One of the newest night markets in Bangkok, Talad Neon occupies a more central location than most recent openings, close to shopping in the downtown Pratunam area (it’s the brainchild of the owners of the popular Platinum Fashion Mall) and convenient for those staying around Siam and Sukhumvit.
Part of the concept at Talad Neon, open since December 2016, was intended to be to continue the trend for trading from within metal shipping containers, introduced in 2016 at pop-up markets like Artbox. Talad Neon’s collection of fashion and souvenir stalls, food vendors, and outdoor bars will probably satisfy most first-time visitors to Bangkok – but we think those used to larger-scale, longer-running night markets like Talat Rot Fai, Siam Gypsy Junction and JJ Green will be disappointed.
Once upon a time, Bangkok’s biggest and most talked-about night market was the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, in a central location just opposite Lumpini Park at the intersection of Rama IV, Wireless and Sathorn roads. It closed in 2011, and the majorty of Bangkok night markets that have opened since then have done so in relatively far-flung locations on the outskirts of the Thai capital, where large plots of land are both more readily available and more affordable. One of a number of new night markets in Bangkok, Talad Neon – billed as the Downtown Night Market – brings the scene more or less back to where it started. That said, we’re not convinced about Talad Neon’s staying power – read on to find out why.
Despite the plans for an Artbox-style fest of shipping containers, when we visited on a Friday evening just one of these was occupied by a trader – a few converted containers were being run as bars in a tucked-away alley towards the back of the large site, and a number of others remained empty and disused. Most vendors operate from tents, as is common at Bangkok’s other night markets, but even these were in short supply during our visit – the market felt overwhelmingly empty and quiet, with a striking number of unoccupied trading plots.
A temporary funfair attraction was running when we visited, with a miniature ferris wheel and merry-go-round, though this didn’t appear to be garnering much interest. We had also been led to believe that, in tune with the venue’s name, attractive neon lighting was prevalent around the market – but in reality, with the exception of the funkily lit, standalone sign at the entrance, there was little evidence of this.
Many of the goods on sale at Talad Neon are similar to those available at other mainstream night markets in Bangkok – think cheap street fashion and accessories, homewares, and a few electronics (but a notable lack of the flea-market-type finds that are part of the draw elsewhere). The similarity to other markets is perhaps to be expected, but there’s also a tackier feel to the selection of products on offer, like the touristy kind of ‘Bangkok, Thailand’ t-shirts common at stalls around Khaosan Road and elsewhere.
That said, visitors might want to take a t-shirt home with them and, in any case, the vibe at Talad Neon feels overall far more touristy than most, and the market feels like it was primarily designed with tourists in mind. It’s especially popular with Asian visitors staying in nearby hotels around Siam and Pratunam, and vendors are more forthcoming with English-language sales pitches (the usual ‘hello, welcome, have a look, please’) than at the likes of Talat Rot Fai. But if you come to Talad Neon looking for a more authentic slice of Bangkok night market shopping then you are likely to leave disappointed.
Bangkok night markets are usually hotbeds for delicious Thai street food, with plenty of feasting to be done. Sadly, however, the eating and drinking possibilities at Talad Neon are again a let-down. You’ll find a decent enough number of food and drink stalls, but they all feel a bit samey – countless Thai eateries serve up practically identical selections of grilled seafood, a few other stalls offer unexciting local dishes, and a surprisingly high concentration of western food stalls tout what on the whole look like unconvincing recreations of foreign fast food dishes.
The microwaved nachos on offer at one stall looked unappetising to say the least, while we ate at a restaurant setup specialising in large hotpots of tom saab soup with large joints of on-the-bone pork (an increasingly on-trend dish across Bangkok), and weren’t particularly impressed. Prices are also considerably higher than at other comparable Bangkok night markets, and it’s among the food stalls that it’s most apparent Talad Neon is aiming (but, in our opinion, largely failing) to position itself as a higher-end, pricier venue than other everyday night markets, much like popup markets such as Artbox and the Great Outdoor Market have managed more successfully.
Just short of the large car park at the back of the site, a couple of bars are housed in converted shipping containers that occupy a small, tucked-away alleyway that you probably wouldn’t spot unless you were already looking for it. Like other parts of the market, this area feels a bit dark and empty, but the bars themselves are lively and, with some attractive outdoor seating on the rooftops of the containers, are probably among Talad Neon’s highlights.
Talad Neon is, overall, a decent but fairly run-of-the-mill Bangkok night market. If you’re new to Thailand’s night market scene, you’ll probably find enough to keep yourself amused for an hour or two of wandering, shopping, and stopping for a bite to eat – and you’ll likely be able to pick up a few souvenirs to take home, too. Above all, those who are staying downtown and are only in Bangkok for a short time will find Talad Neon far more conveniently located than most, just a short walk from Siam and Pratunam’s shopping and hotels, as well as the Skytrain.
But we think those who are regulars at the bigger, more vibrant offerings of other Bangkok night markets, which also attract the local crowd in far greater numbers, will be disappointed. There are conflicting reports as to whether Talad Neon is intended as a short-term popup market or something longer-lasting but, either way, we wouldn’t bet on it sticking around for years. Aside from the fact that it’s sitting on the kind of prime downtown Bangkok real estate that’s being snapped up all over the place for condominium developments, it lacks the buzz, shopping variety and far better food found elsewhere.
Wednesday-Sunday, 4pm-midnight; Phetchaburi Road Sois 23 to 29 (BTS Chit Lom or Ratchathewi); www.facebook.com/taladneon
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Photos by Chris Wotton.
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