Although Chiang Mai’s Saturday Walking Street Market started up around the same period as the Sunday one, for some reason it’s never really caught on in the same way.
The Sunday one down Ratchadamnoen Rd is laid out right through the centre of the old town, within spitting distance of most hotels and guesthouses and connecting two of the town’s focal points, Wat Pra Sing and Tha Pae Gate. But the Saturday one’s not too far either: Starting at the southern moat opposite the old town, the market stretches the length of Wualai Rd — the market is more often known to locals as Wualai Market). It meets up with Thipanet Rd, so it’s just a 10-minute walk from Tha Pae.
Wualai is certainly considerably smaller than the Sunday Market, but a lot less busy as well and with a much more chilled out feel to it. You’ll find pretty much the same stuff for sale — most vendors do both markets – except only one or two stalls sell hilltribe bags, for instance rather than 22 like at Ratchadamnoen. Because fewer visitors are browser, you may also be able to pick up items a bit cheaper too.
Wualai Rd is a lot less built up than Ratchadamnoen, but there are still a few cafes to take breaks at and you’ll even see some nice old teak buildings that aren’t done up as coffee shops or boutique guesthouses. (Wualai Rd is the old silver-making district of Chiang Mai and you’ll still see a few traditional silver workshops around.) As per the Sunday version you’ll find plenty of tasty street food but Wualai even has a little night/food market set up around the Soi 3 section, which is a very welcome addition.
Stallholders begin spreading their wares out around 16:30 and start folding up from 10 onwards. While the market’s not so popular and it is smaller, it can still get pretty busy mid-evening, so it’s still worth turning up early.
Overall, if we had to choose between the two, we’d go shopping (and eating) at the Saturday Walking Street, but do check out both if you’ve time.
By Mark Ord.