As well as a number of popular mainstream night markets in Bangkok , the city has its fair share of specialist and somewhat alternative night markets that are worth a visit for a taste of something a bit different. However, be warned, the best time to go to them is in the middle of the night!
Just a stone’s throw from the Memorial Bridge river boat stop, this wholesale cut flower market is Bangkok’s largest and runs twenty-four hours a day. Pak Khlong Talat is believed to have begun its life centuries ago as a floating market; today fruit, vegetable and fish vendors are around too, but the focus is on the flowers – traded both for decorative use but also for the religious and spiritual offerings that are pivotal to Thai culture.
Expect roses, orchids, tulips and a million other varieties of unique-looking and brightly coloured flowers that are shipped in at all hours of the day from provinces around the country. Things get busiest at Pak Khlong Talat just after midnight through to the early morning – if you can come at this time, it’s a chaotic and fascinating sight to behold.
Long known as the ‘flashlight market’ for its darkness and the need for a torch to be able to check on the quality of the goods on offer, today things at Khlong Thom night market are a little brighter but this remains Bangkok’s original flea market. With a focus on electronics but al manner of other vintage and retro treats thrown in too, Khlong Thom is the kind of market where you’ll find everything you definitely don’t need but suddenly desperately want.
Expect records, car parts, toys, TVs, knock-off clothing, radios, comic books, musical instruments and more. The market, takes place in Chinatown at the junction of Sieuh Pah, Charoenkrung, Luang and Worachak roads, with stalls on the street as well as inside the Khlong Thom Centre. It runs from around 5pm on Saturday all the way through until around the same time on Sunday – expect it to be busiest late on Saturday evening. The nearest Chao Phraya river boat stop is Ratchawong.
Khlong Toey is Bangkok’s biggest and freshest wet market, well known but less often visited by travellers to Bangkok. Wherever you eat at the city, there’s a good chance that some of the food on your plate will have passed through this labyrinth of a market at some stage. Everything from fruit and vegetables to fresh – and probably still alive – chicken, duck, pork, frogs, insects – is on sale here. There are also the Thai staples like rice, chillies and plenty of freshly prepared curry pastes.
The crowd is a mix of restaurant owners sallying through with porters and trolleys following, and locals popping in for a few ingredients to cook with at home. However much you come to buy, you are guaranteed low wholesale prices and top quality – produce is shipped into Khlong Toey from right around Thailand, aided by its position on the Chao Phraya river just alongside one of Thailand’s main two cargo ports. You’ll need to be early to see things in full swing – the market kicks off at around 2am, but carries on through until about 6pm.
Tucked away on Charoen Krung Road and barely known to visitors, Bangkok’s wholesale fish market packs a punch with its collection of fresh fish and seafood – everything from jumbo sea bass to crabs, prawns, squid, clams and more – waiting to make its way onto the plates of restaurants and private homes across the capital.
Be warned, this is a busy, stinky affair, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to see the fish trade at work. Watch crate after crate of seafood be wheeled in, sprawled out, hosed down, weighed, sold and sent on their way again. The market is located on Charoenkrung Soi 62, close to Saphan Taksin BTS station, and is at its busiest in the wee hours after midnight.
In the heart of Bangkok’s Chinatown district known as Yaowarat, Sampeng Lane is a narrow alleyway that runs parallel to Charoenkrung Road.
Most people go here during the day, but for some vendors their main business is in the middle of the night (2am-6am) when the real wholesale buyers come shopping.
This wholesale market, said to be the oldest in the city, packs in the goods with a focus on clothing and household items. But truth be told, you’ll find just about anything you’re looking for here if you hunt hard enough – it’s also a great spot to stock up on cuts of unique fabrics, while this being a Thai market of course means there is plenty of food. As well as dishes to graze on there and then, a considerable portion of the market is given over to stalls selling bags of dried nuts, fruit, fish, squid, sweets and other snacks to take with you. Sampeng Lane market also runs in the daytime (until about 6pm) on Soi Wanit 1 in Yaowarat.
Khlong Toey photo by Mark Fischer; fish market photo by Chris Gusen; Sampeng Lane photo by Fabio Achilli; all other photos by Chris Wotton.
Have you been to any of these markets? Do you have your own favourite? Let us know in the comments!