The Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok also called J.J. Market or simply just "the weekend market," is one of the world’s largest outdoor markets and the largest market in Thailand. It claims to be the largest weekend market in the world, drawing 200,000 visitors per week and sells almost everything you could possibly want, from pets to furniture to clothing.
Because the Chatuchak Market is so huge—sprawling across more than 25 acres—and popular, most visitors give themselves at least a few hours and up to a full day to wander and shop. Seeing the entire market in a day would be an exhausting endeavor, so it helps to have a shopping plan when you go.
Tips for Visiting the Weekend Market
With a little advice from those who often go, shopping the 15,000 stalls of the Chatuchak Weekend Market will be less daunting. While some of these tips will serve you well at any market, others are specific to the Bankok market.
- Go Early: Go before the crowds, and the heat, which makes it hard to enjoy the shopping.
- Get a Map: Chatuchak is big and confusing, so it's easy to get lost. Grab a map from one of the visitor centers in the outer perimeter of the market or take advantage of the many maps posted inside.
- Act Fast: If you like it, buy it now, as it will be difficult to find your way back.
- Use a Landmark: The Clock Tower in the center of the market is the easiest place to find. It makes a good landmark for meeting up with people.
- Beware of Scams: Although crime is fairly low in Thailand, petty thievery does happen in crowded markets. Don't present an easy target (e.g., an unzipped backpack, smartphone sticking out of back pocket, etc.). Even still, you're more likely to get "robbed" by being overcharged or sold a fake!
What to Buy
For visitors, the best values at Chatuchak are the housewares, Thai silks, handicrafts, and clothing.
Everything at Chatuchak is cheaper than at shopping malls (even MBK) and more touristy markets in the city, so savvy shoppers wait to do all their souvenir buying until they get here. There are also plenty of outlets selling furniture, hardware, music, instruments, Buddhist art, antiques, books, pets, plants, and lots of shirts, dresses, and shoes that are fun, cheap, and colorful.
What Not to Buy
Stalls in Chatuchak Market have been busted doing illegal trade of birds, reptiles, and other wildlife.
Like other markets throughout Asia, many products made from insects, wildlife, and marine materials are for sale. With no easy way to verify the source, even purchasing products made from seashells could be supporting damaging practices. Avoid anything made from animal products altogether.
Some items to avoid are:
- Items made from animal products (e.g., ivory, crocodile skin, turtle shell, coral, etc.)
- Preserved insects, snakes, and spiders
- Antiques and items that could be considered "cultural artifacts" may raise officials' eyebrows
- Technically, it is illegal to export images of Buddha from Thailand, although this is rarely enforced
Unlike many of the other tourist markets in the country, Chatuchak is not a place for hard bargaining since all the competition keeps prices reasonable. If you're buying a lot from any one vendor, you may get a 10 – 15 percent discount, but rarely more than that.
That said, you should still bargain for items a little. Do so in a good-natured way. If you can't get the price you want, there is a very good chance you'll see the same item again later, deeper in the market. But buy if it's a one-of-a-kind find—there is a very low chance of finding your way back to the same stall later.
Shipping Stuff Home
There are a number of shipping companies with outlets in the market, and most can be found in the annex on Kamphaeng Phet II Road. Small items are probably best packed in luggage, but larger items can be shipped by a company like DHL to anywhere in the world.
Eating and Drinking
There are over a hundred stalls and restaurants in the market where you can buy cold drinks, sit down and rest, or have a full Thai meal. Most are outdoor, but for air conditioning, look for Toh Plue Restaurant in the main market or Rod’s across the street on Kamphaeng Phet II Road.
Plan to eat while visiting the Chatuchak Market. You can nibble from the street-food stalls, eat in the food court, or find a proper, sit-down restaurant. A handful of bars and nightlife options around the food court come alive in the evening.
There are bathrooms, ATM machines, and even a police booth in the market. In 2017, free Wi-Fi was added to the list of amenities at the market.
Hours for Chatuchak Market
The Chatuchak Market is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. The market looks open on Fridays, but this day is for wholesalers only. Wednesdays and Thursdays, just the plant section, is open from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.
If you're serious about shopping, arrive at the market early. You'll beat some of Bangkok's scorching afternoon heat and part of the 200,000 shoppers who visit the market every weekend. Some stalls shut down a bit early in the afternoon.
How to Get to the Chatuchak Market in Bangkok
The Chatuchak Market is located in the northern part of Bangkok, not far from the Mo Chit BTS Station. Bangkok's horrendous traffic turns a relatively short distance into a long trip. Plan on around an hour by taxi from the Khao San Road area to the market. Use the trains when you can.
Beware of many shops and stalls along the way, hoping to intercept or distract you from the real market. You can get there by car, taxi, Skytrain or MRT.
- By Driver: All taxi drivers will know where to find the Chatuchak Market, but not all will be willing to turn on the meter. Keep flagging taxis until you find one honest enough to use the meter. You'll need to negotiate with tuk-tuk drivers before getting in.
- By Skytrain: The most hassle-free and interesting way to get to the Chatuchak Market is with Bangkok's elevated BTS Skytrain. Just take the train to the Mo Chit BTS Station, then use Exit 1 and walk east (toward the park / green space) 15 minutes until you see the stalls. You'll see signs for the market; most people will be going there anyway.
- By MRT: Although the Chatuchak Park seems the most logical, getting off at the Kampaengphet MRT Station requires a slightly shorter walk (10 minutes). Walk north toward the park.