At times, it seems that everyone in Thailand is a merchant. As you travel the streets (Sois) of the city, you see push carts in just about every possible location. From these carts, vendors cook food and sell fresh fruits and vegetables, sliced fruits, drinks, clothing, toys, lotions, etc. These stands are open every day from early in the morning (providing breakfast to many), through the day, and late into the evening. Off the streets, there are even more markets where people sell food and other goods, e.g., furniture, household goods, rice, eggs, spices, etc., from more permanent stands.
In many cities throughout Thailand, there are special markets that are open only on certain days, nights or weekends. Chatuchak (or Jatujak — English spellings are purely phonetic so variations are common) is one of these — it is open only on Saturday and Sunday when thousands upon thousands of people, Thais and tourists alike, come to buy from thousands of vendors.
Chatuchak is easily accessible — it is located at one of the stops on the Bangkok subway and it is an easy five-minute walk from the last stop on the SkyTrain’s Sukhumvit line (Mo Chit Station.) The market covers 35 acres and there are thousands of vendors selling their wares from covered stalls and in the open air between the buildings. I did see some locations that were empty (see picture on left), so if you have that entrepreneurial spirit and only want to work weekends, there seems to be an opportunity for you.
With a venue this large, it is pretty easy to get lost. Like much of Thailand, the market has a certain organized chaos to it. Shoppers will find similar products clustered in different portions of the marketplace, e.g., art is in one building, pets and live animals are in another, antiques in yet another, etc.
The market has both an outer and an inner ring of covered stalls. It is divided into 27 zones that are well-labeled and maps are available that indicate where certain types of goods can be found. On one map legend that I saw (lower right corner in picture at left), the bright blue area indicates where fighting cocks were supposed to be for sale; I was unable to locate them, however, so a return visit will be in order.
There are a number of on-site logistics companies that will take care of the packing, customs, and paperwork required to ship purchases abroad. So with that concern out of the way, feel free to shop until you drop.
As you might be able to tell from the map above, there are major walkways into the covered sections of the market as well as five to seven walkways that run perpendicular to the main ones. It was fun to wander around but easy to get lost (at least for me!) In the middle of the market is a large clock tower and it is a point of reference that can be seen once outside the covered marketplace. The BTS SkyTrain tracks are also visible from certain parts of the market and this also helps to orient oneself.
The temperature today was in the low 90s but the sun was pretty intense. Inside the market, however, ambient temperatures were probably 10-15 degrees cooler even without air conditioning.
Outside the covered structures, there were people making and selling freeze pops. They poured soda (Coke or Sprite) or flavored waters into cylindrical molds that were suspended in an ice water bath and then inserted sticks into the filled cylinders (see picture below). Despite the high outside temperatures, it wasn’t long before the liquid had frozen solid. I think that the water bath must contain salt or alcohol so that it can remain liquid at a temperature below 32 degrees; if not, I really don’t understand the physics of how these freeze pops can be made.
From what I could see, you could buy just about anything that you wanted including casual shoes and sandals, jeans, t-shirts, fancier clothing, silk, art, furniture, jewelry, ceramics and tableware, pets and other live animals, food, toys, souvenirs, antiques, etc. There were not as many brand names as I had expected, but the ones that I did see were at prices that indicated that none were genuine.
Follow Up to Previous Posts
Elections: The Pheu Thai party won an outright majority of seats (265 of 500) in the July 3rd election, and Yingluck Shinawatra is the first female prime minister of Thailand. Despite having a clear majority, Pheu Thai is forming a coalition government with four other parties. The coalition government will thus contain 299 of the 500 members. With 159 seats, the Democrat party will be the main opposition.
The military seems to have accepted the election results and everything is peaceful. I expect that the next potential flashpoint will be when Yingluck Shinawatra and the Pheu Thai party attempt to put through an amnesty that lets Thaksin Shinawatra back into the country.
As for the campaign posters, they are all gone from the streets — they pretty much disappeared as quickly as they had originally appeared.
Ten Percent: I’m apparently not the only person to have noticed the decline (or lack) of colorful cars, particularly in Asia. My friend Tom O’Keefe sent me a link to a Wall Street Journal article published after my blog post that reports on new car buyers’ color preferences throughout the world. You can read the article at:
Thanks Tom, and It’s a great day to be a Cub!
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2011 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.