, furniture, pets – everything!
WHERE: Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900
How to get there: BTS Mo Chit Station (Exit 1); MRT Kamphaeng Phet (Exit 1), Chatuchak Park (Exit 1)#
4. Klong San Market
Now, this Bangkok market is more of a local affair and is typically frequented by locals after their working day is done. Situated on the site of a former train station, another factor that makes Klong San Market worth a visit by tourists is its close proximity to the recently-constructed luxury shopping mall IconSiam.
The usual array of market goodies is available in this one too, although it is an unlikely place to go looking for the more ‘touristy’ items such as souvenirs and such like. Being a local market, the price of the goods will be considerably lower than some of the better-known venues. Also, expect to find here the necessary and obligatory Thai market food vendors.
• When: 7am – 10 pm
• What is available: Everything from clothes, shoes, and jewelry at low prices. Also lots of Thai street food and snacks.
• How to get there: Saphan Taksin BTS Station (then a short ferry ride on The Chao Phraya River to Klong San Pier)
5. Srinakarin Train Market
There have been and indeed still are many ‘train markets’ (talad rot fai) in Bangkok, but Srinakarin (or ‘Talad Rot Fai Srinakarin’) is apparently the most well-known, and also the largest. After being forced to move from its former location behind Chatuchak Market due to the expansion of the BTS line, the market returned bigger and better at its new location a few years back.
This Bangkok market is situated very close to another one of Bangkok’s shopping malls, Seacon Square, which unfortunately is not actually that easy to get to. The area itself is somewhat on the outer vicinity of the city so it is not (yet) accessible via the public transport network (On Nut station being about the nearest), neither is it close to any rivers or canals. That leaves a taxi as the only reasonable means of getting there, which is not always the best option depending on the time.
The market is so expansive that it comprises three main sections: a Market Zone, a Warehouse Zone and a Vintage Zone.
In the first zone, there are an amazing 2000+ stalls selling all the usual market wares. The second zone features electronics, toys, shoes, household items and even used car parts. The third zone to many is the selling-point and the real attraction of this particular Bangkok market. It has a distinctly vintage, if not antique theme, selling items from all over the world that has somehow found their way to Bangkok, such as bikes and cars from the U.S., home decorations and accessories and all manner of vintage clothing.
To top it off, Srinakarin Train Market has an array of street food vendors alongside restaurants and bars and on the whole, the venue has a ‘hip’ kind of vibe to it in terms of atmosphere and outlay.
• When: Thursday – Sunday, 17:00 (5 pm) – 01:00 (1 am)
• What is available: new and vintage clothing and accessories, food and drink
• Address: Srinakarin Road Soi 51 (behind Seacon Square Mall)
• How to get there: Taxi or Grab car (the journey may be shortened by taking a cab from the BTS On Nut Station)
6. Sampaeng Market
Sampeng Market is located in Bangkok’s Chinatown (Yaowarat in Thai) and definitely qualifies as one of, if not the most organic, grass-roots type of market in the city. Sampaeng is certainly one of the most-frequented and chaotic Bangkok markets and is typical of the REAL Asian market experience.
The area is popular with natives, and included in those numbers are vendors and store owners who head this way to buy their goods wholesale and re-sell them elsewhere. For these people, the prices are likely to be ridiculously low if they are regular wholesale customers and have established relationships with the vendors in the area.
In terms of price, Sampaeng is a far cry from Chatuchak Weekend Market, or possibly even Bo Bae, to really put things into perspective. Needless to say, the area is a hotbed of hustling and bustling and is possibly not for the feint-hearted (!).
Sampeng Lane (or Soi Wanit 1) is the main location of the market and is lined with traders procuring pretty much anything that could be sold on the street, including (but not limited to) clothing, shoes, accessories, electronics, toys, and many Chinese-inflected wares.
The market has long been part of Bangkok’s scenery, having been established when the large community of Chinese immigrants settled in this area of the city more than 100 years previously. The market area covers around 1km, and it is more than possible to get lost here if you are unfamiliar with the area.
It goes without saying then that with its Chinese theme, Sampaeng Market is a haven for street food, especially duck noodles and other typically Chinese dishes. In fact, the whole Yaorawat area is renowned as a food hotbed by Bangkok natives who frequently head out to this part of the city known as the ‘Old Quarter’ or the ‘Old Town’ to sample the wares of both the street sellers and the somewhat more pricey restaurants