Last week I blogged about how to haggle your way to a bargain while traveling. Perhaps it was a premonition that I needed to brush up on my own haggling skills for what lay ahead on my trip to Bangkok this week: Chatuchak Weekend Market.
While Bangkok is chock full of street vendors, it doesn’t get any bigger than Chatuchak.
I love outdoor markets and have spent many hours combing through markets around the world. So when I heard about this one, I was up for the challenge.
Chatuchak met my expectations and then some. Simply put, it’s an outdoor market on steroids. Here are some tips on how to navigate.
Getting to Chatuchak Market
The fastest, easiest and cheapest way to get to Chatuchak is to take the BTS Skytrain to the Mo Chit station. As you approach Mo Chit, look out the windows of the Skytrain for your first preview of the market.
You can’t miss it. Chatuchak is massive, sitting on 27 acres and housing 15,000 booths.
What to Buy?
The question is more like what not to buy?
Jewelry, dresses, shoes, dog clothes, furniture, magnets, carp (as in, fish), puppies, rabbits, plants, food, ceramics, amulets – the list goes on!
There is an entire booth dedicated to bluegrass and cowboy boots… in Bangkok. If you’re into knock-offs, they’ve got ‘em. Ray Bans. Jimmy Choo purses. Chloe wallets. In fact, Chatuchak has so many knock-offs, I didn’t even know some knock-offs existed. (They knock off Converse sneakers? Why? Didn’t my Chucks cost like… $30?)
The bottom line is that if you can’t find it at Chatuchak, it likely doesn’t exist.
Navigating Chatuchak Market
But the problem is how do you find what you want? The cliche “needle in a haystack” may have been created precisely for this place.
Thankfully, the market is organized into 27 numbered sections. For example, sections seven to nine include antiques, furniture, ceramics and handicrafts, but sections 21-26 also include antiques, furniture and handicrafts. Despite this so-called organization, organized chaos is more like it. Half the fun, though, is in the wandering, so if you have the time, do just that.
Enjoy the Silence
While at Chatuchak, I learned one useful addendum to my haggling blog post. Merchants will bid against themselves if you just stay silent and wait it out. It goes something like this:
I pick up a “Tiffany” necklace.
The vendor approaches me from behind. “You like?”
I ignore her.
“400 Baht,” she says quietly in my right ear.
I finger the necklace nonchalantly, placing it back in its box and continuing to act as if I didn’t hear her.
“300 Baht.” She’s more insistent this time.
At that point, if I was interested, I would get in the game. She made a 25 percent drop in price, and there is obviously more wiggle room there. I could treat the 300 Baht as if it was the starting point for negotiations and ignore the original price altogether.
But I’m not interested in the necklace and instead make a mental note of my new haggling tip.
Staying silent when shopping subsequently worked to my advantage several times throughout the rest of the day and allowed me to start the haggling process without saying a word.
The Early Bird Gets the… Bargain (Without Having a Panic Attack)
When considering a trip to Chatuchak, the best advice is to go early. As in, forego-those-2-am-cocktails-and-leave-at-8-am early.
With an average 200,000 visitors daily, you won’t miss the crowds entirely, but you aren’t as likely to be thrust into a claustrophia-inducing, shoulder-to-shoulder situation either.
A Few More Tips
- Take an easy-to-carry bag to hold all your loot.
- Bring your appetite – just like much of Bangkok, Chatuchak has great street food.
- Watch your belongings. Markets like Chatuchak are an easy place for pickpockets to prey upon distracted shoppers.
- Take toilet paper unless you want to pay for it when you use the loo. (You have to pay to use that too.)
- If you are squeamish about your feet getting dirty or wet, consider wearing closed-toe shoes.
- Take a camera – Chatuchak offers great photo opps.
Who’s been to the wonderful Chatuchak Market? What’s the most bizarre thing you saw, because I know there is some weirdness…
Are there other markets you’d like to see featured here at Go! Girl Guides?
I’m in NZ at moment and surrounded by snow and cold! Reading this article I can just feel the heat and smell the smells of this market, and it is very appealing!
I just LOVE Asian markets. I usually stick to the food section though. Nothing worse than a tiny Asian lady holding up an enormous pair of pants and shouting “MADAM WE HAVE YOUR SIZE”!
I remember walking around Bangkok’s weekend market 15 years ago; what a huge place. What I remember most, though, is the intense smell of cooking, almost overpowering in the summer heat.
These are great suggestions, not only for Chatuchak Market but for any big marketplace. Thanks for sharing!
I was always amazed with what you could buy on the streets in Bangkok. They had everything, though I’d never purchase opened underwear that’s been sitting on a table for days.
I like your strategy of staying silent. I’ll have to try that.
The needle in the haystack surely originated at Chatuchak! I’ve lived in Bangkok for about 2 years now. I rarely go to Chatuchak, but when I do, I get so confused that I can’t go to the market without someone (preferably a female) navigating me around by a leash… but you are surely right anything imaginable can be found!
This is one of my favourite markets in Asia. The tips you’ve given – especially for negotiations – are very practical & helpful.
I was blown away by Chatuchak! With no idea what I was getting myself into… Great tips Rebecca!
One of my favourite places where I visit it yearly. I still have trouble at some of the sections inside but overall, it is an awesome place!