This past Sunday I took it upon myself to head north to Chatuchak Market (Jatujuak or JJs as the locals call it) and check out some plants. That’s right folks, it may surprise some (I’m not generally thought of as a “green thumb”) to hear this, but it’s true. And so, Sunday afternoon I pack my bag – water, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, snack – and hit the road!
Trying to explain Chatuchak is not an easy task as this market staunchly defies description as it boggles the mind. When you arrive via the Skytrain you get a good bird’s eye view of just how large it is: some 70 rai (27 acres), which is divided up into 27 sections, housing 15,000 shops [which have being in operation for over 20 years].
The market is skilfully (but not “strictly”) divided up into the following sections:
· Section 1: amulets, books, collectibles, food shops, café,
· Section 2 to 4: collectibles, home décor, paintings, terra cotta,
· Section 5 to 6 clothes, adornments, miscellaneous products,
· Section 7 to 9: antiques, furniture, ceramics, handicrafts,
· Section 10 to 24: clothes, consumer products, adornments, household appliances, pets,
· Section 17 to 19: ceramics, fresh and dry food,
· Section 22 to 26: antiques, furniture, handicrafts and
· Section 27: books, food and dessert shops, collectibles.
The only downfall to Chatuchak is that it can get extremely hot – the aisles are very narrow and dark, it is outdoors (so no fan or AC), and there are tons of people. Meaning: this is not exactly leisurely shopping in parts, you will have to use your pointy elbows and fight your way through at times. It’s not uncommon to see delirious tourist aimlessly wandering and near fainting as they fervently clutch their abundant shopping bags and staging around searching for that ever elusive “perfect” souvenir. Whilst the undercover parts can be a tight squeeze, there are plenty of open-air sections in-between that offer a cool respite and a chance to re-charge the batteries.
At the start, the market can feel like a total maze, and it is very easy to get frustrated; especially when you cannot navigate through the crap (faux Hello Kitty earmuffs anyone!) to find what you really desire and/or need. At this point, stop, take a fresh OJ break in the shade at one of the ubiquitous urban cafes and don’t succumb to any kind of Blair Witch fantasy and believe you’re frantically lost in the woods. Trust me, once you’ve figured out the map and gotten acclimated to your surroundings, a shopper’s paradise will open up before your eyes! In truth, getting lost is actually my favourite part of Chatuchak, I’ve stumbled across some of my best and most interesting finds that way, I’ll list a few here: squeaky plastic chickens, Mr T t-shirts, solid gold back-scratchers, Reebok Pumps, x-rated fridge magnets, home-made Barbie outfits, mini- pomeranian puppies, hemp underwear, recycled coca-cola can handbags and Pac-Man Atari games.
As you’re probably starting to realise, Chatuchak is a jack-of-all-trades kinda place, in one corner you have plants and books, in another all manner of pets and their associated paraphernalia, all this neighbouring “trendy” fashion boutiques staffed by up-and-coming local designers and juxtaposed to exquisite hand-made tea sets and a guy selling nothing but novelty lighters. Anything and everything is possible at Chuatuchak. Come armed with an open mind, a big bag, plenty of patience, lots of water, great bargaining skills and you’ll have a fantastic time.
The market is officially open 6am to 6pm on Wednesday/Thursday for plants and flowers, wholesale on Friday and Saturday/Sunday is “miscellaneous”. My advice is go early in the morning or late in the afternoon as the heat and crowds [as many as 20,000 people!] can be quite unbearable. One could easily spend half a day here; I’m usually done after 1.5hrs of caffeine-infused wandering. For more information go to: www.chatuchak.org.
Oh, btw, I did get my plant, a lovely bonsai whom I now call Mr Miyagi (or Mr M) and who sits proudly on my desk at work. Mission accomplished. Nest time a beanbag... I reckon Chatuchak is up to the challenge!!!
Getting there: From the Siam City Hotel take the Skytrain from Phayathai station five stops to the last station, Mo Chit. From there you can easily follow the crowds down the road 200m to the market. You really cannot miss it. Alternatively, you can get there by taxi or MRT, station Chatuchuk Park.