The only place to be after dark
Published: 12th June, 2019
Despite covering a fraction of the area of Chiang Mai’s vast Night Bazaar, Chiang Rai’s evening street market makes up for its small size with a lively and friendly atmosphere and plenty of good eats.
With a prime location in the town centre, this miniature version is a fun and convenient spot for an evening stroll and an excellent option for snacks with a beer or even dinner. The offerings are in a similar vein, though reduced in choice and range, to those of its southern neighbour so: hill-tribe handicrafts, bric-a-brac, T-shirts, carved soap candles and so on—but how many Hmong shoulder bags does one really need?
One welcome improvement on the big city’s version is that the Chiang Rai one is entirely pedestrian so you don’t risk being run over by a tuk-tuk crossing from one row of stalls to another. Another aspect we like at the Chiang Rai affair and which makes it a worthwhile evening destination, even if you don’t want to shop, are its excellent food courts. A good alternative to Chiang Rai’s other downtown eating spots and one that’s at least as popular with locals as it is with foreign visitors.
There are two food courts; the posh one—Centre Point—coming with varnished, wooden furniture and waiting staff wearing northern Thai costumes and another more aimed at locals with aluminium chairs and staff in jeans and T-shirts. The former has all the usual Thai and north Thai dishes and a very tasteful, traditional Lanna dance show, (though you may have to put up with a guitarist singing Hotel California between dances), while the latter has live Thai pop and country singers, cheap draught beer, lots of fried insects and exotic nibbles and...you still get the traditional dancers.
Centre Point is obviously a bit pricier but still not bad so you could have a couple of pre-dinner drinks with appetiser in the local section, move to the nearby tourist bit for a more extensive dinner choice then perhaps head back around the corner to catch a local band or a Chiang Rai United game on the big screen TV. (The local team is very popular and, unusually for Thailand—Buriram excepted—you’ll see as many citizens wearing the orange of Chiang Rai United as you will sporting those of EPL clubs.)
Apart from the fried insects and various beer snacks the food section also offers variations on sukiyakis or hot pots which are filling enough, cheap if you just want to stay local for dinner and hugely popular with local diners. Prices for a set vary depending upon which ingredients you choose but a basic set starts at 90 baht for two people and you have the choice of a mild or spicy stock plus free dipping sauce.
The night bazaar’s open every evening from around 17:30 to 18:00, closing down midnight-ish and is located off the main drag, Phaholyothin Road.
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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