Widgets One Stop Shop Bangkok - A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care

One Stop Shop Bangkok

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Much like that of Jakarta, the upper-class and expat life of Bangkok seems to revolve around massive, icily air-conditioned malls offering both foreign brands and high-end native goods. During our month in Bangkok, Tony and I visited Siam Square at least once a week on average, whether to see "Megamind" and "TRON Legacy" on its IMAX screen or to replace some outworn item of clothing. But aside from the extraordinary queues at Krispy Kreme (I was the only person who bought a single doughnut, and the standard order appeared to be the maximum two dozen), and the comfy loveseats that were the most expensive option at the movie theaters, there's nothing very interesting about Bangkok's malls. Their near-identicality to the malls of North America is an argument for the plausibility of Let's Go to the Mall! as an international hit.

While the ratio of tourists to Thais is probably higher at Chatuchak than at the malls, I still recommend the sprawling weekend market for only-in-Thailand entertainment value. I first heard of it in a JetStar inflight magazine that offered recommendations from various cities' locals who were in the tourist business. While I never got as fond of larb moo (minced pork salad) as the PR coordinator did, she was on target about Chatuchak: "you can easily buy several items of clothing, lunch and an hour-long massage for [$50]. Massages are around 350 baht ($12) an hour -- you can't say no to such prices."

That description might make Chatuchak sound like it's just a cheaper version of a mall, but it's vastly more interesting. Set on 30 acres conveniently located near a SkyTrain station, it's divided into 29 sections where thousands of vendors sell not just clothes, food and massages, but also Buddha statues, dining tables, books and CDs, flowering plants and fruit trees... everything you'd think of wanting to take home. If I had a permanent place to live in Bangkok, I'd be furnishing my home and garden entirely from Chatuchak. Plus there's the unforeseeable items you can't find even in a Wal-Mart SuperCenter, like smoking pipes and live scorpions (for pets or for dinner). The animal section of the market must be seen to be believed: puppies, bunnies, parrots, reptiles, rodents -- any living creature that can be fit into a carryable cage or aquarium, including baby crocodiles.

The only aspect of Chatuchak that isn't 100% awesome is intrinsic to its being an open-air market in Bangkok, i.e. that walking around it can get extremely hot and dehydrating. Visiting in the early morning (around 7am) helps you avoid both the crowds and the worst heat of the day; late afternoon ought to be good as well, but some vendors already close up shop by 4pm. I have heard from other travelers to Thailand that there are cool times of the year, but late January-early March evidently is not one of those seasons, so any outdoor activity should be planned accordingly.

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