The quintessential Chiang Mai market
Published/Last edited or updated: 30th July, 2017
Don Phayam market is a bit out of the way but well worth the trip if you’d like to visit the quintessential Chiang Mai market.
Placed at the junction of Suthep and Canal Roads, just outside the northwestern corner of the Old City, Don Phayam market is well worth seeking out if wanting to experience an outstanding and still very typical northern Thai fresh food market. Take all the Thai market cliches beloved of guide books and tour programmes: bustling, colourful, lively, traditional, vibrant, and you’ve got Talaat Don (sometimes written Ton) Phayam. Add lashings of exotic fruit, vegetables and herbs, a smattering of fried insects, and it ticks all the market boxes.
Don Phayam is a small market, and only takes a few minutes to walk around, but it does make a perfect break on your way to or from Wat Umong, or a slight detour if travelling to or from Chiang Mai aquarium or even Doi Suthep. Despite all the awesome northern delicacies on display though, there isn’t actually anywhere to sit and eat in the market itself, though there is a very good juice and coffee shop. Perhaps see it as an opportunity to stock up and have a picnic elsewhere.
You’ll see mountains of pork scratchings, beloved of north Thais and Brits alike, fried in the largest woks you’ll ever see, along with mounds of various nam phrik (chilli dips) to accompany them. Freshly grilled, sizzling Chiang Mai sausage is sold by the foot in mild, medium, spicy or lemongrass flavours, along with all your favourite insects: worms, beetles and ants.
Don Phayam’s also a good spot to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables—some familiar, some not—while in one corner of the market you’ll find hilltribe women selling forest products such as mushrooms and orchids.
The range of fruit and vegetables in Chiang Mai markets is particularly impressive since, while all the regular, tropical crops—mangos, bananas, papayas and so on—are grown in the lowlands and valleys, the cool highlands around the city also support many of the more temperate products, familiar to Westerners but exotic to Thais, such as strawberries, grapes and cherries.
In addition you’ll find flowers, a meat and fish section, plus the usual mobile phone, bric-a-brac and household goods stalls around the edges.
The market kicks off before day break and rounds up around sunset though a few noodle stalls continue well into the evening.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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