Once Sunday evening approaches in Chiang Mai and you feel like a colourful shopping experience with a wide variety of street food then it’s time to head to the Old Town in the centre of the city and hit the markets.

The Old Town of Chiang Mai is a reasonable sized area with its boundaries defined by the moat which surrounds it. This used to be a walled town but not much of the wall itself remains. The best example of what was can be found at Thaphae Gate, which you can see on the right hand side of the moat in the map below. This also happens to be the best place to start if exploring the markets which stretch from here into the Old Town – going left on the map.

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The moat. The Old Town on the left. Taken from Thaphae Gate.

The moat. The Old Town on the left. Taken from Thaphae Gate.

The main street through the town is closed to traffic and several side street too, and stalls of all sorts set up in their hundreds to cater to the crowds, both foreign and Thai but mostly locals out for a wander. Sunday is one of the few days you will see some shops closed here.

Get there early because it get incredibly busy later in the evening.

Get there early because it get incredibly busy later in the evening.

If you are visiting Chiang Mai and are looking for great little gifts to take home then this is definitely the place for you. There is a huge range of goods, mostly small low cost items, and many of the stallholders go to a lot of effort in the presentation of their products.

Great colours - around $10.00 or less.

Great colours – around $10.00 or less.

Cushion covers and scarves around $4.00.

Cushion covers and scarves around $4.00.

Carved in soap.

Carved in soap.

Ranging in price to around $30 for the largest.

More for locals because of size – around $30 for the largest.

Seen these at the Kingston markets. Somewhat cheaper over here. They fold flat for easy packing. Thai plugs though.

Seen these at the Kingston markets. Somewhat cheaper over here. They fold flat for easy packing. Thai plugs though.

It’s not just the artistic items on offer here. You can also get useful multi purpose objects such as these:

A specialty item for next Christmas. These fine examples not only open a bottle of beer but contain a whistle, which is operated by blowing on the end. You can both whistle for a beer and open it.

A specialty item for next Christmas. These fine examples not only open a bottle of beer but contain a whistle, which is operated by blowing on the end. You can both whistle for a beer and then open it.

The guns in the picture above are rubber band guns great for young kids! There are other less mainstream products available too.

Miniature sewing machines for that unexpected dropped hem work.

Miniature sewing machines for that unexpected dropped hem – $3.50

Keep your dog warm in the winter months - well December anyway.

Keep your dog warm in the winter months – well December anyway as we’re in the low 30’s this week.

Said doggy coat in action.

Said doggy coat in action.

Every home should have one. A Buddha donation/money box. Hadn’t realised Buddha was into beanies but these are the sort of cultural awakenings that happen when travelling.

Every home should have one. A Buddha donation/money box. Hadn’t realised Buddha was into beanies but these are the sort of cultural awakenings that happen when travelling.

It was interesting to see the relationship between the temples and the markets, each of which flowed one into the other. Rather than being places separate from the commercial and social activities of the markets the temples were sometimes islands within the markets themselves.

One of the nicer Chiang Mai temples with the stalls running down one side.

One of the nicer Chiang Mai temples with the stalls running down one side.

A huge food court was set up in this temple grounds.

A huge food court was set up in this temple grounds.

Some of the temples were open and one forgets sometimes that these are places for Thai worship, not just a tourist photo opportunity, although in the middle photo the guy has his iPad out.

A golden chedi. Rather spectacular at night. Ring each of the bells for good luck.

A golden chedi. Rather spectacular at night. Ring each of the bells for good luck.

Wat Pan Tao Chiang Mai Old Town

Wat Pan Tao Chiang Mai Old Town

Wat Chedi Luang is closed but the offering area at the front was in constant use.

Wat Chedi Luang is closed but the offering area at the front was in constant use.

If you do make it to Chiang Mai both of these Wats are well worth visiting in the Old Town. They are very close to each other but very different in character.

Food is of course central to any shopping expedition. Thais get hungry at any moment and the markets cater to this need with a huge array of fresh and tasty street food. I know people are often worried about eating from “unofficial” places like this but on the whole I think it is an unjustified concern. I have been here for over six months and the only minor problem I had was as a result of eating at a restaurant. The street stalls buy for the day and cook to demand. There is an extensive use of gloves and face masks. You can always have bad luck, but that can happen anywhere not just Thailand.

Food is always in plentiful supply wherever there is a gathering of Thais.

Food is always in plentiful supply wherever there is a gathering of Thais.

Cooked while you wait.

Cooked while you wait.

The sausages on the left are a speciality of the region.

The sausages on the left are a speciality of the region.

A German sausage with mashed potatoes and small salad 40 THB – about $1.40. Most Thai meals in the markets are around this price. You can’t buy the ingredients for this. I have a friend here who never cooks. When you can get a healthy and flavoursome meal for this sort of money why would you bother?

Some more images of the market stalls:

Glass mobiles. Photo taken to try and capture the rich colours.

Glass mobiles. Photo taken to try and capture the rich colours.

For the ladies.

For the ladies.

These were very striking. Some of the colours lost in this nighttime photo.

These were very striking. Some of the colours lost in this nighttime photo.

For those carved motorbikes collectors out there. Large ones $9.00.

For those carved motorbike collectors out there. Large ones $9.00

Dried fruits - I think!

Dried fruits – I think!

Great night lights. Almost wish I was scared of the dark.

Great night lights. Almost wish I was scared of the dark.

People watching is of course great fun here. If you want a relaxed evening’s entertainment find a bar, where a large beer will cost you $2.00, with a street-side location and just enjoy the passing traffic. Much better than anything you’ll find on TV. For example:

Dad taking the kids out to the markets....or is it.

Dad taking the kids out to the markets….or is it.

All is not what it seems.

All is not what it seems.

So jump into Thai street markets if you get the opportunity. You’ll have a great time and may even find a bargain.

Thanks for reading.