Three Good Reasons to Spend a Day in Bangkok’s Chatuchak District
Chatuchak is one of Bangkok’s 50 districts and is located on the outer limits of the central city regions.
Most people who have heard of it would probably tend to associate Chatuchak with the famous market of the same name. And they wouldn’t be wrong in doing so, as that is indeed one of the prime attractions of the area, although only at weekends.
The district actually stretches much further than the vicinity of the market though, which is an attraction in itself and takes most people the best part of a day to get around.
And Chatuchak might not be in the more centrally-located, downtown tourist areas, but it’s a must-visit destination for anyone spending a weekend, a few days, or even longer in Bangkok for more than one reason.
It’s not generally what you might consider as one of Bangkok’s English-speaking areas, and aside from the market it isn’t geared up in any way for international tourists.
But that seems not to be such a big deal these days to many of the more adventurous types who come to Bangkok looking to find their own way around.
And if you are somewhat like-minded, and enjoy the kind of high-energy, activity-packed days in which you are actually struggling to get everything in, then this post may be up your street.
Yes, the weekend market is great – but many find it somewhat never-ending, if not exhausting.
So it might be an idea to limit the time in there to a couple of hours or so and then look for alternative avenues. Of which there are many in Chatuchak, and all within distance of the market area and the public transportation options (walking distance if you are the energetic type).
The BTS Skytrain line runs along the main road and you only need travel down the line just one or two stops to get closer to something completely different—like a top-notch, huge, air-conditioned shopping plaza.
This district is actually one of, if not the best area in the whole city if you like parks. Bangkok’s parks are all top-notch – well-kept and nicely shaded in lots of areas, usually with some kind of water feature and possibly an outer circuit for walking or running.
But in Chatuchak you can actually find 3 parks, right next to each other. Many visitors to the market are often unaware of this and just dive into the nearest one when they are looking for a breather from the humidity and crowds of the lines of stalls. This is most likely to be Chatuchak Park – the one running along the main Phahonyothin Road and also the oldest of the three.
And again you could easily spend the whole day just in and around these 3 huge green areas, which are all just that little bit different from each other.
And as with any region of Bangkok worth its salt, there is no shortage whatsoever of shopping opportunities in Chatuchak, aside from the market that is. Central Plaza is probably the biggest draw in the whole district from a local standpoint, and it wouldn’t be too difficult to lose a whole day in here alone either.
And then there is the somewhat more quirky Union Mall shopping mall, just across the road from Central Plaza within walking distance. Get the picture? There’s really plenty to do in and around this area.
So let’s have a closer look at X reasons to spend a day in Bangkok’s Chatuchak district.
1It has a fantastic weekend market
If we are looking for some kind of logical order for the information contained within this post then the weekend market would be the place to start.
This is mainly due to the fact that for many visitors to Bangkok the market would most likely be their prime reason for coming to the area.
There are both MRT Metro and BTS Skytrain stations within the vicinity of the market, and various entrance and exit points to the market are serviced by them.
If you are travelling by MRT subway you can get out at either the Chatuchak station and follow the signs for the various exits while still in the station underground (it’s much cooler that way), and the MRT Chatuchak exit comes out virtually at the same point as the BTS Mor Chit station.
Unless you particularly fancy the short walk along the main road to find the main entrance to the market, you can also disembark at the next MRT station along, Kamphaeng Phet, which will put you virtually in the market at one end.
The BTS station options are Mor Chit (N8) on the Sukhumvit Line which is outside Chatuchak Park on the main road if you take Exit 1. It is then about a 10-minute walk back towards the market entrance from there, or you can opt for the station before this one coming from the direction of Asok.
Saphan Kwai station is also a 10-minute walk to the entrance, this time from the opposite direction. There’s not much in it unless you want to check out the park first, although it’s a good idea to get to the market around 10 am before things start to heat up or get too crowded, so you might leave that for after.
The market itself is now reportedly the world’s largest, covering around 35 acres of land and with 15,000 stalls. The market opens from 9am to 6pm and contains more than 25 different sections including fashion, food, handicrafts, plants, and antiques.
It has 3 great parks
Many people will find themselves in Chatuchak Park taking a much needed breather when they eventually make it out of the lines of stalls. This is because it is the nearest one to the market’s main entrance along the main road on the way back to the station.
This is the smallest of the 3 parks although it is popular with early morning and evening joggers. There is no cycling in this park but there are 2 lakes and you might notice more than a slight resemblance to Central Park in some of the features.
Mainly you’ll see people just sitting around near the water picnicking or relaxing but this is also probably the busiest of the parks as it is the easiest to access and is next to the main road.
If you go to the far side of this park and go out of any of the exits you will see another much bigger park directly behind it. This is the Suan Rot Fai (Train Park), so called because it is housed on land formerly owned by the rail company, and you can see a couple of old relics related to this in and around the park.
Again this park is also popular for jogging and has a track with a much bigger perimeter of around 4km. Cycling is also popular here although thankfully a designated cycling track and lane was devised a few years back to separate the bikes and pedestrians.
You’ll find much more space in here along with various features like lakes, kids’ playgrounds (and separate cycling park) and tennis futsol, and basketball courts along the near side of the park. There is also a swimming pool not too far from the main entrance, and on the far end of the park behind it there are bicycles available to rent along with various food and drinks stalls.
Bangkok Butterfly Garden and Insectarium is also tucked away inside Suan Rot Fai. The garden has its own enclosed dome, which is home to more than 500 butterflies. There are also various other exhibits related to insects and butterflies found in Thailand.
The third park is called the Queen Sirikit Park and again has various entrance and exit points, but to give you some general idea of its location it is to the left-hand rear side of the Train Park.
This is the most scenic and tranquil park of the 3, and is more of a particularly well-manicured Botanical Garden with lots of flowers and other quaint natural features. There are water features with stepping stones, lots of nice little bridges, and there is also a kids’ museum over on the far side.
This is more of a Sunday afternoon-type park but is really colourful and relaxing with a few touches of the elegant here and there. The exit on the far left hand side of this park will bring you out directly adjacent to yet another of the areas attractions by way of JJ Mall.
JJ Mall is a kind of indoor cross between a mall and a market, with restaurants, coffee shops and lots of stalls selling items not dissimilar to those found in the weekend market.
It has 2 great malls
Aside from JJ Mall, the Chatuchak area has two other popular shopping malls, most notably Central Plaza and Union Mall.
The Central brand has various branches around the city and this one in the Chatuchak district has stood for decades and undergone several major renovations. It currently looks more elegant, modern, and impressive than it ever has, and it certainly rivals any of Bangkok’s other major malls even though this is not an area renowned for tourists as such.
With something like 300 stores in this complex and at least 100 restaurants, not to mention a cinema on the top floor, this has long been one of the area’s top destinations for meeting, browsing, eating, and shopping, among other things.
The mall is literally 5 minutes from the parks or the weekend market by either the MRT (Pahonyothin station) or the BTS (Hat Yaek Ladprao station), with the latter being the better option of the two as the station leads directly into the mall.
Central has seven floors containing all the various goods you would expect to find in a major shopping mall including both international and local brands. There are well-known and local fashion brands as well as sports shops, jewellery, shoes, accessories, electric goods etc.
There are plenty of eating options here a well including a decent food court on the basement floor as well as restaurants throughout the mall and an eating zone on the 4th floor. There are also a good few coffee shops bakery-style shops and ice-cream sellers.
And if Central Plaza somehow doesn’t seem to satisfy your materialistic and culinary desires, then just across the road on the corner of the main Ladprao junction you can’t miss the bright yellow Union Mall.
This is a slightly bizarre mall in that it always gives the impression that it is not quite complete or is currently undergoing some changes or transitional period – which it frequently is. Much more of a budget mall than Central Plaza, the 8-story complex is popular with the younger generations who like to browse the latest fashion trends.
It might be down to the management of the place but if you go to this place twice with maybe a one-year gap between the visits, you’ll find everything has been completely re-arranged!
In many ways the mall has the feel of an indoor market with booth-style shops and stalls that are largely grouped together on each floor according to the goods being sold, whether that be fashion items, cosmetics, or second-hand, vintage clothing. There is also the obligatory ‘beauty’ section which features salons, nail shops, and all manner of skincare.
You won’t find too much by way of international brands in here apart from in the food section on the fourth floor where there is a bit more variety than in the basement food court, and even a Swensens Ice-Cream shop.
Nevertheless the locals seem to love it, and there is a cinema on the top floor as well as a decent food court in the basement (although that could easily have changed by the time you read this!)
So there you have it – whether you are looking to check out one of the biggest markets in the world, spend some time in an impressive tropical park or two, or haul yourself around a couple of shopping malls — you can do all of that in Chatuchak in one day if you have the energy!