The largest market in Thailand...most stalls are open on the weekends, hence the name.
Our friend René, a Mexican animator and long-term Bangkok dilettante, compares the city’s Chatuchak Market to the Hogwarts School of Harry Potter lore: When you move around it everything starts to shift, and by the time you return to where you were before, it is no longer there. René hardly ever makes sense, but we suspect his point in this case is that if you see something you like in Chatuchak, buy it right away because you’ll probably never find it again. After enough sweltering hours of browsing on a recent visit, it seemed like even the sky train station was no longer where we last left it.
Orientation probably won’t get any easier as Southeast Asia’s largest market seems intent on ballooning by the month. At last count its estimated 15,000 stalls covered an area of 120,000 square meters. Each weekend over 300,000 visitors descend on the place, combining to spend upwards of $800,000. The bird trade alone boggles the mind (and damages the ears): Around 36,000 winged things are sold at Chatuchak each day, including endangered species. Indeed, the raucous pet section with its tarantulas, snakes, Iguanas and droopy-eyed, Please-Take-Me-Home-With-You puppies must be seen to be believed. Even carnivorous piranhas are reportedly sold on the black market here for B3,000 (about $72) a pop.
But Chatuchak (also nicknamed JJs - from the alternative spelling, Jatujak) is more than just a bustling, ever-expanding market. In recent years it’s become a hip scene in its own right. Outdoor pubs offering ice-cold draught on tap and modish cafés serving hearty Thai fare are nestled between stalls hawking 70s retro fashion, vintage Levi’s Red Tab and Big E jeans, designer incense sticks and battered U.S. and Japanese army fatigues. Even the ultra-trendy Princess Ubolrat has been spotted scouring for fashionable threads here, further adding a notch to Chatuchak’s ‘cool’ factor.
In fact we can hardly think of anything wrong with a place that offers easy access, great food, a trendy atmosphere, excellent bargains, a kaleidoscope of color and sights and sounds, and a choice of virtually every product under the sun. Perhaps that last point hints at the only real downside; Chatuchak can get mighty hot around midday, so get there early to beat the heat and the crowds....