on May 2, 2007
This has been a Bangkok ‘must-see’ for years but the market is currently going through a transition. Some areas of the original market have been closed and the stalls pulled down, and a new air-conditioned high-rise building called JJ Plaza has opened close by. Some stalls have relocated here but many parts of the old market are still operating and the adjacent Chatuchak Plaza still exists.The scale of it is unbelievable. It covers 35 acres, contains more than 15,000 shops and stalls, has over 200,000 visitors each day, who spend an estimated 30 million baht (approx US$800,000). The range of products on sale is extensive, and includes household accessories, handicrafts, religious artifacts, art, antiques, live animals (which unfortunately are frequently caged in cruel conditions), books, music, clothes, food, plants, flowers, etc.Chatuchak has in theory been segregated into areas depending on the types of goods sold, and there are maps available for the market which detail the various sections. You're as well to just forget them and just wander wherever takes your fancy, as it is an extremely disorientating place of many narrow alleys and trying to follow a map around can prove very frustrating. Chatuchak always gets very hot and humid during the day, and it's far from the most comfortable shopping experience but for most people the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Going early in the day when it is a bit cooler is recommended. When it becomes too much, head for the air-conditioned JJ Plaza (but expect prices to be higher).Bargaining is expected, if not mandatory, at Chatuchak and the prices are generally substantially cheaper than the shopping centers and street stalls on Silom and Sukhumvit. Chatuchak is a particularly good place to buy all sorts of Thai handicrafts, as there's a huge range, and competition keeps the prices low. Be careful when buying antiques though, as a large majority of these are fake and telling the difference between the genuine and the copies can be extremely difficult. Genuine antiques require a permit to be taken out of the country.The published opening hours for the market are from 9am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, though many of the stalls actually open sometime between 9am and 10am and close around sunset. Parts of Chatuchak open on Friday as a market for wholesalers, but there is no problem doing normal shopping on this day either. JJ Plaza and Chatuchak Plaza are pretty much open every day.The best way to get here is on the Skytrain to Mo Chit station which is only about five minutes walk away from the market or by underground to Kamphaeng Phet station. Take plenty of cash (but ATM's are there), comfortable shoes, bag(s), a good sense of humour, and don't forget to drink water. You'll probably need the toilets and they can be dirty and hot. The best one is near the station and the book section while those in JJ Plaza are modern and clean.
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