We have a small summer night market at home in Vancouver but the size and scale of the markets in Bangkok was on another level. So it was a completely new experience to spend the day or evening at one of Bangkok’s markets shopping for treasures and testing out a variety of unfamiliar street food. Each market we visited provided a different experience and was unique in its own way. Chatuchak had the most variety in goods to buy, Ratchada Rot Fai was the trendiest, Asiatique felt more modern and Chinatown had the best street food. Each of the markets we visited in Bangkok were all easily accessible by BTS Skytrain or MRT Subway.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is not only the largest market in Bangkok but it is one of the largest markets in Asia. It is so large that it is organized in sections for the types of goods being sold. There are sections for clothing, household goods, plants, and most importantly, food. There was no way we would be able to see the entire market, so we focused on a few smaller areas as we browsed the stalls for souvenirs to take home to our families and worked up our hunger for some street food.
Rather than having one big meal, we preferred to snack our way through the food section, trying a few items here and there. We tried spring rolls, mango sticky rice, and some cold and refreshing Thai iced tea, which was our best weapon against the mid-day heat.
- You can find almost anything to purchase at the Chatuchak Weekend Market including animals. We purposely steered clear of the pet section of the market as we had heard that the animals are kept in less than ideal conditions. Some vendors are also known for trading in illegal wildlife.
- If your feet get tired from shopping in this huge market and the heat becomes unbearable, stop by one of the many air-conditioned massage rooms for a foot massage. These rooms are spread throughout the market.
- By MRT Subway – Exit 3 of Chatuchak Park MRT subway station on the MRT blue line.
- By BTS Skytrain – Mo Chit BTS skytrain station on the BTS light green Sukhumvit line.
- Once at the market, there are free maps available from the information kiosks which outline the different sections of the market.
When to Go:
- Fridays – 6pm to midnight
- Saturdays and Sundays – 9am to 6pm
Ratchada Rot Fai Train Night Market
Not to be mistaken for the original Talat Rot Fai Train night market which is farther outside of central Bangkok, the Ratchada Rot Fai night market is a very popular weekend market right right on the MRT subway line. The sheer volume of people leaving the MRT subway station for the Ratchada Rot Fai Train night market on a Friday evening was a sign of what was to come. Very popular on a Friday night with young locals as wells as families and tourists, the market has the usual clothing and souvenir stalls but it is also where you go to find trendier items that you won’t find elsewhere.
Of course there is a whole section with all types of street food. We tried grilled squid, pork skewers and dessert roti, and stayed refreshed with both mango and coconut smoothies. The market also has an area with bars and live music and a few unusual sights, such as a barber shop.
- By MRT Subway – Thailand Cultural Centre MRT subway station on the MRT blue line.
When to Go:
- Thursdays to Sundays – 5pm to midnight
Asiatique Riverfront Market
We arrived at the ASIATIQUE Riverfront Market via the free shuttle boat from Saphan Taksin BTS skytrain station just as the sun was setting and we were rewarded with incredible pastel purple skies over the river and Bangkok skyline. The feeling of this market was different than all of the other markets we visited in Bangkok as it had a much more high-end feel. ASIATIQUE has plenty of stalls selling souvenirs and T-shirts and an area with a variety of street food just like the other markets. However it also had waterfront restaurants with patios that wouldn’t have been out of place in a big American city such as San Francisco. It had two large theatres with live performances of Muay Thai Boxing and a Cabaret show. There were also carnival rides including a haunted house, merry-go-round and Ferris wheel. It seemed as though the more polished look of this market also came with higher prices, especially if you weren’t up for negotiating. For first time visitors to Bangkok this may be a good introduction to night markets with fewer crowds than Ratchada Rot Fai train market or Chinatown.
- By BTS Skytrain – From Saphan Taksin BTS skytrain station on the BTS Silom line, it is a short walk to pier where there is a free shuttle boat to Asiatique. The shuttle boats come every 30 minutes or so and are very busy.
When to Go:
- Everyday – 4pm to midnight
While technically not a night market, this neighbourhood in Bangkok comes alive in the evenings with the sights and sounds of local chefs setting up their street stalls for the hungry crowds. From the moment we exited the Wat Mangkon MRT subway station in the late afternoon this area was bustling and only got busier as the evening progressed. Chinatown is popular with locals and tourists for good reason…some of the best and most authentic street food in the city.
We joined a Chinatown street food tour with A Chef’s Tour to get an insiders view of the variety of delicious food on offer. Without our tour guides I’m sure we never would have found some of the amazing street food that was tucked away in little corners and alleyways. We tried everything from chicken satay to chive dumplings, worker’s noodles to pork hock before finishing off with the most delicious mango sticky rice and Chinese donuts.
Besides all the delicious foods we tried in Chinatown, my favourite part was walking along the narrow streets and back alleys discovering all types of specialty shops selling everything from tea to dried fish and paper offerings (joss paper) for deceased relatives.
We finished off our night in Chinatown with some (expensive) gin cocktails at one of the trendy bars popular with expats.
- By MRT Subway – Wat Mangkon MRT subway station on the MRT blue line.
When to Go:
- Anytime, but most of the street food stalls start setting up in the evenings around 5pm.
All the floating markets in Bangkok are far out of the centre of the city and are generally not accessible by public transportation. For that reason, we decided to skip the floating markets on this trip to Bangkok. The floating markets can be reached by joining a tour, or by hiring a private taxi or van. Many of the taxi drivers outside our hotel in Sukhumvit offered package tours to the floating markets but I cannot vouch for the quality or authenticity of their tours.
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
- Amphawa Floating Market
- Khlom Lat Mayom Floating Market
- Taling Chan Floating Market