A wall of vivid fake flowers leaves barely enough space to squeeze past the Thai hipsters crowding the narrow passageway. A moment ago, I was browsing leather jackets and trying out goofy spectacle frames for size. The meaty whiff of pet food hits my nose and my ears ring from the whimpers of caged puppies.
Such diversity of retail options is all very well, but I’m trying to track down a coffee table for my apartment, not edibles for my girlfriend’s dog. Such is life at Chatuchak Weekend Market, where everything under the blazing Thai sun can be purchased. If you can find it, that is.
Thailand’s largest outdoor bazaar, known as “Jatujak”—or simply “JJ” by Thais—sells everything from Beatles cushion cover sets to shark’s tooth amulets. Navigating the 35-acre site and its 15,000-plus stalls, however, can be a thankless task.
Vendors in the know haul their wares during the evening lull. “I usually bring in my stock early on Friday in time for the wholesale night market, which starts at 2 a.m.,” says Ekawit Chepanukroh, who owns the men’s T-shirt stall Farm Story. There’s no freight entrance; everything moves through the main gate.
I emerge, blinking, from the pet section with a lingering hiss of cobras and head to an information kiosk for directions. The market is loosely divided into 27 color-coded zones. For furniture and home décor, head to sections 22-26 or to Chatuchak Plaza, a newer section to the northwest.
I weave my way toward a furniture shop called Mango in Chatuchak Plaza. While most stalls require bargaining skills, Mango’s sleek, natural wood is fixed-price and beyond my budget.
Patchwipa May Mahapornpaisal, a furniture designer who sells her pieces at various Chatuchak outlets, lends some advice. “Regular customers get the wholesale price—and that applies to most stalls. Normally, Thai people will get an additional discount.”
Ekawit says vendors don’t coordinate pricing, though, meaning bargains can still be had. “Many vendors are enemies because we sell similar items in close proximity,” she says. “Mostly we will sneak out to check other prices, then lower our own.”
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of cheaper options in Mango’s vicinity. Among the hodgepodge, I pick up the perfect rosewood item for a “steal” (USD 100) after shaving USD 40 off the asking price.
Content with my purchase, I graze on paella and down a cold beer at Viva, the market’s atmospheric bar. Not only can you get what you want at JJ, you can also get what you need.