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.
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.
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.
It’s not just the artistic items on offer here. You can also get useful multi purpose objects such as these:
The guns in the picture above are rubber band guns great for young kids! There are other less mainstream products available too.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.