Get ready to shop
Chiang Mai’s huge and long-standing night bazaar is the best one-stop shop in town to pick up cheap souvenirs and a broad range of items.
Chiang Mai’s famous night bazaar is one of the city’s prime evening attractions and one of Thailand’s oldest evening street markets. Such bazaars, night markets or “walking streets”, where souvenir, handicraft and food stalls line footpaths, these days feature of many Thai towns, but Chiang Mai’s was the first outside of Bangkok. The city now also has Saturday and Sunday walking street markets in addition to this nightly bazaar.
Originally started up by a few local Chinese-Thai merchants—the market lies close to Chiang Mai’s Chinatown—as a few pavement stalls along Chang Klan Road, it has expanded considerably over the years. It now encompasses several city blocks, dedicated shopping malls, adjacent markets and outdoor food courts. The main axis is still on Chang Klan Road, running south from Thapae Road and culminating at the huge Panthip Plaza (an electronics and IT mall), at the junction with Sridonchai, around a kilometre distant.
While connecting areas such as Anusarn Market are pedestrianised, the main strip along Chang Klan is not a designated walking street, and a steady traffic flow separates the roadside stalls on each footpath. Coach loads of Chinese tourists and speeding tuk tuks fill up the road between.
This is the market’s major disadvantage. Overflowing displays from the permanent shops on one side of the footpath and kerbside stalls on the other leaves a very narrow walking space between. If a couple in front of you stop to peruse rows of hanging Hmong handbags then things can back up for metres. A kilometre of weaving between shoulder-to-shoulder shoppers is an acquired taste. Also bear in mind that, with a few exceptions, you’ll see the same stuff over and over again.
Browsing fatigue (or browsing rage for the less patient) can set in quickly and only shoppers with the patience of a proverbial saint can do the entire strip. Loi Kroh Road with its cafes, bars and restaurants conveniently splits the market into two, so starting or finishing at that junction, and doing either the southern or northern section only, makes it more manageable. Alternatively more relaxed, and traffic-free, time can be had in one of the adjacent sections such as Kalare or particularly Anusarn, just north and south of the Loi Kroh intersection respectively.
These also have the advantage of plentiful cafes, bars and restaurants with terraces so you can take a refreshment break or settle into one of the numerous footpath deckchairs for a foot massage. Small but busy mall-type complexes such as the Vieng Ping Night Bazaar are also perhaps more conducive to serious shopping. Its three floors of handicrafts, including some decent original artwork, is located on Chang Klan immediately to the north of the central intersection. (Thankfully, tuk tuks can’t fit up the stairs.)
Goods on display are typical of any Thai night market. Think Beer Chang T-shirts, replica football shirts, pirated DVDs, carved soap dishes, designer lampshades, elephant statues, jewellery, Chinese electrical goods, hilltribe bags, bed linens and so on. Some local flourishes such as silverware and Hmong embroidery can also be found.
There is a vast choice and if you have specific items in mind and can zap the rest it makes for excellent shopping, but for general roaming or browsing we prefer the slightly more laidback walking street markets.
While it is expected to haggle (politely) with vendors, do respect prices if they are written down on signs or inside the smarter shops. IAsk for a small discount at these places only when purchasing multiple items.
Though the main attraction of the night bazaar is the shopping, this area is also the focus for much of the city’s nightlife. At the main intersection, the usual Western junk food and coffee chains predominate, but strips such as Anusarn and Kalare offer a wide range of local and foreign food and some excellent bars and pubs. The huge new food centre Ploen Ruedee towards the northern end of Chiang Klan offers drinks, coffees and pretty much any food you can think of though at slightly more inflated prices than elsewhere.
The market is centred along Chiang Klan Road between Thapae and Sridonchai Roads, spreading into adjacent streets. It’s a 10-minute walk down either Thapae or Loi Kroh Road. Don’t pay more than 60 baht or so for a tuk tuk from say Thapae Gate.
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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