How to recognize a market for tourists from an authentic one for locals.
The city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand has been chosen by many expats from around the world as a happy Asian island for some valid reasons. One of these is its liveliness, also given by the large number of markets present, both nocturnal and diurnal. What are the main markets of Chiang Mai? How to avoid the crush of the Sunday Night Market? Where to find less tourist oriented alternatives?
The markets we are talking about are all within easy walking distance of the city center: in each of these you will find both food vendors and clothes, accessories and other gadgets. Usually the evening ones are more focused on ready-to-eat food than the rest. If you decide to eat in the night-markets you will surely find a place to sit at the common tables inside the market or you can decide to take a take-away.
Some of the Chiang Mai Markets tend to be crowded and a bit "tourist oriented", so if you are looking for more authentic atmospheres and less tourists, Warorot Market and Somphet Market are for you. Among the night markets instead we liked the Saturday Night Market Wualai Walking Street as a food offer and the atmosphere instead of the Sunday Market (just because despite the confusion eating inside the illuminated temples is really fascinating); in both prices they are modest and dining is cheaper than in the restaurants of the city center.
If you want to see markets where the Thai spirit emerges without any western hybridization, you will have to look elsewhere, in towns where tourism is not massively developed. After spending many months in the country our favorites are in Pak Chong (traditional night market) and Khon Kaen (trendy night market).
What we are listing in this article:
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Chiang Mai Sunday Market
Saturday Night Market
Jing Jay Market
Chang Puak Gate Market
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
The Night Bazaar is a truly gigantic market located in the heart of the old city on Klan Chan Road, between Tha Pae and Sri Donchai Road. It was originally a market run by Chinese traders but is now locally managed and has become one of Chiang Mai's major tourist attractions.
In fact, it is famous among tourists for the endless knick-knacks and souvenirs of which it provides, but also for the presence of many portraits artists. The market is so big that is easy to get lost, you will also find some areas dedicated to technology, household objects and local handicrafts from the mountain villages near the city.
If the prices seem high this is the right place to bargain, as in all major markets you will surely be able to bring home what you have bet with a good 30% discount.
Chiang Mai's Sunday market stretches from the Tha Pae Gate through Ratchadamnoen Road and is the undisputed realm of local craftsmanship. You will find many souvenirs with a variety of different quality and creativity. It is still worthwhile to pop in this super crowded pedestrian path to admire the liveliness of the temples full of people who face this street, such as the magnificent Wat Sum Pow, whose courts are filled with gastronomic stands ready to churn out all kinds of street food. Artists and musicians perform in the crowd. Surely it is a different experience than usual.
Start making unforgettable memories that last a lifetime.
Saturday Night Market or Wualai Walking Street
This Saturday night night market takes place just steps from the Moat walls, along Wulai Street and the surrounding areas. Despite being much smaller than the Sunday night market, it is more livable and interesting. Here from the early afternoon you will find many stands of local artisans and among the usual souvenir stalls you will also find some particular and interesting object that could be a good deal. Creative costume jewelry, fabrics and clothes but also postcards and posters hand-drawn by young local artists. The most pleasant part of the evening, however, is the one in which we eat, in fact we found the food particularly good in this market and the prices decidedly convenient. A large grilled fish can be purchased for only 120 bath (including sauce of course), you can order a nice papaya salad and have the perfect fish dinner for at least 2 people for only 150 bath!
The Warorot market, also called "Khad Luang", is one of the oldest and most popular in Chiang Mai and an essential destination for lovers of traditional Thai and cheap food. It is located in a multi-storey building and extends over the streets that surround it. The upper floors are dedicated to clothing and goods, while the food stalls are located on the ground floor. The market is renowned for its wide range of snacks and Thai dishes from the north. Outside the building there are stalls of fresh fruit and vegetables and inside there are many stands selling dried and candied fruit at great prices. You can have a 250g bag of excellent dried mango for only 80 baths. The Warorot market is particularly popular with the local population and offers the chance to get an idea of how non-tourist markets are in the rest of Thailand.
This food market is located near Chiang Mai Gate in a very busy area of Chiang Mai. It mainly offers fresh food, fruit and vegetables and is very popular with locals and expats. This is what you will find most similar to a traditional food market within the city walls. In addition to fruit, vegetable, meat and fish stands, there are also retailers of ready meals, desserts and fruit smoothies. If you are looking for fruit and vegetables it is better to come in the morning, if you are interested in street food better around 6pm even if the rest of the market at that time is closing (many food stands open in the evening).
JJ Market is located north of the old city on Assadathon Road; it is a modern and elegant market with a relaxed atmosphere. Loved by expats and well-off Thais, it offers a wide range of organic products and special dishes as well as an endless series of elegant cafes and handicraft shops.
It is partially covered and structured on multiple buildings. There is also an area dedicated to antiques. The prices are higher and your discretion is needed to judge if all the many items on sale are authentic organic produce. Indeed the appearance seems really too perfect to be true!
Open from Monday to Sunday from 8am - to 8pm (times vary greatly depending on the type of stand) Location on Google Maps
Chang Puak Gate Market
The Chang Puak food market comes to life in the evening at about 6pm and the square quickly fills up with stalls selling local food and culinary specialties from northern Thailand. Considered one of the best street food markets in the city, it still maintains authentic flavors and low prices. The stalls are many and choosing one rather than another will be tough! Among the various stands and retailers it has been set up a comfortable area with tables to eat comfortably. You can have a drink or a beer in one of the nearby supermarkets and have a king's dinner for a few euros.
Food Is found everywhere in Chiang Mai. The local Thai markets however are the ones whe you can find the most Authentic one.
Also for vegetarians
Fresh squeezed fruit juices mini shops or fresh fruit cart vendors can be found in almost every market.
A plethora of exotic drinks
If you haven't ever tried a Thai Coffe or Tea, then you must give it a try. Be careful though, traditional Thai drinks have a very high percentage of sugar. Try to ask "less" sugar if you have a mini vocabulary for your trip or, why not, one of the many available Apps for your mobile.
Try the fresh coconuts
If you are accustomed to the coconut sold on summer beaches in Europe, with hard and crunchy pieces, you will hardly understand and appreciate the real coconut. Here it has soft pulp and comes with the natural coconut water which has many beneficial properties. It is widely used for the preparation of desserts and many other dishes like curries. In Thailand it is called Mahprao.
Ever heard about durian?
This fruit has no half measures, either you will love or hate. The strong and penetrating smell similar to gas is in fact one of its characteristics, the characteristic that drives many Thai fruit lovers away from eat it.
Local Lanna clothing
In the northern part of Thailand, between Pai, Chiang Rai and the border with Myanmar, there are several northern tribes. These populations have distant Sino-Tibetan origins. For the most part, they emigrated in the 20th century, fleeing the conflicts in China, Myanmar and Laos.