Now, as promised a few blogs ago, a little bit about another market – the Chatuchak or Jatujak (JJ) Weekend Market. As the name implies, it opens on Friday evenings from 6 until midnight, and then on Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 6. Basically, it puts any normal flea market, at least any that I have visited, to shame.
It covers over 35 acres and accommodates more than 8000 stalls, not counting the ones that overflow onto the surrounding sidewalks. From clocks to clogs, pets to pottery, fabric to furniture, antiques to…well, you get the idea. You can buy anything and everything within the boundaries of Chatuchak!
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, but rather (1) you just don’t know where to look, (2) you get exhausted from looking, or (3) you become lost and confused, forget about what you’re looking for, and decide to settle on lunch or a snack instead.
That said, you can delight in some fun, inexpensive shopping if you thoroughly, and I emphasize thoroughly, enjoy the thrill of the hunt in a crowded, touristy, usually quite warm environment. Bill and I (who are admittedly crazy) have been three times since moving here – once, just because we hadn’t been in about 12 years, a second time on a hunt for my favorite clothing stall (still there after 12 years), and a third time because we were deranged and offered to look for a flak jacket for a friend (will not mention names). Three times in two months might be a bit extreme, but a one-time visit is a must. I just recently found out that tours to Chatuchak are available, which I find rather depressing. Where’s the adventure in that??!!
Basically, Chatuchak is a sprawling tented market with a main road running through its center. The road is lined with stalls, food carts, etc., and is usually a great place to people watch. It is the only uncovered part of the overall market, however, so it can be quite toasty, leading you right into the arms of the coconut vendors. They will happily machete the top off of a coconut so that you can sip its sweet, but not all that cold, coconut milk. Lots of frozen fruit drink, popsicle, and bubble tea options as well.
As for the edible treats, you can find the usual but oftentimes the unusual as well, like these adorable mini octopuses!
Once you are fortified with food and liquid, you make your move into any section of the market and begin your personal shopping and bartering adventure. Take a deep breath, look confident, pick an aisle, and head straight down it. I dare you to not get distracted by a connecting side aisle that looks even more colorful or interesting! And once you make a turn off of your original aisle, you are certain to continue to make left and right turns every time you get to an “intersection” until you are totally turned around and clueless as to your own whereabouts! Not to worry, though, because you are shoulder to shoulder with dozens of other wide-eyed bargain shoppers experiencing the same dilemma. (I have read that over 200,000 people show up every weekend!)
If you get completely tuckered out, stop off for a revitalizing foot massage (now those are easy to find because they are everywhere!).
Bill’s favorite place to wander is the local art section. He has become a fan of Fuji Joe, who creates metal creatures out of discarded automotive, kitchen, and whatever else parts. Sort of reminds me of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park (which all of you North Carolinians should check out in Wilson), on a much, much smaller scale. Bill is already the proud owner of two of Fuji Joe’s creations, a duck and a fish. He threatens to commission Joe to make a 6-foot tall chicken for our front yard (I’m sure our neighbors will be thrilled!).
More times than not, I end up in the jewelry section, surprise, surprise. There are lots of high-end vendors selling gemstone, jade, and even gold jewelry, but I prefer the more playful, artsy, unique (in other words, cheap) earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. I have no problem looking at antique bangles and baubles, too, it’s just that I am not an expert in authenticity. I am sure there are some prize deals to be made if a buyer is keen or clever. I prefer oohing and aahing rather than actually purchasing anything over 5 or 10 dollars!! I don’t even haggle and still feel like I come out on top.
The vendors are friendly, most of the tourists are polite, and you really can pick up some good souvenirs at good prices. When Chatuchak first opened in 1987 (on the previous king’s 60th birthday), it was considered the best place to find a bargain; after 30 years, cheaper prices can be found at other markets, but Chatuchak still reigns supreme when it comes to the overall bargain-hunting experience.
On the flip side, if you prefer the more generic air-conditioned, ‘civilized’ kind of shopping, there are plenty of malls in Bangkok. In fact, four of the top 20 largest malls in the world are right here, and two are within walking distance of each other! I have been to the malls just as many times as to Chatuchak, and I get lost in them more quickly than in the maze at the market!
Needless to say, from Chatuchak to the brand new IconSiam (worth a Google if you get a chance), Bangkok is certainly a city for hard-core shopping; fortunately, it is also much more than that!