We can’t have any pretensions at comprehensive Chiang Mai coverage without mentioning what is the city’s largest market: Worarot. Worarot refers to a entire downtown district of the city, spreading out on both sides of Chang Moi Road and covering an area roughly between Ratchawong, Tha Pae Road and the River. Worarot (or Warorot) market itself is known in the local dialect as Kat Luang, or big market, but the area is actually a complex of covered and street markets. This area is also traditionally Chiang Mai’s Chinatown.
To the north of Chang Moi Road is a labyrinth of narrow lanes housing wholesale shops and vendors, with not too much of particular interest for casual visitors but with a strong Chinese feel to them. Between Chang Moi Tat Mai and Kuang Mane roads, is a Hmong and hill-tribe market, while facing the River Ping is the photogenic flower market backing on to the Lam Yai covered market. Kind of in the middle of all this — and surrounding streets are also full of stalls and ambulant vendors of all description as well — is the Worarot covered market itself.
The two covered markets, Worarot and Lam Yai, are similar three-storey buildings situated on either side of Wichayanon and linked by a footbridge. The contents are fairly similar too, being mostly foodstuffs — fresh and dried produce — on the ground floors and clothes and household goods on the upper two floors. The centre is open so you can look down on the ground floor from either of the two upper-storey walkways or mezzanines, which provides some good photo opps.
Foodstuffs cover everything from fruit and veg to the obligatory fried insects and dried produce from every part of the kingdom, as well as neighbouring countries such as Burma and China. There are also plenty of noodle and rice stalls so it’s an interesting place to grab a snack too.
The two covered markets are open from around 06:00 to 18:00 but there’s almost 24-hour action in the adjacent streets, plus a popular local night market around Chang Moi too. Don’t expect pirated DVDs and souvenir T-shirts, but authentic it certainly is. This is a fascinating area to explore and for a rundown on the heritage aspect of this Chiang Mai institution and fears for future development check out this excellent article.
By Mark Ord.
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