So this was my second weekend in the land of smiles and I must say if you love shopping without breaking your bank balance, you have to try the local flea markets in Thailand. Don’t worry which day of the week it is and what times it is of the day. Just start walking on the street of the city, especially Chiang Mai, and I can pretty much assure you that you will come across at least one flea market.
Saturday Night Market (not to be confused with Night Bazaar) takes place every Saturday (obviously) on the Wua Lai Road, Chiang Mai, and is very closer to the Sunday Walking Street Market. Though the Saturday Night Market is smaller in size than the Sunday Market, the products sold here are similar to the Sunday Market and cheaper!
The market is at its fullest around 06:00 in the evening and is on until midnight although the shops start setting up at 04:00 PM. You can either walk to the market (just ask around for directions and almost everybody will know about it) or take a tuk tuk/minivan which drops you off right outside the market.
There are a few stalls right at the entrance so if you want to try some delicious Thai food before spending the next few hours shopping, it is a good idea to grab some snacks from here. Once you enter the market, it is a shopper’s paradise. Just like the Sunday Walking Street market, the streets on which the market sets is close to traffic during the market hours.
There are locals with makeshift stalls selling everything from fancy clothes to tribal accessories and garments, traditional Thai apparels for men, women and children, wooden products, handmade lanterns and Thai umbrellas, a lot of coconut products such as oil, lotions, and soaps, souvenir shops selling different artworks and even the small magnets, jewellery, and food. The trick here is always to bargain. But, smile and be polite when you do so because Thai are really polite and warm people and they will never be rude or mean to you (at least I haven’t met any in the last one week).
A major difference between the Sunday Market and the Saturday market is the diversity of its location. There are no Wats or Temples around the Saturday Market! However, just like the Sunday Market, there are many shops selling different food traditional Thai food items such as Pad Thai, and Mango Sticky Rice, but you also have a lot of seafood BBQs, pork, chicken, and vegetarian dishes. There are several stalls selling fresh fruit juices and ice creams. There are a;so a few designated area for food stalls where you can sit and eat. The tables are meant for many people sitting together so this is also a good opportunity to communicate and meet other travellers and locals.
There are many artists playing different musical instruments like violin or guitars, some singing, others performing traditional Thai dance on the streets of the market. Most of them are people with special needs but you also see some really young children performing there – maybe to raise money for their school or future education. It may feel a little sad to see the kids especially, but if you really like the performance, it is nice to leave some donation as most of them have a box kept right in front of them. It doesn’t have to be much – 1, 2, 5, or 10 BHT or anything that you feel like.
The way to the market is also a great place as it has several cafes and restaurants. There are also many travel agencies selling tour packages for as short as half a day to several days. You can book a mountain hill tribe tour with them or a sightseeing tour to the waterfalls, snake farm, Elephant Park, monkey school, and the most famous Tiger Kingdom. (I haven’t tried any of them yet but I will post as soon as I do). A strange thing about the country is that you see a lot of dental clinics scattered around the whole country but I guess it is because Thailand one of the best yet cheapest dental treatment service and some people come here only for the purpose of getting a dental surgery done.
It is a good idea to carry water with you because walking so long can really make you thirsty but it is okay even if you don’t. You can buy a bottle of water for 8BHT at the market (and don’t worry they have plenty of clean and nice bathrooms though you have to pay 5BHT for it).
The market is a great place for professional photographers as well as shutterbugs who love clicking random pictures. It is a good idea to ask the shop owners if you want to click photos. Some may feel bad if you just take photos and not buy anything. However, they never really refuse but it’s polite to seek permission if you just want photos and not buy anything from them.
If you are staying in the city then its easy to walk till there. Otherwise, tuk tuks and mini vans which drop you just outside the market.