Photo: Freighter on the Mekong.

Markets

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For a small town, Chiang Saen is remarkably well endowed with markets. In addition to the permanent one, a Sunday morning walking street market pops up; a Saturday evening one opens, plus a Mekong riverside one, an unusual animal market and of course the usual collection of souvenir stalls. What’s more, they’re all within a short walk of each other.



The town’s daily market spills out onto the main street

The town’s daily market spills out onto the main street.

The town’s permanent market, open daily from early morning to mid-afternoon, is located to the south side of, but spilling onto, the main street in the same vicinity as the convenience stores and bus stop. This is a fairly classic, small town set up, with local produce, a few fish from the Mekong, a smattering of foodstuffs from nearby Lao and Burma and of course Chinese goods off the boats down at the port. Order from the take-away curry stalls if you wish to eat at your guesthouse, or try one of the sit-down noodle joints.

On Sunday mornings, much larger and stretching all the way down Sai 2, is a walking street market. This popular shopping and browsing spot starts up around 07:00 and winds down late morning and while mostly consisting of household goods, hardware and clothes, does manage to fit in a bit of everything. Expect lots of mass-produced Chinese goods — some straight off the boats, some probably brought down from Mae Sai — but also fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices from surrounding farms, hilltribe villages and even from across the river. Needless to say there’s plenty of food and drink on sale, so you can sip a juice or iced coffee and nibble on some local snacks while wandering up and down this lively market. Very few foreigners make it here, or in the permanent market for that matter, so you’ll be something of a Sunday morning novelty to the friendly locals.

Everything you always wanted in the Sunday Walking Street

Everything you always wanted along the Sunday walking street market.

There’s also a very good Saturday evening market that sets up in town along the central stretch of Rimkhong Road (from around Soi 4 to the corner of the main street), which is closed off to traffic, and sees vendors line the riverside. This is a great spot for a market since you already have the daily food stalls with mats and tables along the riverside pavement anyway. Not surprisingly, this is very popular with the townsfolk and it keeps similar times to the barbecue vendors: late afternoon until late evening, depending upon business and how the weather’s doing. There may not be much you’re tempted to purchase, but it’s great for an evening stroll.

Sunset behind the Saturday evening walking street

Sunset behind the Saturday evening walking street.

Another weekly market where you may not do much shopping but have an interesting time is the Sunday poultry market. (You’re starting to see the theme? Be in Chiang Saen on a weekend!) This caters mostly to Lao buyers and so takes place along the riverbank footpath by the port. On sale are live chickens, ducks and fish. We were surprised to hear that not only is poultry more expensive across the river, but chickens are for some reason hard to come by in Huay Xai. Apparently a standard chook goes for 150 baht in Laos or 120 baht in Chiang Saen so if you’re looking to stock up on a few, it’s obviously worth the trek here. Also — clearly taking some short cuts — were Lao buyers piling up longtail boats full of eggs. We’re not talking about a carton of a dozen, but rather thousands of eggs at a time.

A lot of ’Full English’s for Huay Xai guesthouses

A lot of “Full Englishes” for Huay Xai guesthouses, apparently.

Other than your standard hen, there are plenty of cockerels on sale but these prize-fighting cocks do not go for 120 baht. One local we asked, who was grooming and oiling the feathers of a splendid looking rooster, said he was willing to take 3,000 baht for it. Indeed a highlight of the market for locals, though not for every foreign visitor, is the cockfighting ring at one end of the market.

The fish are also live, so another section of footpath is full of trays and plastic bags full of young fish. These are not fan-tailed guppies or goldfish, but are intended for stocking ponds or breeding tanks since again, the neighbours over the river apparently have a fish shortage too. This also starts up early Sunday, going on to the afternoon, and judging by the extremely friendly vendors is another market that sees few tourists.

Yours for $100

Yours for $100.

In the same area as the poultry market by the port are roadside stalls selling mostly imported Chinese manufactured goods. This seems to go on, to a lesser extent, on a daily basis but is busier at weekends to tie in with the other markets. It’s kind of a mini Mae Sai: tacky but useful if you want a cheap pair of plastic shoes.

The poultry market

The poultry market.

Finally, sightly north of the centre but again on the riverbank, is a collection of permanent stalls selling classic tourist tat. Here you’ll find your usual Golden Triangle T-shirts, flowery skirts, Chiang Rai tea and so on. In this case, it’s more of a mini Sob Ruak than Mae Sai. Next to the stalls is a small string of riverside eateries.

To re-cap, with all time approximate only:

Permanent market: South side of main street; daily 06:00-late afternoon.
Walking street: Sai 2; Sundays 07:00-12:00.
Evening walking street: Rimkhong Rd, from soi 3 to main street; Saturdays 16:00-22:00.
Poultry and fish market: Rimkhong Rd by port; Sundays 07:00-16:00.
Chinese market: Rimkhong Rd by port; daily but more on Sundays 08:00-afternoon.
Souvenir market: Rimkhong Rd, opposite Soi 1; daily 08:00-20:00.


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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chiang Saen.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Chiang Saen.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Chiang Saen.
 Read up on how to get to Chiang Saen, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
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 Planning on riding a scooter in Chiang Saen? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Thailand with Tourradar.




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