Jan 16 2012

Navigating Chatuchak market

Published by at 10:42 pm under Shopping

Chatuchak market (pronounced jat-u-jak), or “JJ” for short, is packed with items to buy — from refurbished vintage dresses through to Yorkshire terriers and quite a bit in between. JJ is not a made-for-tourists destination; gaggles of locals make a pilgrimage to this outdoor market each weekend.

To avoid JJ fainting, eat here.

For some, JJ is a shopping heaven, and for others, it’s a consumer hell. No matter what the season is in central Bangkok, somehow JJ seems to be 10 degrees hotter and 10 times more crowded. JJ is a short walk away from the BTS and the MRT, but once you’re there, things become more difficult. A leisurely shopping stroll can start to feel like you’re trapped in a maze of leather shoes and ceramic bowls, yet perpetually distracted by more things to buy.

To preserve your sanity and your shopping stamina, you need a game plan. Here, dear readers, it is.

Start with a map
The Nancy Chandler map of Bangkok from 2009 is one of the best, and includes a hand-drawn and painstakingly detailed map of JJ’s 27 sections and stalls. It’s best to use this map as a reference to the general areas. Don’t spend your day searching for one specific stall just to bypass all the rest, as the stalls change often and a lot of the products are sold by multiple vendors. JJ’s own official map is numerically mind-boggling, but categories like “Clothing & Accessories”,  “Amulets”, and the ambiguously fun “Odds & Ends” are colour-coded.

Choose your entrance
Once you know which section you’d like to go to, pick an entrance that will get you closest rather than walking through the market to get to your destination. I find the stalls right near the Mo Chit BTS entrance tend to be mostly cheap items targetted at tourists and are swamped, so I walk around the periphery of the market to Gate 3 for trendy clothes or take the MRT to Kamphaengphet.

Remember to eat
Take periodic snack and water breaks, as there’s plenty of street-style food to enjoy. Just be careful with the shrimp fried in deep vats of oil, as it may slow down your shopping high.

Watch your wallet
Narrow walkways, hordes of people and shopping bags make for a perfect scenario to get pickpocketed. Besides watching out for the typical shopping scams, keep your money safe and be discreet when pulling out the big bills.

Keep track
Found a necklace you just have to have but don’t have the money? Don’t expect you’ll ever remember where you were. Always make a note of the stall number and section, or ask the vendor for a business card. Many of the vendors also have satellite shops in places like Terminal 21, so don’t fret if you can’t come back to JJ.

Come early or come late
Avoid the crowds and the sweat. The market officially opens at 9:00, though keep in mind vendors may not be fully set up until 9:30 or 10:00. If you come late, you may get a good end-of-the-day deal. The market closes at 18:00; while some vendors start packing up around 15:00, others stay open well past the official closing time.

Oh, lacy.

Chatuchak Weekend Market is officially open 09:00-18:00, Sat and Sun.
BTS: Mo Chit
MRT: Suan Chatuchak or Kamphaengphet


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