Want to do some shopping in Bangkok? Try Chatuchak, the largest weekend market in the world, with 15,000 stalls spread over 35 acres.
Shopping, like whisky, has been a true-blue mood elevator for most people. So how do you gauge the mood of the vast populace swooping down in the weekends to a seemingly unending market with almost anything and everything on offer? We are talking about Chatuchak in Bangkok, the largest weekend market in the world and the mood out there is simply festive. A huge shopping extravaganza with 15,000 stalls spanning across 35 acres with 200,000 to 300,000 daily visitors on an average, this would certainly take your breath away!
A different crowd
Come Saturday morning, it is not the smartly-dressed regular office goers but fancily-clad tourists who throng the Sukhumvit line of Bangkok's sparkling Metro, christened as the Sky Train. As the Sky Train terminates at Mo Chit station just at the outskirts of Bangkok, one simply needs to follow the swelling crowd going down to Chatuchak weekend market. Chatuchak is an experience, quite a heady one though it plays havoc on all your senses! It confronts you with a riot of colours, charms you with the most intricately carved ornate designs and titillates your palate with the aroma of freshly-prepared Thai delicacies. Chatuchak would test your tethers, your limits on how much you can explore…
So what exactly would you like to buy in Chatuchak? Woodcarvings, bamboo, glass and ceramics, brass and pewter, textiles and garments, jewellery, leather made-ups…take your pick! Buddha statuettes are ubiquitous in the standing, reclining, all-too-famous posture of practising penance and also laughing heartily. Brass and bronze castings of Thai danseuses, musicians, gods, goddesses and other mythological characters are truly a collector's delight. Wind chimes made of bamboo, wooden masks and the toad which croaks when a wooden pin is rolled down its back are good buys. The painstaking Thai workmanship and their obsession with the finer details have also redefined the art of making artificial flowers.
Thai people are really good at their handicraft, which has been honed to perfection with the infusion of modern design and technique. But two products which truly establish the Thai finesse are basketry and ceramics. Baskets for seemingly every purpose are on offer; be it the fashionable magazine holder to the mundane storage of vegetables. Ladies' purses and bags, mostly made from dyed reeds with excellent weave patterns could be head turners. The prices of all the handmades, with the finest of carvings and paintings are really affordable and if one can skilfully bargain, prices of most items drop by about 30 per cent.
Hot and tasty
After trudging along the lanes and by-lanes of the market, we needed a break from the scorching sun. We had earned for ourselves a good lunch. We spotted the ‘Toh-Plue' restaurant, right on the main thoroughfare of the market which even had a live English band. We opted for two mini meal combos of roasted duck with rice noodles and fried rice with squid. It took a little time but Toh-Plue ensured that the items ordered by us were freshly prepared with the right spices and served it piping hot for us to savour. The food was very affordable with our lunch bill totalling less than THB 120. To appease all the foodies, Chatuchak does boast of an equally grand culinary fare. Innumerable eateries dot the market at comfortable intervals with up-market, air-conditioned dining facilities to large open-air food courts.
After lunch, while asking directions from people for the aquarium fishes, we discovered the market dedicated to pets. Going by the South-East Asian obsession for ornamental fishes, the huge collection of Oscars, Discus, Cichlids, Gold fishes, Koi carps, Siamese fighters was quite understandable. The pups and kittens on offer were too many: From Pekinese to Pugs, German shepherds to Golden retrievers and the famed Siamese cats, the choice was wild. But I was not exactly prepared for the shops specialising in exotic pets: snakes and lizards. The glass boxes had large green tree pythons, Bayaks and many such wriggly species! And the variety of lizards like chameleons, geckos and monitor lizards on display was too eerie. We also saw ferrets, mongoose and porcupines, all too eager to be picked up as pets.
No description of Chatuchak can be complete without mentioning its tourist-friendly facilities. A tourist has to probably walk just about 50 metres to locate an ATM or currency converter. And to make the shopping a truly seamless experience, there are over 15 agencies which deftly pack your large and weighty wares and forward them to your address with care by air or ocean freight, all for the right fee! So do not bother to lug around the huge brass danseuse, she would reach your home as you get back after the vacation.