Popular riverside bazaar
Published/Last edited or updated: 28th August, 2017
Asiatique is Bangkok’s premier night market, beautifully set alongside the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River, where you can stroll along Thailand’s longest riverfront boardwalk.
Sanitised it may be compared to the old Suan Lum night bazaar, its nearby, more crowded predecessor, but 2012-opened Asiatique is a pleasant evening out, with decent shopping, plentiful restaurants and various diversions to be found, such as the kingdom’s tallest ferris wheel—yes, Asiatique is the land of the superlative. There are maps, clean bathrooms and the clothes shops may even have dressing rooms: This is not your usual Bangkok market experience.
We suggest catching the free Asiatique shuttle boat from Saphan Taksin pier for the 10-minute ride here so that you arrive in time to catch the photogenic sunset over the river along the 300-metre long boardwalk (the boat starts at 16:00).
Check out the art installations, such as sculptures of old-style port workers eating and lugging rice bags around; there’s also the “Juliet Love Garden”, which features an original statue of Juliet from Verona and a fence with thousands of attached love lockets.
Then allow yourself a few hours for browsing the more than 1,500 shops and restaurants set out in four very organised, and sprawling, zones. The bazaar hosts a diverse range of shops and stalls offering everything from expensive (and real) name-brand sunglasses to cheap fake ones, chic designer clothing boutiques to simple racks of 100 baht dresses, and hand-made traditional Thai mask galleries to standard T-shirt and souvenir shops. Though it gives a purely upmarket first impression, Asiatique in fact caters to all budgets, both for shopping and dining.
The market occupies the area of the city’s first international trading port, which was opened in the early 1900s by King Rama V, with help from the Danish. Thematically, the bazaar tips its hat to Bangkok’s early 20th century industrial period, with the name “Asiatique” a rather clever play on words honouring the old Danish “Asiatic” freight company, which helped construct the port. Some of Asiatique’s shops are situated in renovated old sawmills and there are, for example, some fake antique train cars, anchors, and push carts lying around. Even so, the overall design and feel of the bazaar is both flash and contemporary; it’s far more of a modern boutique mall than historical museum.
Later in the evenings, and especially on weekends, live bands and DJs liven things up, and the bazaar holds small music festivals on holidays, complete with fireworks over the river. On the entertainment side of things, the famed Joe Louis Shadow Puppet Theatre and Calypso Cabaret (nightly at 20:15 and 21:45, 600/900 baht children/adults, show only) both perform here. These popular, long-running shows secure a place for Asiatique on many a Bangkok tourist’s itinerary. You can also catch a one-hour live muay Thai show (1,200 baht for a standard seat) at 20:00, daily except Mondays.
For food, a large riverside food court-style area drew our attention, offering drinks like whole coconuts (60 baht) and mango smoothies plus an array of seafood and a range of snacks, from bacon-wrapped sausages to fried insects. Tables here are set up alongside a go-kart track. If you’re in the mood for something fancier, head to one of the riverside air-con restaurants and wine bars. A central food court meanwhile hosts moderately priced sit-down Asian restaurants, along with coffee and dessert shops. And if you just need to put your feet up, there are naturally a few foot massage joints as well.
Jump on the 60-metre ferris wheel for a romantic view over Bangkok (300 baht adults, 200 baht kids), or try one of the other theme-park-like offerings such as walking robots (250 baht), a racing car ride (200 baht), carousel (200 baht) or “sky yoyo” (300 baht). Keep an eye out for a lovely old heritage building in this section, constructed in 1912 as a private residence and as of mid-2017 under renovation.
When we last visited, the queues for the free shuttle boat back to Saphan Taksin were ridiculous. We envisaged having to wait a good hour or two to get on a boat (or not at all, as the boat stops running at 23:00), and with no staff seemingly available to explain what was actually going on, we headed out the back of the market and grabbed a taxi instead. There’s a rank here where you should grab one, as if you walk out to Charoen Krung Road it’s a long walk to anywhere a taxi can actually stop.
Other than the boat transport problem, Asiatique provides an interesting night out that needn’t break the bank—though you could certainly allow your bank to be broken. While not exactly offbeat, it makes for a fun, family-friendly evening of shopping, dining, entertainment and enjoying the river lights along the boardwalk.
Asiatique is a couple of kilometres south of Saphan Taksin BTS station in the vicinity of Charoen Krung Soi 74. The easiest way to reach it on quieter nights is by a free boat shuttle that leaves every 20 minutes from Sathorn pier, next to Saphan Taksin BTS station, which can also bring you back free of charge. However the queue for the free shuttle is often extremely long, in which case a taxi can get you there from Saphan Taksin BTS for around 60 baht.
Address: Charoen Krung Soi 72-76, Bangkok
T: 092 246 0812;
Coordinates (for GPS): 100º30'10.39" E, 13º42'19.02" N
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Samantha Brown is a reformed news reporter. She now edits most of the stuff you read on Travelfish.org, except for when you find a typo, and then that's something she wasn't allowed to look at.
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