Nocturnal indulgence

Bangkok boasts numerous night markets, which are paradise for collectors of vintage artefacts

Thailand is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations due to its beautiful attractions, diverse culture, ways of life, delicacies and, of course, shopping venues. Night markets are a form of flea markets. They have become popular over the past few years in Bangkok because their late hours, usually from 4pm to midnight, meet the demands of customers who want to shop after school and work. In addition, the bad economy and inflation have forced consumers to opt for cheaper goods from alternative sources.

In 2013, a survey for "Great Shopping with Amazing Bargains'' on TripAdvisor, a global travel website, named Thailand's 10 best street markets. Chiang Mai's Sunday Night Market ranked 1st, followed by the Mae Klong Railway Market (Talat Rom Hoob) in Samut Songkhram, Saturday Night Market Street on Wua Lai Road in Chiang Mai, the Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Chatuchak Weekend Market (the largest outdoor market in Southeast Asia), the Night Market in Phuket Town, the Amphawa Floating Market in Samut Songkhram, Siam Square in Bangkok, Hua Hin Night Market and Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. According to TripAdvisor, street markets are an integral part of Thai culture, and are popular among both locals and foreigners.

Located behind Esplanade Ratchadaphisek shopping centre on Ratchadaphisek Road, Train Night Market Ratchada is a favourite for hipsters. It’s open 5pm-1am, Tuesday-Sunday. To get there, you can travel by car, taxi, public bus or MRT (Thailand Cultural Centre station).

Last year, Toptenthailand, a popularity survey website, named Train Night Market Si Nakharin, Jatujak Green, Siam Square Night Market, Chatuchak Night Market, Khao San Road, Sampeng, Yaowarat, Liab Thang Duan Ram Intra-At Narong Night Market, The Walk Kaset Nawamin and Memorial Bridge Night Market as Bangkok's top 10 night markets.

As vintage lovers, our group of friends love to hit any of the following five night markets every weekend: Khlong Thom Night Market, Jatujak Green, Siam Gypsy Junction, Train Night Market Si Nakharin and Train Night Market Ratchada. If the night is still young, we can visit another market after failing to find what we're looking for at the first destination.

Located on Pracha Rat Road beneath MRT Bang Son (currently under construction), Siam Gypsy Junction just opened about two years ago and spans about 1km alongside a stretch of the State Railway of Thailand. The highlight of this retro-style night market is the gathering of many vintage vehicles and motorcycles, driven and shown there by proud owners. Visitors will first see stalls selling spare auto parts, pre-owned bicycles, old posters, watches, handbags, shoes, kitchenware, vinyl records and collectibles on both sides of the alley-like market space. Then, they’ll reach the store zone, built to look like old wooden shophouses and a cowboy town. This zone boasts stores selling antiques, furniture, handmade products and clothes, as well as restaurants, cocktail bars, coffee and tea shops, and barber shops. This market is open 5pm-1am, Wednesday-Sunday. Weekdays focus on the sale of general goods, while weekends focus on vintage items. To get there, you can travel by car, taxi or public bus.

As Khlong Thom Night Market is open on Saturday night only and closes early, around 9-10pm, you may go there early for shopping and later visit one of the other night markets.

On the way back home from either Jatujak Green or Train Night Market Ratchada, if you travel by MRT, you may want to drop by the little outdoor market of Suan Lum Night Bazaar Ratchadaphisek, opposite Ratchadaphisek MRT station, for glimpses of light shows and some goods.

According to the survey, "Behaviours and Satisfaction of Foreign Tourists for Shopping and Entertainment", conducted by The Interactive Research Company among 500 foreign tourists between the ages of 18-45 in 2010, tourists thought of Thailand as a shopping destination because of products, places and services. They voted night markets/walking streets (70%), flea markets (42%), commodity-goods markets (18%), floating markets/community markets (7%) and food markets (2%) as their favourite shopping venues besides malls. They liked the variety, quality, low prices and uniqueness of goods, the way vendors presented their goods, the way they could bargain for better prices and the friendly atmosphere of the markets.

Khlong Thom Night Market near Worachak Intersection on Bamrung Muang Road is one of Thailand’s oldest night markets. It’s nicknamed “Black Market”, since vendors sell goods in the dark, prompting shoppers to arm themselves with flashlights to examine goods carefully. Those with luck on their side will find rare items, brand-name goods and even masterpieces hidden in piles of old merchandise. Many go there looking for discontinued auto and electrical parts. This market used to span several roads and alleys around Klang Hospital. However, the city recently imposed a ban on street hawking in this area. Thus, the space of the market is now limited to a small car park of the Revenue Department’s Pomprap Sattru Phai 2 Branch. A broad variety of goods is on sale, ranging from spare auto and electrical parts, used clothes, belts, watches, clocks, books, posters and kitchenware, to antiques and furniture. It’s open 5pm-10pm on Saturdays. To get there travel by taxi or public bus since it’s hard to find parking space.

According to a thesis entitled "Style of Walking Street That is Appropriate for Phanat Nikhom Municipalities, Chon Buri Province," by Thamawong Chiasawat of Burapha University in 2012, flea markets, or talat nat, can be found in both big cities and rural areas. Venues are typically temple grounds, or near public parks and on roadsides to allow passers-by and locals to buy goods. There have been traces of flea markets in Thailand since ancient times.

Major flea markets are the fruit of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkhram's government's initiative to establish markets in Greater Bangkok and all provinces nationwide in 1948, to enable the people to buy commodity goods and food at reasonable prices or at federally controlled prices and to encourage more Thais to run businesses. The move led to the establishment of the Sanam Luang Weekend Market, which was relocated from Sanam Luang to its current location near Chatuchak Park in 1982, and was later renamed Chatuchak Weekend Market.

Suan Lum Night Bazaar Ratchadaphisek is near the Ratchadaphisek- Lat Phrao intersection opposite MRT Ratchadaphisek. The outdoor market zone of this shopping mall was recently opened after relocation from the Lumphini area. This zone is small and doesn’t have many stalls or food trucks. However, visitors will be amazed by the life-size models of several dinosaurs and beautiful light shows in the shape of dolls, flowers, Chinese characters and lamps. Visitors will find stalls selling second-hand and brand-new clothes, handbags, shoes, accessories, kitchenware, vintage goods and handmade products. Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Western food is also on sale. The outdoor market zone is open daily from 5pm until around 11pm. To get there, you can travel by car, taxi, public bus or MRT.

Many of the famous flea markets in Thailand began during the tom yum kung economic crisis. The concept became quickly popular, resulting in more markets popping up over the years, not just in Bangkok but in cities and towns across the country. Some of these markets also have a unique character. Some were created as tourist attractions.

To many, night markets also serve as forums for artists to meet people and sell their artworks, and for art students to showcase their artistic skills and earn an income. Many have been lucky to find rare goods and even masterpieces by chance at night markets, since some vendors buy antiques in bulk and may not know the real value of certain pieces. To vintage lovers and collectors, finding rare collectibles is the real charm of night-market shopping.

Train Night Market Si Nakharin is located on a very large plot of land in Soi Si Nakharin 51, behind Seacon Square shopping complex. It’s known as the most popular night market in Bangkok. Run by the operator of the now defunct Rot Fai Chatuchak Night Market, it maintains its original concept as a classic, retro-style flea market. It’s full of chic goods, vintage items, antiques, collectibles, auto parts, brand-new and used clothes and shoes, handmade goods, dolls and furniture. Taking photos with classic cars, old gear and vintage signs kept in a red-brick building is a must. After hours of strolling and shopping, visitors can fill their empty stomachs with Thai and international food and beverages from food trucks and stalls. The Plaza Zone is open Tuesday-Sunday, while the Flea Market Zone is open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 5pm-midnight. To get there, you can travel by car, taxi or public bus.

Situated next to the Children’s Discovery Museum, opposite Chatuchak Weekend Market’s fish zone, Jatujak Green (JJ Green) is run by the former operator of Ratchada Night Market. It evolved from an informal gathering of classic-car enthusiasts at the Royal Plaza who drove their vintage vehicles to meet and trade spare auto parts almost 20 years ago. After numerous relocations, they finally settled down here. Shoppers can find almost anything they want, ranging from vinyl records, cassette tapes, old photos, books, magazines, posters, used and brand-new apparel, handbags, handmade products, plants, obsolete technology like pagers and typewriters, to auto parts, antiques and vintage furniture. Enjoy a wide variety of delicacies from food trucks, and sip cold drinks listening to live music. This market is open 5pm-midnight, Friday-Sunday. To get there, you can travel by car, taxi or public bus. If you use the skytrain or subway, disembark at BTS Mo Chit or MRT Chatuchak.

Apart from goods commonly found at any flea market, Train Night Market Ratchada offers stylish vintage goods ranging from clothes, accessories, decorative items and collectibles to furniture. It also boasts popular food stalls, such as Kopi Coffee and Chom Phalang Noodles, and bars with cocktails to sip and live music to enjoy.

Do you like the content of this article?