Chiang Mai Sunday Market

Chiang Mai Sunday Market

The Sunday market in Chiang Mai, Thailand is more than a place to exchange goods and services it is a 12 block event.  The market stalls start to go up as early as 3:00 pm in anticipation of the throngs of people that will soon fill the streets to shop, eat, get a massage and browse the many vendor stalls.  We were lucky enough to be staying just one block from the market making it an easy evening stop for us.  We had heard good reviews of the market and so we started early and ended up staying late.

The view of the Sunday Market in Chiang Mai and this only the market to the east of Pai Gate

The sprawling market is unlike any of the markets that we had been to previously in Vietnam as there were no vegetable or meat stands, this market was seemingly exclusively for tourists.  Each brightly lit segment of sidewalk sold some kind of handicraft, souvenir or food to fuel your browsing.  If you got tired in the middle there was a place to get a foot massage without even leaving the market.  If you’re not much of a shopper don’t worry there is plenty of other entertainment as well.  They had thought of everything to create the idyllic tourist trap, yet the market was  filled with locals.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the market very much and as I alluded to, we walked the entire length of the market and visited vendor stalls for nearly three hours, maybe more.  The wide array of hand-made goods on offer was impressive.  Each time you turned around there was someone selling a unique wood carving, hand embroidered shoes or complex paper craft.  It was amazing to see all the different artists at work in their stalls and see the products of their talented fingers.  All of the artists were happy to answer questions and definitely ready to bargain.

One of the many talented artisans at the market

We weren’t in the market to buy any of the beautifully made items on offer, but we still enjoyed the sites and sounds of the market.  Every few feet there was a small band, dancers or singers to entertain the masses.  The little girls dressed in traditional garb and performing dance routines or playing the mandolin were my favorite.  However, one of the most captivating performances was by the group of blind men that played instruments and sang for the crowd with such passion you had to stop and watch even though you knew they couldn’t see your approval.

A group of talented blind singers performing at the Sunday market

The food at the market was abundant and ranged from your typical Thai noodle and rice dishes to the strange “ancient ice cream” or “vegetable jelly made by Chinese plant.”  The ancient ice cream was actually pretty good, it tasted like sherbet and came in a frozen rectangular block on a stick.  The vegetable jelly on the other hand could definitely be skipped, it is a black jell-o like dessert served over ice with palm sugar- not our favorite.  The more impressive thing about the food was that they provided recycling containers for all the food containers.  I know this does not sound impressive, however this is the first time we were able to find a garbage to dispose of items and definitely the first time we had even heard of anyone speak about recycling.  The recycling area even had an attendant to insure that items were placed in the correct bin.

The impressive recycling options at the Sunday market

One of the best features of the market was the foot massage area.  What better way to keep your customers happy then to massage their tired feet so that they can get right back to shopping.  For about four dollars you could get a relaxing half hour foot massage without ever leaving the market.  Once you were refreshed you could jump right back in where you had left off.  If you are planning to visit Chiang Mai, definitely plan your visit around a weekend to enjoy the Sunday Market, at least you’ll get a massage out of it.

Happy shoppers get a foot massage at the Sunday Market

IF YOU GO:

  1. Location, the Sunday Market runs down Ratchadamnoen Road west of the Pae Gate and spills out along Thae Pae Road east of the Pae Gate.  Most of the food stalls are in the courtyard of Wat Chedi Luang.
  2. Travel light, don’t bring a bag to the market.  There are so many people and it is so crowded it will be a lot easier for you to navigate without a bag.  You don’t need much for the market either so don’t plan to bring loads of cash.
  3. Eat at the market, there are so many great food and drink stalls offering items for so cheap you won’t be able to resist.
  4. Plan to spend a couple hours, with so many stalls and tons of people this is going to be a time consuming endeavor- plan your evening accordingly.
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Comments

» dad :
Mar 4, 2011

it is fun to share common experiences, unless you experience this and obviously all of your travels, it is hard to describe the size, scope and talent of the artisans…..we bought beautifully carved flower soaps in carved lacquer boxes for all of our pals, only to have them all broken in flight….we/i still have them in back closet, as i cannot bare to throw them out…..never did give them to pals…..happy birthday erica, i love you…..be safe dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, the market was huge and the items found at the market were beautiful, very tempting to buy. We saw the soap and it was amazing, we got some wonderful pictures of them.

» little brother :
Mar 5, 2011

killer wesbite. lots of memories coming back. i definitely have the four blind guys cd, they are like the stevie wonder quartet. foot massage is a no brainer. happy birthday and much love from madison, wisconsin. so very proud of you and miss you.

LOCAVORista Reply:

Little brother, thanks for the comment and for all the tips on Chiang Mai. We thought of you everyday while we were there and wished you could have been there with us. Miss you!

» Shruti :
Mar 9, 2011

Hey guys I just found out that Ravi’s high school buddy is also on a round-the-world trip! I think you guys might have just missed each other–he just left Thailand and is in Vietnam! Anyways, if you have the chance to cross paths or at least check out each other’s blogs, I think that would be fantastic. His name is Josh Dubois and this is his blog: http://joshdubois.wordpress.com/

I can personally attest to the fact that he is awesome. =) He is a videographer and from Kansas originally.

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.
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