Suitcase and World: The Markets of Bangkok.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Markets of Bangkok.

Floating Market.
(Photo by By Georgie Pauwels.  Licensed under CC by 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.)
We're lucky that we'll be in Bangkok over a weekend.  That means we get to explore the famed floating markets that are open on Saturday and Sunday.

This is Ayşe's first trip to Asia so the markets will definitely be fascinating to her.  Everything is going to be exotic to her.  Although Bro and I have been to many a market in Asia, they are always interesting places to us and we very much feel at home in them.

All three of us absolutely love visiting markets so I decided to set aside one night to check out a night market and one weekend day to check out one of Bangkok's iconic floating markets.

For night markets, two good choices for us are Chatuchak Market and Patpong Market mainly because they are both easily accessible via either the sky train (BTS) or subway (MTR).

Chatuchak Market. 
(Photo by edwin11_79. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.)
Chatuchak Market, located on Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok, is the largest market in Thailand and is the city's most popular weekend market. Also known as JJ Market, Chatuchak offers more than 8000 stalls, separated into 27 sections that sell nine kinds of goods: plants, antiques, pets, food and drinks, fresh and dry food, ceramics, furniture and home decoration, clothes, and books.

Chatuchak sounds more like an old city market that I'm not sure will be all that appealing to us to spend a weekend day here but it could be a good place to come for the Friday night market though several of the weekend sections (e.g., plants and pets are) not open.  We can stroll a bit and then find a place nearby to grab dinner.  I thnk my brother and I can eat from the street vendors but I'm not sure about Ayşe.  I may snack on the street and leave dinner to a proper restaurant.
Chatuchak Market is open on Fridays 9pm-3am and can be reached by taking either the sky train (BTS) to Mo Chit Station or the subway (MRT) to Kampheng Phet Station.

Patpong Night Market (Photo from Asia Singapore)
Patpong Night Market is the most popular night market in Bangkok, especially among tourists as it's located near the area where all the popular hotels are located.  At Patpong, there are plenty of vendors selling souvenirs, shirts and all things Thai that a tourist would want to bring home.  The market just happens to be located in Bangkok’s notorious red light district so we can expect to see and be approached by people advertising x-rated shows, go-go bars and special massages or x-rated DVDs.  I expect we'll be approached non-stop!  We'll only be there to shop and, that is, but I'd better set Ayşe's and Bro's expectations in advance so they won't be shocked when we're walking about.

Patpong is open from 6pm to 1am daily and can be reached via the BTS to the Sala Daeng Station.

Chinatown.  Bro and I arrive into Bangkok around midday but Ayşe won't arrive until almost 12 hours later.  I don't want her to miss out on much but we still need to fill our time so I'm thinking Bro and I can head to Yaowarat Road which is in the heart of Bangkok's Chinatown.  I don't she'll miss out on much.

Wat Taimit. 
Photo by Ddalbiez. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons.
The Chinese community in Bangkok pre-dates the founding of the Thai capital in the city. Indeed, the land where the Grand Palace is today was originally a community of Chinese traders. When King Rama I decided to establish the capital on the site of the village of Bangkok, he asked the traders to move. They settled to the east of the new city, along the river. It may be hard to believe today, but the narrow Sampaeng Lane, which isn't even big enough for a car, was once Chinatown's main street.

In 1902, the foreign community, who settled on the river further east of Chinatown, petitioned the king for a larger road. Yaowarat Road was built as a result.

Bangkok's Chinatown is full of tiny alleyways to get lost in, markets, temples - a great place to just walk about and explore. Highlights include the giant Wat Traimit Temple with its 700 year old 5.5 ton Buddha image, the largest in the world and Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, Chinatown's busiest temple.

Unfortunately, Chinese New Year will already be over so I don't expect to see any festivities taking place or even special foods being served.  Nonetheless, it'll be interesting to wander the old shophouse lanes, explore the Sampeng Lane alley market and the Trok Itsaranuphap wet market and perhaps grab an early dinner at one of the outdoor seafood restaurants on the corner of Yaowarat and Soi Padungdao.

The easiest way to reach Chinatown is by boat.  Disembark at Ratchawong Pier and walk up Ratchawong Road to Sampaeng Lane or Yaowarat Road.  On the way back to our apartment, we can board the boat at the  Memorial Bridge Pier which is right at the flower market - I am sure that Bro will want to see the orchids!

Alternatively, we can take the subway to Hua Lampong Station and from there, walk to Wat Traimit.  I think I'd rather do the boat....just for a change.

Undoubtedly, the iconic markets in and around Bangkok are the floating markets.  Before the mid 20th century, rivers and canals were the main way to travel in Thailand. Farmers would haul their goods by boat to trade with other farmers and merchants from the cities. As such, the floating market was a natural extension of an agricultural lifestyle centered around the waterways.

These days, the waterways are no longer relied upon for commercial transportation but the floating markets still exist.  Wherever there is a weekend floating market there is food, and where there is food, there is a crowd. But some markets have become so popular they just doesn't feel authentic Thai anymore... they have simply turned into a photo opportunity.  But it's undeniable that the floating markets are irresistible to both tourists and Thai people alike and we would definitely be remiss if we didn't go to at least which one.  But, which one to go to?

I'll start with which one I won't go to. Given that I would prefer to avoid the tourist trap so I am striking the most popular floating market, Damoen Saduak, from our list of potential floating markets to visit.

Amphawa Floating Market.  (Photo from
Amphawa Floating Market, located in the small town of the same name, tops my list of floating markets to visit.  The canal-side way of life in Amphawa takes place along the waterfront walkways of Amphawa Canal, a small tributary of the Mae Khlong River.  While commercially developed, the old wooden houses and shopfronts retain some of their original charm.

From all that I read, Amphawa Market is still very much an authentic Thai market - farmers, dressed in traditional clothing, come here to sell their produce.  It'll be a lot of fun exploring the market and I will definitely be snacking as I walk! :-)
Amphawa is also town with history.  In the Ayutthaya Period, Amphawa was called Khwaeng Bang Chang, a small community that flourished in agriculture and trade. Sources have confirmed the existence of a market here since the reign of King Prasat Thong in the mid 17th century. In 1766, King Rama II was born in Amphawa, his mother's hometown, as his father was ruling the town of Ratchaburi. So, in addition to the market, there are historic sights to be seen;  I think we can spend a whole day here.  

The Amphawa Market is an afternoon  market so we can do a bit of sightseeing in the morning and then spend the afternoon exploring the market.  Of course, we can grab our lunch there!

A popular activity is to take a boat ride through the canals so if we can figure out how to do this, we should go for a ride.

Amphawa is located about 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Bangkok and getting there could be a challenge (which I know we can easily take on).  I found some very helpful directions on a blog called, "the whole world is a playground".  I've printed out the relevant pages, ready for us to use!

Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market. (Photo from TripAdvisor)

Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market is also on the list of potential  markets to visit.  It's also located close to Bangkok and Thaling Chan so if we go to one, we can go to both places.  If we're feeling lazy, we can just check out these two markets instead of trekking all the way out to Amphawa.

Khlong Lat Mayom  is accessible by taxi (about 150 baht, one way, negotiable fare) from either the Wongwian Yai BTS Station or the Bang Wa BTS station.  Khlong Lat Mayom is open from 9am to 4:30pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

I already know that I'm really going to enjoy exploring the markets. I plan to bring along my extra tote as I am 150% certain that Bro will buy fruit....a lot of fruit.  As for me, I see a lot of snacking in my future.  I just don't know if I'm going to eat first, take photos first or walk first or try and do all three at the same time!