With over 9,000 booths spread over 35 acres of land, Chatuchak is believed to be the world’s largest weekend market with an average weekend attracting over 400,000 people. The market is something of a Bangkok institution also known as ‘Talat Jatujak’ which in turn is simplified as ‘JJ’. Although plenty of foreign tourists make their way out to Chatuchak, the market still remains a uniquely Thai experience patronised by local people from all walks of life.
It’s possible to buy just about anything and everything at JJ; from Thai handicrafts and art to fake designer brands to puppies and kittens. If you are an animal lover it’s probably fair to say that the wildlife and pet sections might have you shaking your head in disbelief. There have been regular crackdowns over the years on the illegal trade of rare and endangered animals, but it still goes on. The most recent raid at Cahtuchak Market was at the end of March 2008 with two vendors arrested and more than 200 rare animals seized.
Finding your way around Chatuchak Market
Due to the sheer size of the market it can be difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for unless you’ve got a map. The highly recommended Nancy Chandler Map of Bangkok has a separate section for Chatuchak Market. It’s clearly colour-coded and numbered detailing exactly what each section of the market sells, where the nearest toilets are and where to find the exits for the Metro or Skytrain. Maps of the market are also available from the head office and information counter which is located in the ‘Dream Section’ of the market on the road known as Kampaengphet 2 just before Jatujak Plaza. Unfortunately, this isn’t very convenient if you arrive at Mo Chit or Chatuchak Park as it is the complete opposite end of the market.
With so many people shopping, the area inevitably attracts thieves and pickpockets. As with any crowded area anywhere in the world keep a close eye on your bags and possessions. It has been known for thieves to use razors to cut open shoulder bags so please be aware, but don’t be paranoid.
Dealing with the heat and the rain
With so many people milling around, the market can get unbearably hot particularly if you are visiting in April and May. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to stop for something to eat or drink or even get a foot massage to spur you on to do more shopping. Some areas of the market don’t have the best drainage and if there is heavy rainfall, water can soon rise above ankle level so it’s best to leave your expensive shoes in your hotel.
Other areas of Chatuchak
Some stalls and shops are open all week, but most open just at the weekend. The Children’s Discovery Museum is open Tuesday-Friday from 09.00-17.00 and at weekends it is open 10.00-18.00. With lots of hands-on exhibits it’s sure to keep the little ones entertained once they get bored with shopping. Queen Sirikit Park is a pleasant place to relax with plenty of flowers and trees to admire and for train buffs there is the railway museum. The Children’s Discovery Museum, Queen Sirikit Park and the railway museum are all very close to the Mo Chit skytrain and Chatuchak Park metro stations. JJ Mall can also be found in the same area providing a bit more sophistication to the day’s shopping. More upscale development of the area is expected although there have been ongoing disputes between the lessee of the land and some tenants and stallholders.
Getting to Chatuchak Market
Nearest Skytrain stops are Mo Chit (5 minute walk) or Saphan Kwai (7 minute walk). By metro/subway get off at Chatuchak Park station.
The official opening hours for the main market are 08.00-18.00 Saturday and Sunday.