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Are you in the market for a state-of-the-art karaoke machine, a clock that looks like the fancy rim on a Ferrari, a fan that emits a black light glow as it spins or DVDs of movies that just started showing in theaters? If so, you need to check out the electronics vendors at Khlong Thom market.
Sprawled to the north side of Charoen Krung Road over to Worachak Road in the northwest corner of Chinatown, Khlong Thom market is a go-to spot for Bangkokians seeking anything from spare car parts to rice cookers to remote controlled helicopters to those pulsing digital signs that say “BAR” with digital bottles clinking or “Toilet this way” with a stream of digital yellow pee flowing from an inebriated digital dude.
Khlong Thom is also commonly known as “flashlight market” — the roofed affair used to be so dark in the evenings that shoppers required flashlights to ensure that products were in fact quality knock offs. Nowadays, the many flashing disco orbs and fluorescent lighting on the ceilings keep it adequately lit, though many vendors do look as though they haven’t seen the light of day in years.
The market is as tightly packed as it could be. Especially in the narrow passages that maze through the belly of the beast, be prepared for a human traffic jam when a host of shoppers come out on weekends. We’ve been here several times and it always amazes us how just when we think the market’s periphery is visible, it opens into an entire separate section with the same endless mash of modern (or sometimes not-so-modern) gadgets as the last.
Keep in mind that many, if not most of the products sold here are fakes and second-hands (or second-hand fakes for that matter) from China, so don’t think you’re getting an incredible deal on that “Bose” car stereo. We wouldn’t purchase anything too pricey as quality is questionable and it would probably be impossible to locate the stall you purchased from, let alone be able to negotiate a return. Even so, a walk through Khlong Thom is a dizzying way to explore the dark-grey side of the Asian electronics market.
Be prepared to get temporarily lost, and to bargain hard should you not be able to part with that Mandarin-speaking calculator or late ’90s edition Thinkpad. Also note that some vendors aren't shy about selling pornographic films in one section; steer clear if the thought of watching creepy old Thai men rifling through DVDs with graphic covers sounds too repulsive for you.
To see similar products in a more spacious, open-air setting, the electronics party continues at Baan Mo market, less than a kilometre west up Charoen Krung. You could also pop across Charoen Krung to Thieves market (aka Nakhon Kasem market), featuring a lineup of shops selling musical instrument and hardware on Charoen Krung Soi 10. The name "Khlong Thom" was also used for a Sunday night market that covered the streets around the daily market until city authorities on a mission to tidy up the footpaths put an end to it in 2016.
How to get there
From Ratchawong express boat pier, walk north out of the pier, then take a left onto Yaowarat Rd. After around five minutes, cross the street and take a right onto Worachak Rd. Go one block further, cross Charoen Krung Rd, and you'll find the market covering a huge area that spreads inwards from the corner.
By David Luekens.
Last updated on 23rd March, 2017.
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