Eat shop eat shop
Bangkok boasts no shortage of day markets where you can grab a dozen pairs of elephant pants, a bouquet of orchids, a fresh pig’s head, a used karaoke machine or just a meal enjoyed with the locals. Have fun sifting through the following list to choose which of them is right for you.
In Bangkok’s largest market, some 5,000 stalls line a labyrinth of steamy roofed walkways filled with a breathtaking array of goods, including new and vintage clothes, locally designed handbags, Benjarong porcelain, Buddha images, wholesale chopsticks and paintings sold by the artists themselves. While parts of the furniture and kitchenware sections are open daily, JJ, to use the nickname, is only in full gear on weekends. You’ll also find plenty of food, though we suggest popping across the road to Or Tor Kor Market (see below) for lunch.
Chatuchak Weekend Market: Corner of Kamphaeng Phet Rd and Phahonyothin Rd in North Bangkok, a short walk from Mo Chit BTS Station, Chatuchak Park MRT Station or Kamphaeng Phet MRT Station; most stalls open Fri-Sun 09:00-18:00
If Yaowarat Road is Chinatown’s backbone, then Sampeng Lane is its belly. The market spans the length of a single lane officially known as Soi Wanit 1—it’s only a kilometre long but the tight quarters and endless distractions can make it feel endless. Giant teddy bears, Hello Kitty backpacks, wigs and battery-powered fans are displayed amid the blur of cheap Chinese-made knick-knacks. It gets extremely crowded, especially on weekends, and the vendors are hardened hagglers. While this is not a food market, you’ll find loads of street eats nearby.
Sampeng Market: Spans the length of Soi Wanit 1 in Chinatown from Song Wat Rd to Chakphet Rd, and accessible by walking south from anywhere on Yaowarat Rd or north from Ratchawong river ferry pier; open morning to night
Located across the street from Bangkok’s largest public hospital (Siriraj) and within easy cross-river ferry distance of the Khao San Road area, Wang Lang is a classic local-style market satisfying a wide range of needs. We come mainly for the abundant food at street carts and hole-in-the-wall eateries, but you could also shop for new and vintage clothes on the cheap, grab a beer on a riverside terrace or pick up a new toy or smartphone case. Expect thick crowds of office workers, nurses and college students at lunchtime.
Wang Lang Market: Just south of Wang Lang Rd and Wang Lang river ferry pier in Thonburi; open 08:00-18:00
This weekday market draws crowds of office workers for lunch but slips right under the noses of most travellers despite a location just off touristy Silom Road and a stone’s throw from two BTS stations. Racks of affordable clothes entice shoppers after they fill up on classic Thai street dishes at a food court, street carts and proper sit-down eateries. The market buzzes amid a warren of lanes overshadowed by modern office buildings, lending the sense that you’ve discovered something hidden.
Lalai Sap Market: Between Silom Rd and Naradhiwas Rd, accessible from Silom Soi 5 and a short walk from either Chong Nonsi or Sala Daeng BTS stations; open weekdays morning to afternoon
Situated just north of the Grand Palace in the old town, this old-school riverside market is best known for Buddhist/Hindu statuary and all sorts of amulets and talismans believed to contain protective powers. Monks from nearby Wat Mahathat often peruse the stalls. You’ll also find some food and Thai massage offered in the shophouses that ring the market. In recent years, vendors were cleared from the surrounding footpaths and the Maharaj “lifestyle mall” was built nearby, but the inner amulet market is still going strong.
Phra Chan Amulet Market: Maharat Rd in Rattanakosin, just north of Maharaj river ferry pier, west of Wat Mahathat and north of Grand Palace; open morning to afternoon
Also located in the old quarter but flying under the radar of most travellers, this morning market takes over a couple of lanes lined by old shophouses. There’s plenty of food along with cheap clothes and other products preferred by locals, but what we like most is the community that’s inseparable from the market. Different families specialise in different products—one runs a shophouse ice factory and another sells dried rice noodles, for example. It’s a great spot to have breakfast while soaking up the vibe of old Bangkok.
Trok Mor Morning Market: Soi Thesa between Bamrung Muang Rd and Ratchabophit Rd in Rattanakosin; open 05:00-11:00
Clustered around Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabah just beyond the northern end of Chinatown, Pahurat (“Little India”) is an old community of mostly Sikhs who have been joined by migrants from Nepal, Burma and Pakistan. Amid the many shophouses and stalls you’ll find endless bolts of brightly coloured Indian fabrics, traditional Thai costumes and plenty more in the Asian textile realm. It’s also a fine place to grab a bowl of rogan josh and Punjabi sweets. You could then stroll north to Pak Khlong Talad or wade south to Sampeng.
Pahurat Market: Chakphet Rd and Pahurat Rd around Indian Emporium shopping centre and Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Saba just north of Chinatown; open morning to night
Surrounded by malls that try to steal the show, the original open-air Siam Square still has many small boutiques and roofed markets attracting hip college students and foreign fashionistas. Competition is stiff and many vendors offer something different, including affordable wears by Thai designers. You’ll also find jewellery, tailors, sunglasses, dress shoes, skate shops and trendy cafes, and the location next to Siam BTS Station couldn’t be much easier to reach.
Siam Square: Off Rama I Rd between Siam BTS Station and Chulalongkorn University; most shops open late morning to night
One of Bangkok’s largest clothing markets covers a block of roofed walkways threading a neighbourhood of the same name. Though popular with Thai and foreign shopkeepers looking for bargains on clothing for resale, you will find single wears at very low prices. Unusual items include beauty pageant crowns, traditional Thai outfits, glittering bikinis and wigs made from real human hair. Surrounding the market are several shopping centres, like Platinum Fashion Mall and Indra Square, which also deal in low-priced clothes.
Pratunam Market: Corner of Phetchaburi Rd and Ratchaprarop Rd in Pratunam, one km east of Ratchathewi BTS Station; open 04:00-24:00
In the same league as Pratunam is Bo Bae (rhymes with bay), a mainly wholesale clothing market stretching alongside the San Saeb Canal between Siam Square and the old quarter. Hundreds of stalls in the open-air market and hundreds more in the connected Bo Bae Tower attract entrepreneurs looking to fill their shelves as far away as Russia and the Middle East. Jeans, dress shirts, dresses, neckties, shoes, swimsuits, fabric and jewellery are all available in large quantities.
Bo Bae Market: Just south of Lan Luang Rd in Rattanakosin, next to Prince Palace Hotel and accessible from Bo Bae canal boat pier; open 04:00-16:00
If you’re in the market for a neon “BAR” sign, a fan that emits a black-light glow or DVDs of movies that premiered last week, make a trip to Khlong Thom electronics market. The sprawling roofed affair in Chinatown is also known as “flashlight market” because it used to be so dark that you needed extra light to see if the label on that stereo said Bose or Boze. We wouldn’t buy anything too pricey, as quality tends to be questionable and warranties are unheard of, but it’s certainly a fun place to poke around.
Khlong Thom Electronics Market: Near the corner of Worachok Rd and Charoen Krung Rd in the northwest corner of Chinatown; open day and night
Known first and foremost as a strip of bars and guesthouses catering to backpackers, Khao San Road and the surrounding Banglamphu area is also referred to as a market thanks to the countless vendors. Everything from fried bugs to guidebooks and fake college degrees is available, but clothing with a hippie-gipsy-hip-hop bent fills most of the street stalls. Fisherman pants, T-shirts with Thai beer logos, cargo shorts and tie-dye dresses are among the most popular items on Khao San Road itself and Soi Rambutri. Stalls on other nearby streets sell flipflops, dress slacks and other goods preferred by locals.
Khao San Market: Runs the length of Khao San Road and surrounding streets; open day and night
Not for the faint of stomach, Bangkok’s largest wet market hits like a cyclone of smells, sights and tastes. Trolleymen and motorbikes squeeze through walkways clogged with shoppers haggling over baskets of fresh chillies, live ducks, fresh intestines and buckets of live eels and frogs. If all of that leaves you ill, wander into one of the city’s strongest selections of fruits, vegetables and spices before attempting to find a way out of this maze-like market.
Khlong Toei Wet Market: Corner of Rama III Rd and Rama IV Rd in Khlong Toei, a half-km south of Queen Sirikit Convention Centre MRT Station; open 05:00-02:00
Or Tor Kor
Organised by a farming co-op and once cited by CNN as one of the world’s best fresh markets, Or Tor Kor is Bangkok’s gourmet food market. The clean and well-lit stalls display top-notch seafood, meat, rice, tea, dried goods and produce, including a sensational array of tropical fruit. But our favourite part is the prepared foods section where you can sit down to sample expertly crafted dishes from all regions of Thailand.
Or Tor Kor Market: Kamphaeng Phet Rd in North Bangkok, accessible directly from Kamphaeng Phet MRT Station; open 06:00-18:00
Pak Khlong Talad
Thailand’s largest cut flower market stretches over an entire old town neighbourhood and includes various pavilions, shophouses and makeshift stalls on the streets in between. Orchids, roses and phuang malai garlands are some of the star attractions, but Pak Khlong Talad started out more than a century ago as a fresh foods market and quite a few vendors still sell fruits, vegetables, spices and Isaan salads served right on the street. Though city authorities pushed hundreds of vendors off the footpaths in 2016, the area still bustles day and night.
Pak Khlong Talad: North end of Chakphet Rd in Rattanakosin, just north of Memorial Bridge and Yodpiman river ferry piers; open 24 hours
One of Bangkok’s oldest and most atmospheric markets springs to life under a pavilion in a quiet corner of the old quarter. Along with a host of vendors who dish out pad Thai, khao ka muu and other staple Thai dishes to communal tables, locally famous shophouse kitchens like Khao Gaeng Rattana and Sor Roong Roj have satisfied the lunch crowd for decades. Nang Loeng also draws praise for its outstanding spread of traditional Thai sweets.
Nang Loeng Market: Corner of Krung Kasem Rd and Nakhon Sawan Rd in Dusit; open Mon-Sat morning to afternoon
Talad Thewet is an authentic neighbourhood wet market within easy reach of Khao San Road. Extending east from the Chao Phraya River alongside Phadung Krung Kasem Canal, the roofed corridor bursts with fresh vegetables, chillies, still-flapping fish, cuts of raw meat, tubs of curry paste and live chickens caged in giant baskets. Stalls spilling out onto Samsen Road are stacked with fresh fruit and typical street food bites like Isaan sausage and grilled sticky rice treats.
Thewet Wet Market: Off Samsen Rd and just east of Thewet river ferry pier in Dusit; open 05:00-17:00
Like something out of early 20th century Shanghai, this single-lane market in Chinatown is stuffed with fish heads, gingko seeds, oolong tea, smoked duck, tea cakes, goji berries, fish maw, pickled cabbage, pig intestines and Teochew grannies sipping herbal drinks. The name, meaning “New Market,” is misleading; Southern Chinese folks have been trading here for some two centuries. Directly across Charoen Krung Road from the market’s northern end is Charoen Chai, a community specialising in paper offerings burned as part of Chinese funerals.
Talad Mai: Soi Itsaranuphap (Yaowarat Soi 6) between Yaowarat Rd and Charoen Krung Rd in Chinatown; open morning to afternoon
This non-touristy East Bangkok wet market is probably the city’s largest after Khlong Toei. From dancing shrimp to red ant eggs and fish of all shapes and sizes, the meat and seafood sections seem to stretch on endlessly. The Thai word kapi means “shrimp paste,” and you’ll find plenty of that alongside bags of rice and piles of veggies and spices used in this or that Thai dish. Paired with the nearby BatCat Museum and lunch at Happy Land Market, it works nicely as part of an offbeat day trip by canal boat.
Bang Kapi Wet Market: Between Lat Phrao Soi 119 and Soi 127 in Bang Kapi, a short walk northeast of The Mall Bang Kapi canal boat pier; open 24 hours
Thonburi’s Phran Non Wet Market is worth a trip if you’re serious about exploring Thai ingredients in a very local atmosphere. Fresh fruit bulges on to the footpaths beside spice vendors displaying mounds of dried fish, chillies, onions, garlic and shallots. The usual displays of offal, live catfish and vegetables are also found along with a few stalls selling prepared food and several hole-in-the-wall eateries across the street. The nearby Bangkok Noi Market, across the street from Thonburi Railway Station, specialises in fruit and is also worth a browse.
Phran Nok Wet Market: Corner of Itsaraphap Rd and Phran Nok Rd and one km west of Wang Lang river ferry pier; open early morning to afternoon
If you don’t mind a trip to the city’s western fringe, this venerable market is about as close as Bangkok gets to the central markets found in most provincial capitals. Dozens of stalls beneath a large pavilion join a bunch of shophouses around Talad Phlu Railway Station to sell fresh produce and Chinese-Thai bites like braised beef noodles, grilled duck and rolled rice noodles with offal in a dark broth (kuay chab). Few travellers make it to Talad Phlu, though a BTS station with the same name opened in 2014 and made it a lot easier to reach.
Talad Phlu: Thoet Thai Rd around Talad Phlu Railway Station and one km north of Talat Phlu BTS Station in Thonburi; open morning to night
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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