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Shopping Chatuchak Market: the Ultimate Photo Guide to Bangkok’s Best Market

Where can you find a market filled with innovative, indie designers, pour-over coffee from just roasted beans, and unique, locally-sourced edible treats?

Nope, we’re not talking about the latest overhyped Brooklyn market. At the literal other side of the world, in Bangkok, Thailand, sits a market so cool and so brimming with souvenir bargains that market junkies everywhere will want to book the next flight over. Welcome to Chatuchak market (known as “JJ market” by locals). At Chatuchak market you’ll find no hipster attitude or inflated prices– just welcoming Thai smiles and prices so low you’ll do a double take.

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My friend Anne from Part-Time Traveler expertly guided me through my first Thai market experience.

For some reason, Chatuchak market remains a hidden gem to those outside of Thailand. While I’d read about Chatuchak market before in other blog posts and guide books, nothing I read really distinguished it from any other market. Nearly every article I read about Chatuchak offered nothing more than generic advice like “come early” or “don’t forget to bargain,” accompanied at best by a couple of grainy photos, offering no insight as to why the market was worth a stop.

So in my excitement to share my love for JJ market and to remedy the lack of photos I found elsewhere, I may have gone a little overboard– get ready for a visual overload.  And because you really can’t shop Chatuchak market without stopping to rehydrate and snack every few feet, we’ve prepared a second post to supplement your shopping experience, focusing on all the delicious snacks and drinks at the market  (look for our eating guide coming up next).

Shopping tips for Chatuchak Market

  • Opening hours. Chatuchak Market is only open on the weekends, 6 am to 6 pm.
  • Navigating the Market. Chatuchak market is enormous, with over 15,000 stalls covering 70 acres. You can plot your course via map in advance, or you can just wing it like we did. Once you arrive, you can pick up a map at the information booth. Fortunately, the market is divided into sections (eg women’s clothing is in one area, handmade goods in another), so it’s not as overwhelming as it might seem at first.
  • Bargaining. Like all markets, bargaining is expected at many stalls, especially those selling mass-produced goods. When shopping for artisan goods directly from the craftsmen, bargaining is less common. But the prices are so low anyway that you’ll find that you want to pay full-price to these talented and hard-working craftsmen.
  • When to visit Chatuchak market. While it would be better to come early to avoid the heat of the day, don’t let that deter you from visiting later in the day if that’s more convenient. On our visit, we were both suffering from serious jet-lag (I flew in the night before and Anne literally just got off a flight from San Francisco that same morning). We ignored all advice to hustle over there first thing and instead took the morning to relax, then indulged in a famous Thai massage before heading over to JJ in the early afternoon. After reading all the reports, I was expecting to be choked by the heat, but didn’t find it any worse than a New York City heat wave. I’m used to navigating crowds so that didn’t really phase me either– the market is so large that if a particular section is packed, just move on to a less crowded one.
  • Transportation to JJ Market. Sure you can take the sky train to save a little money and avoid traffic, but don’t rule out the comfort and convenience of an air-conditioned taxi. We paid only 150 baht ($4.50) each way from our hotel straight to the market’s door.
  • Bring cash.
  • Come hungry. You’ll regret having eaten beforehand once you see the delicious food and drink here– more on this in our next post.

What to Buy at Chatuchuk Market

With over 15,000 stalls, you’ll find a little of everything at Chatuchak market– it is really a souvenir shopper’s dream. While my favorite stalls carried handmade goods made by local artisans, I’m an equal opportunity shopper. I loved sorting through even some of the less artisanal (and dare I say, even mass-produced) goods. Unlike New York flea markets, where mass-produced means piles of tube socks and hair conditioner, the more mass-produced items here were not only cheap, but also diverse and even downright cute. We were tempted by cheap but pretty frocks, colorful strings of beads, and sporty backpacks– none of them handmade– and bought an assortment of both local and who-really-knows-where-it’s-from souvenirs.

1. Thai-made Home Goods, Decor and Accessories

Most of the markets I’ve been to are made up of rows of collapsible card tables, each table indistinguishable from the next, other than by the varying goods littering the tabletops.

But JJ market is different– you’ll find no hastily propped up card tables– each vendor is set up in an individual stall. Some of these stalls are barebone, with goods stuffed into every nook and cranny. But other stalls could pass for a chic city boutique, complete with custom lighting, tasteful decor and well-thought out displays.  Perhaps the most “boutique-y” of all the stalls were predictably, those selling home decor.

JJ Market Chatuchak Market Bangkok Thailand Home goods decor

Warning: unless you are planning to ship items home, browsing these stalls can be heartbreaking– I wanted to pack entire shops up and bring them home with me.

We noticed the use of natural materials and earth tones dominated the home decor selections.

Looking for decor with a more exotic Thailand bent? I think this gilded throne does the trick. You’ll also find plenty of Buddhas here, but be warned– Thai consider it culturally offensive for foreigners to buy buddhas for decorative purposes (not to mention you might need an export license to take one out of the country).

2. Women’s Colorful Clothing: Dresses, Skirts and Tops

We found a mix of high-quality women’s clothes (like these gorgeous elaborately embroidered skirts) and cheap but cheerful frocks that I wanted to buy by the armload. The cute sundresses above are about $6.00 each.

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Anne checks out the dress selection.

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While the cotton dresses were my favorite, we also found silky soft tee shirts (these $4 shirts reminded me of my $80 Splendid tops I buy in New York) and fun finds like these elephant tees.

3. Thai Art and Prints

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Shopping for art abroad can be tricky. Depending on the piece, it might be hard to work back into your decor back home. But the Thai art we saw at Chatuchak not only reflected the themes of the region, but also was simple enough to easily mesh with any modern decor. We loved the colorful lotus flowers and bright, graphic elephant prints. Not every piece of art is handmade here (price can be an overall guide), so if that’s important be sure to ask (vendors are generally honest about their wares).

4. Thai Scents and Essential Oils

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At JJ market, you’ll be enticed into these fragrant oil stalls by their intoxicating scents. Inside you’ll find every kind of incense, scented oil and perfume imaginable, in exotic scents you don’t typically find back home.

5. Carved and Scented Soaps

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Thai soaps are a perfect souvenir or gift for the person who has everything.  You’ll find beautifully carved soaps and unusual scents you won’t find anywhere else– green tea, grape, even turmeric. At $1 a soap, it’s easy to scoop these up by the dozen.

6.  Local Thai Coffee Beans

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You may be surprised to learn (as I was) that Thailand has its own coffee plantations. After sampling the insanely delicious local coffee here, it was a no brainer to pick up several bags for home (stay tuned for an in-depth future post on Thai coffee).

7. Thai Elephant Pants

If you aren’t yet familiar with Thailand’s ubiquitous elephant pants, you will be after visiting Chatuchak (or pretty much any market in Thailand).

8. Handmade Asian Paper and Stationary

There’s a long and fascinating history of paper-making in Asia. Paper can be made from rice, mulberry bark or other indigenous materials. At JJ market, you’ll find handmade paper from Thailand (and other Asian countries), wood-cut post cards, and general paper products in a rainbow of colors.

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I never buy postcards, but these gorgeous hand-printed cards are not your typical tourist finds.

 

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Not all the paper goods are handmade here, but the selection is still bar none. Imagine your favorite party supply shop on steroids and then multiply it by ten neighboring stalls

9. Kids Toys, Clothes and Thai Gifts

Chatuchak Market is a great place to stock up on little gifts for your favorite kids back home– especially if they love elephants.

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Though these colorful stuffed Thai elephants are meant to be kids’ toys, I wouldn’t mind getting one as a gift.

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If you have a pint-size kid to shop for, these tiny shoes embroidered with traditional designs are pretty irresistible.

These Thai elephant bags were so adorable I seriously considered buying one for myself.

10. Bags and Wallets

My souvenirs from Chatuchak market.

My souvenirs from Chatuchak market.

I felt like I hit a goldmine when I spotted this family’s stall featuring handmade wallets, zip-out tote bags, journals and more.

11. “Pashmina” scarves

You’ll see so-called “pashmina” scarves everywhere in Bangkok, including at Chatuchak market. Are these scarves really genuine cashmere as the label denotes? My take is that at $3 a scarf, who cares. The colors were bright and pretty and if they last a season I would feel satisfied that I got my money’s worth. Personally, I doubt they are pure cashmere– my best guess is a mix of cashmere/wool/viscose. Lightweight and easy to pack, I snared three of these.

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One “pashmina” scarf for me, two to gift. Who wants one?

 

12. Costume Jewelry, Beads and Glitz

The costume jewelry fan could spend hours in these stalls. The prices were about 75% to 90% less than what I would find at my local accessories store.
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13. Everything else

While I would love to call this guide to Chatuchak comprehensive, we barely scratched the surface of this amazing market’s 15,000 stalls. A few (ok a lot) more photos below, if you still haven’t hadn’t enough.

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Somehow, depsite the sheer quanity of goods on display, there was a harmony to the chaos.

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Since no shopper can make it through Chatuchak market without multiple pit stops for snacks and drinks, look out for our food and drink guide in our next post.

Have you been to Chatuchak/JJ market in Bangokok? Tell us about your favorite finds!

* Disclosure – I visited Thailand courtesy of TBEX and Tourism Authority of Thailand.

 

28 Responses to Shopping Chatuchak Market: the Ultimate Photo Guide to Bangkok’s Best Market

  1. parttimetraveler 04/05/2015 at 2:12 pm #

    Wow – I must have been jet lagged, because your photos tell me Chatuchak Market was even more beautiful than I remember!
    After frantically shopping the stalls at MBK on my last night in Bangkok (and now remembering the gems at Chatuchak) I have serious shopping regrets/FOMO for the items you picked up (though I do love my white+coral t-shirt!)
    Let’s go back!

  2. Amy 04/10/2015 at 8:30 am #

    This post makes me want to go to Thailand just for the souvenirs! Love the little bags and dresses. So many beautiful things here. If I go, I am bringing an extra suitcase. 🙂

  3. Sofia 11/12/2015 at 4:39 am #

    Hi there! I’m headed to Bangkok in December and stumbled upon your blog while doing some research on what to do and where to go. Just wondering if you remember which section those white shirts are from? They look super comfy to lounge in xx

  4. Amber 01/15/2016 at 11:38 pm #

    Hello! I’ve read elsewhere that most clothes for sale in Thailand ate for petite women. Was that the case that you found? Was anything a size med or large?

  5. Anonymous 03/13/2016 at 5:59 pm #

    What about plus sized clothing n bangles

  6. Anonymous 04/01/2016 at 1:02 am #

    I find your post very helpful, I’m will be heading to Thailand this April ????????

    • Kristin Francis 04/02/2016 at 2:16 pm #

      Thank you! Enjoy Thailand!

  7. Ngoc Anh Nguyen Hoang 04/26/2016 at 1:46 pm #

    Thank you for your helpful post. Could you give me the number of section/soi where I can find elephant pants and pashmina scarves, please?

  8. Anonymous 09/28/2016 at 6:36 pm #

    Thanks I am headed to Thailand in 15 days!

    • Kristin Francis 11/09/2016 at 6:58 pm #

      Awesome hope you had a great time!

  9. Gillian Aye 12/17/2016 at 10:53 am #

    Thanks so much, great idea for Christmas gifts shopping.

  10. Tomi Ann Hill 02/06/2017 at 12:38 am #

    Thank you for a great post! You have me SO excited to hit JJ Market. Do people actually wear the harem pants around in Thailand, or do you just stick out as a total tourist if you do?

    • Kristin Francis 02/16/2017 at 1:29 am #

      Oh yes people definitely wear them. They work well because of the heat they’re nice and breezy.

  11. Cath 02/15/2017 at 4:09 am #

    I am going to Bangkok with my friends for the first time this November and starting to browse. I cant wait! Mostly because your photos are really lovely 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 02/16/2017 at 1:26 am #

      Aww thanks Cath! You will love it.

  12. Anonymous 04/30/2017 at 8:53 am #

    Hi lovely post. If you could update which zone or street or landmark these things you found that would be awsum

    • Kristin Francis 10/24/2017 at 8:46 pm #

      Hi there! If I’d had more time to visit the market and Bangkok that would be a great idea. But unfortunately I just snapped photos as I did a walk though. The purpose of the post is to give you an idea of what you can expect to find, not an exact map, and I hope you make more serendipitous discoveries on your own as well! Let us know your favorites.

  13. onemumband 06/12/2017 at 8:57 am #

    Hi Kristin
    Great post do you know if the market has stalls for embossing passport covers? xx

    • Kristin Francis 10/24/2017 at 8:23 pm #

      Hi there! I really have no idea but I wouldn’t be surprised. The market is divided into sections maybe look where they sell leather items?

  14. Anonymous 07/18/2017 at 8:26 am #

    Thanks a lot n it’s really helpful. I’m going to Bangkok this October and very excoted after seeing ur photos. I think JJ market will be my priority place to visit

    • Kristin Francis 10/24/2017 at 7:04 pm #

      Yay I’m so glad to hear! Agree I couldn’t find any decent photos of Chatuchak so I’m glad mine made the difference. It’s one of my favorite markets anywhere.

  15. Anonymous 03/30/2018 at 1:51 pm #

    hello everybody,i want to know telephone number of the shop.It is place which buy dressess,shirts,..of women. many thanks

  16. HappyLuke 04/05/2018 at 11:51 pm #

    This post is really great! Plus I love how you were able to find the perfect souvenir that you seem to really love. 🙂 I also love to eat and getting massage in between because it helps me to recharge my energy to shop more.

    • Kristin Francis 05/17/2018 at 6:39 pm #

      Eating and massages are the perfect activities to combine with shopping!

  17. Anonymous 07/23/2018 at 11:46 pm #

    Great guide !! Thanks!!

    • Kristin Francis 10/25/2018 at 11:50 pm #

      I’m so glad it was helpful!

  18. Muniba Adnan 10/15/2018 at 3:16 am #

    Hi Kristin, did you find any stalls there which sold sarongs or just fabric?

    • Kristin Francis 10/25/2018 at 11:21 pm #

      Hi Muniba! There were definitely stalls which just sold fabric. Not sure about sarongs specifically.

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