Shopping is my favorite cardio and shopping in Chiang Mai is some of my favorite in the world.
The last time I came through Chiang Mai we were working on Go! Girl Guides: Thailand and there wasn’t enough money in my budget to buy the millions of things I saw and loved.
This time, things are different, and Chiang Mai and I had some unfinished business to attend to.
On a visit to the night bazaar last night, my pocketbook was a burnin.’ And since I’ve been throughout the whole of Thailand, I knew from the get go: Chiang Mai is a shopping mecca.
Here’s your guide to shopping in Chiang Mai.
Where to Go for the Best Shopping in Chiang Mai
In Thailand, Chiang Mai and Bangkok are your best shopping destinations. Of the two, Chiang Mai has more handicrafts and hill-tribe finds that you won’t see elsewhere, plus, more arts and crafts and home decor items. Bangkok has some great high-fashion items, and their largest draw for shoppers is the insane weekend market known as Chatuchak.
1. Weekend Markets in Chiang Mai
The Saturday and Sunday markets are incredible and you should absolutely plan to visit them while you’re here! In fact, I’d say they’re so amazing that you really should time your visit to include a weekend stay in Chiang Mai just to check them out. When people talk about shopping in Chiang Mai, they are almost certain to mention these markets. They’re that famous!
The Saturday night market is located across from the Old City’s South Gate on Wua Lai Road. There is also awesome food in the markets found over here!
The Sunday Night Market is spread out through the eastern part of the Old City. It is best to start your spree at Thapae Gate and wander from here, as this market goes for a full kilometer down the full length of Ratchadamnoen Road.
The weekend markets begin at 4 and go until about 11 pm or midnight.
2. Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
The night bazaar takes place every night until about 11 pm or midnight and is super popular with locals and travelers alike. You will find a lot of the same things here: scarves, elephant pants and knock-off jewelry, but you’ll also find handicrafts from hill tribe vendors and really cool boots. If you’re walking around and find yourself in need of a snack, there’s a food market near Thapae Rd. that’s pretty great.
3. NightOut Market
Just outside of Maya Mall every Wednesday evening. You won’t find the sort of one-of-a-kind handicrafts that you’ll see in the weekend markets, but it’s an interesting market to walk through. Be sure to check out the activities in nearby Think Park, too. Think Park also has some cool little boutique shops you might want to consider visiting, whether or not you’re hunting for things at the markets too.
Tips for Shopping in the Markets
You might be able to pay with credit card with some vendors, but most vendors will want cash. Make sure you exchange your money before you reach the markets, as it will be difficult to find exchange booths that will offer you a decent rate.
Also, try to come with a lot of small bills. It can be really difficult to find vendors willing to break bigger bills and, it hurts your chances of negotiating a better deal. Which brings us to our next point:
Bargain, Bargain, Bargain
Haggling is an artform and learning how to haggle will serve you well in the markets of Chiang Mai. I saw a cool painting I wanted. The vendor said 180. I said 100. He said 160. I said 150. Sold! It’s actually pretty fun, so long as you don’t get hung up on the difference of less than $1. Know when to settle, or just walk away.
Make Quick Decisions
I made the mistake of passing on things I really liked, thinking I’d find them cheaper elsewhere. I never did. Lesson learned: when you see something you like, buy it. Just do it. Quick!
I dropped a hot penny by Thai standards (in truth, only about $25)… but look at my cute new wallet and shoes! So. Worth. It.