Chatuchak Market Bangkok is also know as “JJ Market” and “Jatuka Market” by the locals so if you decide to get there by Tuk Tuk / taxi cab then you may want to ask for it that way.
It is touted as the “World’s Largest Market” with a stall list running to over 15,000 pitches, sprawling across 38 acres and being divided into 27 sections. As a market enthusiast myself I had to go to for a visit myself.
The market has become a “must stop” for tourists coming to Bangkok, but from what I saw it is still heavily used by locals for their regular shopping [unlike some of the London Markets I’ve covered in the past]. It attracts over 200,000 per day on the weekends and I can 100% attest to this number as there were droves of people flocking in all day.
When The Market Opens & How To Get There
Opening Hours Of Weekend Chatuchak Market
As it is a weekend market, the opening times are as follows:
- Friday: 6am – 6pm (wholesale day)
- Saturday: 6am – 6pm
- Sunday: 6am – 6pm
Note: the “Plants & Flowers” section of the market is also open on Wed – Thur from 6am – 6pm.
We got there at 10am on a Saturday, and some of the stalls were still finalizing set-up, so unless you have some serious jetlag, I’d say getting there after 9am is your best bet. The market is not focused on antiques where the “early bird catches the worm,” so no need to rush or have FOMO!
How To Get There
You can click this link to see a Google.co.th map and get directions from your location.
We arrived on the BTS Sukhumvit Line [aka Sky Train] and got off at Mo Chit station.
You can see the route map here for the train. The cost from Asok station [the heart of the business district by Terminal 21 mall] was 42 baht, and was very quick.
Once off the train follow the crowds back south towards the market.
If however you’re not on / near the train line, the best way to get there is by tuk tuk. Ask for a price before you get on and make sure you ask for a ride with “NO STOPS” as “stops” may include anything from a tailor shop to a go-go bar, where the driver shall get a commission for taking you there!
If a driver quotes for example 600 baht, shoot back at 200 baht, and settle around 300 baht. This hard bartering shall come in handy while at the market!
From our several tuk tuk trips thus far you should be able get a roughly 10 baht per minute ride which seems to be pretty fair! [But who knows, we might be getting the westerner price. Any local insights and comments below shall be welcomed]
Chatuchak Market Map & “Sections”
With 38 acres to explore and 27 sections, it is an impossible task to see it all in one day!
I’d recommend allotting at least half a day, that being a late morning and early afternoon so you can get lunch while you’re there.
You can see the market’s official site and map here.
It is worth noting that I’m not too convinced of the “sections” but is it a loose guide of where to find certain items.
If you are however going by sections, you can see them above the isles and alleyways [see below].
What You’ll Find Among The Over 15,000 Stalls
I’ve read from different sources that there are anywhere from 8,000 – 15,000 [with 15,000 being the official number stated on the chatuchak.org website] different market stalls…all I know is that either number is huge.
Before going to the Chatuchak Market I thought that Camden Market in London was pretty big, but it can’t be more than a third of the size.
Being a former / current wholesale market and current tourist attraction, there is a very wide spectrum of goods for sale.
Items range from basic home-wears to “I Love Thailand” tat. Overall the mix is eclectic, diverse, and in many cases unique. I would however note it’s not jam packed full of antiques or artisans making truly unique items (excluding the small artistic section mentioned below).
As stated above it is still used by many regular Thai’s as their shopping center and should thus be expected to have general wears. From the markets office site they state that 70% of the daily 200,000 visitors are local residents of Bangkok.
It’s worth noting that some sections of the market looked abandoned, especially the smaller side shoots of the main inner sections. It is not hard to guess why the market may be under pressure from all the malls that are sprouting up throughout Bangkok like the Terminal 21 mall located near our hotel (which sadly feels like you could be in any other USA mall, with big brands like H&M, American Eagle, Starbucks, etc..)
Hopefully in the medium / long run the market can have a renaissance like some of the London markets and tailor to a more artisan crowd… Only time shall tell!
For me this abandonment did not detract from the overall and somewhat overwhelming experience of the market. I would not let it discourage you from entering the inner belly of the beast, as that’s where we found some of the best items and deals.
The outer ring road and main inner sections are quite reserved / normal for a large inner city market, but the fun begins in the middle with the more cramped quarters, guys driving around on mopeds [see picture below], and lots of general hustle and bustle.
As always I like to highlight some more unique finds and vendors at the markets I travel to.
As you’d expect with the sheer size of the place there were many possible stories to tell. Only being in Bangkok for 4 days, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to really get “stuck in” and interact with the stall workers / owners.
Custom Passport Covers
With all the markets I’ve been to around the world, I’ve never seen this concept of making customized passport covers.
[Trevor Guilday, picking his passport options]
You get the following options:
- Passport cover itself (must be well over 100 options)
- Metal adornment (trinkets such as planes, cats, etc…)
- Name stamped into a leather strip (we chose not to do this)
All of this costing a flat 100 baht (about $3 UDS!!!).
There were at last three vendors selling them, each with the same base cover leathers and patterns, but each seemed to have slightly different adornment options.
They are not overly high quality, but for 100 baht I don’t think you can go wrong for yourself or as a nice gift. I expect it’s only a matter of time before I see this in NYC / London, and I bet not below $10 – 15.
I always try to find something locally made / specific to the country visited. This market visit was no different.
There didn’t seem to be too many things “Made In Thailand,” but I did run across several nice silk sellers who claimed they were made in Thailand.
I picked out a couple as gifts for people back home, with a nice elephant motif. The animal is seen everywhere across the city as it’s a symbol of Thailand and further has religious connections to Buddhism, so thought it was an ideal choice.
The local artists section was small (I would estimate around 25 – 35 stalls) but did pack a quality punch to the market.
Works ranged from paintings to sculpture and even a bust of Gene Simmons made entirely of different colored straws!
Getting Food At The Market
As you’d expect with 38 acres of sprawling market, and over 200,000 people visiting the market each weekend day there is a real need for food and drink vendors.
Being only my second day in Asia and having a more cautious / sensitive palette I personally went quite reserved with some fried chicken and rice, but to be fair it was amazing!
The market does have all manner of food from fresh fish, meat, vegetables and fruit. You for sure can’t go hungry, and I’m sure if I’d go back in a few weeks I would have been a bit more adventitious.
What To Do After The Market
The park is located just outside the market to the north east.
It’s quite large with a nice lake and plenty of benches.
We rested up for a while people watching, before heading back into the madness that is central Bangkok.
Off To The Palace / Rest Of Bangkok
The market is located quite far north of the “center areas” of historic Bangkok and the business district.
We decided that we’d take a tuk tuk to the historic Palace, and it ended up being quite a scenic ride past many monuments as well as the new palace compound.
Final Review / Thoughts On Chatuchak Market
Overall it’s a great half day out in Bangkok.
If you’re here over a weekend I’d highly recommend it…but if you only have one to two days in Bangkok [and even being the huge market fan that I am] I’d recommend The Royal Palace and temples as higher / more culturally sounds items on the priority list of things to do!