The Best Farmers’ Markets in Bangkok
Anyone who knows anything about Thailand would have happened across the knowledge that the country is largely, statistically at least, a nation of farmers.
Something like 70 per cent of the total population in fact lives in rural areas that rely on some form of agriculture as their main means of income and sustenance, albeit to varying degrees of success.
That said, much of the produce that is available in the cities is grown in rural areas, which are all suited (or unsuited) to various crops due to factors such as the geographical features of the land and climate – which can vary quite significantly between certain regions.
These differences are most apparent when drawing comparisons between the hot and dry flatlands of the north eastern regions of Thailand where the majority of the terrain is used as rice-growing paddies, while the lush, green, humid and (very) wet South of the country has more rainfall than anywhere else across the land, making it ideal for other crops that flourish in these conditions.
So – back to the city – and in particular Bangkok, which obviously has its fair share of agricultural produce that comes from the rural areas, including rice, vegetables, meat, and fish – but also in recent years has begun to include products with a little more innovation behind them, which we will come to later.
It may be true that the majority of those native to the Thai capital prefer the convenience of supermarkets, with their mass-produced (and chemically-laced) broad range of choice, and it is also true that there are now more supermarkets, with ever-widening ranges of options (including imported goods) than ever before in Bangkok. (Check out our previous post on supermarkets in Thailand for more options).
However, Thailand is also a nation of markets – which is definitely one of the reasons why tourists love coming here – and of course food plays a large part in many of these affairs.
What many visitors to Bangkok may not be so much aware of, though, is the vast amount of local markets that operate solely for the purpose of supplying many of the restaurants and hotels within the expansive city – many of which have already sold up and closed for the day before the average city dweller has even left their home! (And just happen to be about one-third of the cost of any regular market.)
But what we are really interested in reporting here in this post is the seemingly growing list of farmers’ markets that operate within the city. Yes, farmers’ markets as in locally-produced, organic wares that are independent of anything resembling too much of a chain of mass production, and largely free of anything too much resembling a preservative or other potentially harmful chemical.
These days there are more and more ‘pop-up’ markets that are often billed as Farmers’ Markets (although that may not always strictly be the case), selling produce with varying degrees of quality that is not always consistent.
The more authentic, actual farmers’ markets are set up and run by associations that vet the quality and origin of the sellers’ products and certify them accordingly. This means that the quality tends to be higher and the products more ‘credible’, which admittedly is still something of a grey area in Thailand, even for locals.
So in a real farmers’ market you won’t be as likely to find vast hordes of stalls like you would in the more regular markets, and these stalls are more geared towards healthier products containing less, or none, or the ‘demon’ items often found in vast quantities in much Thai food – namely sugar, MSG, and other potentially harmful, non-natural products like preservatives and other nasty chemicals.
A point of note here: If you are wondering exactly how this affects the view that you may hold of Thai food as being generally healthy – then all you need to do is watch one of the street food restaurant cooks making your lunch.
You are hen more than likely to witness the tons of salt (not the pink, Himalayan, or sea salt varieties), as well as sugar, MSG and various other large amounts of questionable sauces (in health terms) that they will add to make your food ‘tasty’. Not to mention the oil that they use which is usually the cheapest on offer and largely (very) unhealthy, although the majority of Thais are blissfully unaware of any of this.
With that in mind then, it may be the case that Farmers’ Market produce seems to be a little more expensive than ‘standard’ fare in Thailand, as is the case with organic vegetables and other organic produce found in regular supermarkets. It may simply be a case of ‘you get what you pay for’ -– which is something that many people tend to overlook when indulging themselves in the Thailand experience.
And although it is still not a completely mandatory requirement, a lot of the sellers at the farmers’ markets are geared more towards eco-friendly packaging (the lack of which is still a huge problem in Thailand in terms of the environment and health).
This is largely still a developing sector, but Farmers’ Markets in Thailand are gradually gaining popularity with younger, more health-oriented (and environmentally-aware) generations (as are healthier food choices), and even the producers and sellers themselves are constantly coming up with more innovative products and, to a lesser degree, packaging ideas.
This is evident from the stalls plying their products with a passion, selling anything as diverse as wild honey, pickles, chocolate products (made from locally-produced cacao plantations), ice-cream and gelato, a growing range of vegetarian and vegan products, and even bakery items…
So join us as we check out some of the best Farmers’ Markets currently operating in Bangkok.
1. Bon Marche Market
Bon Marche is just the kind of place likely to delight any visitor to Thailand who is already bored with the more touristy areas and experiences. In many ways this place is the quintessential, authentic Farmers’ Market in Bangkok, and it is set in rather pleasant surroundings that make it ideal for a day out.
This place is what might be termed an upscale open-air market in that it is surrounded by a good few restaurants selling local cuisine alongside Japanese and Chinese options, and it also has a nice little shopping plaza that sells anything from books, clothes, and jewellery, to Buddhist-inspired décor and artifacts. It’s all very Thai and local in its atmosphere, which makes it a refreshing option in many ways.
The market has plenty of different items on display, and it generally appeals to discerning local shoppers who don’t mind paying that little bit extra for a more quality product.
You can find a fairly wide range of food products here, although fruit and vegetables form a large part of the fare on offer. You’ll find your typical Thai salad items, along with the vegetables found in local cuisine such as kale and Thai basil.
The fruit available depends to some extent on the season, but usually you’ll be able to pick up mango, papaya, dragon fruit, watermelon, guava and all the other usual common available varieties. The good news is that all of this produce is locally-grown by farmers and is among some of the freshest you will find in Bangkok.
Needless to say you can expect to find prices that are a little higher than normal markets in Bangkok, and maybe even a little more than some of the other Farmers’ Markets comparison, but the freshness and quality makes up for it, as does the surrounding environment to some degree.
You’ll find a few local delights on some of the stalls that sell items like handmade soaps, nuts, honey, Thai desserts, pastries and breads, and Thai handicrafts – all of which are indeed made by local area farmers
There’s also a reasonable outdoor food court overlooking a small lake, with a huge variety of stalls peddling all the favourite local dishes, although like any food court in Thailand, it can get pretty crowded during various times of the day.
Location: 105 Thetsaban Songkhro Road, Lat Yao, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900
Hours: 6 am- 9 pm
2. Talat Aw Taw Kaw
This Bangkok Farmers’ Market is one of the best for vegetables, which of course are organically-produced, as is the wide variety of available fruit.
The market also features a lot of farmers’ stalls selling organic chicken, alongside other delights such as dried squid, Thai desserts, dried fruits and nuts, fresh fruit juice, and even flowers.
Again prices here are comparatively high (in terms of the more standard Bangkok markets, that is) but the sellers are friendly enough and the high quality of the produce is apparently renowned throughout the city of Bangkok – so much so that this is indeed one of those places that supplies many top local eateries.
This market is also in rather close proximity to the more famous Chatuchak Weekend Market, so the two destinations could be easily combined to provide a great day out.
The best way to access the Farmers’ Market if you take the MRT subway is to get off at the Kamphaeng Phet station (Exit 3), which also happens to have a sign that directs, which actually says ‘Marketing Organization for Farmers’.
Location: 101 Kamphaeng Phet Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok
Hours: Daily from 9 am-6 pm
3. Sam Yan Market (Talat Sam Yan)
Talat Sam Yan is a large market with a wide selection of the market produce you would normally find, along with many stalls selling fresh fish and other varieties of seafood.
This Bangkok Farmers’ Market is reportedly one of the best places to buy prawns although many, if not most of them come from local area fish farms rather than the sea or the open river.
This is actually something of a ‘no-no’ for many buyers of organic produce as the prawns and fish raised in this way are not usually reared according to what would normally be their natural environment of feeding conditions – in fact it is well-known that many fish and prawns from farms are quite often fed soy, and even worse – GM soy. So you’d have to decide for yourself whether that one was an issue or not.
Domestically-produced Thai coffee is another item on offer at this market, usually grown in the north of Thailand by smaller local producers.
Although you could get to this market by the MRT and getting off at the Sam Yan station, it’s still not necessarily that easy to find if you aren’t familiar with the area. So a better option is probably a taxi –- or even better a Grab car or taxi (actually the best way to get around Bangkok, period –- as the drivers actually know how to find the destinations that they are going to, unlike some random taxis, and they pick you up from whatever your current location is).
Location: Chulalongkorn Soi 6, 9 Wang Mai, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330
Hours: 5 am-12 am
4. Gateway Ekkamai Bangkok Farmers’ Market
Located outside one of the area’s malls you can find this market that contains top locally-produced organic, eco-friendly, and vegetarian stores together. This market only appears on specific days, namely to the second and the last weekend of every month, but is worth checking out.
Some of the more unusual delights to be found in this particular Bangkok Farmers’ Market come from the international influences that are more common to this region of the central Sukhumvit Road region of the city.
You may find Artisan French Bakery products, including a popular trademark croissant; or maybe homemade Italian Lasagne made from an original Bologna recipe is more your thing. Needless to say then, this is not exactly what might be considered your typical Bangkok Farmers’ Market, although all produce is local and domestic, albeit with a tinge of the continent on some stalls.
As if that weren’t enough to tickle the taste buds, you may also be able to find home-made goats’ cheese made with milk from local farms, along with gelato and even chocolate made from southern cacao plantations.