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Among Bangkok’s numerous night markets, people often talk about Talat Rot Fai – frequently referred to in English as the train market (but with no connection to the railway market in Mae Klong). However, there are actually 3 markets that are referred to as “The Train Market”- and they are currently among the most popular, and seems to have an enduring appeal, due to the balance between traditional market / hipster market / drinking venue. It’s been on something of a journey since it first appeared on Bangkokians’ radar a few years back, and it now operates in a number of locations.
Talat Rot Fai began its life back in 2011 in the north of Bangkok, between the Saphan Khwai and Mo Chit BTS Skytrain stations and not far from the famous Chatuchak weekend market. Specialising in both new and second-hand retro and vintage goods, but also packing in a great selection of food and drink, the market was an informal affair and had a real rough-around-the-edges feel to it. In the early days, even getting in meant climbing through a hole in the perimeter fence!
However, the market existed semi-illegally on land owned by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), and as a result its fate was always going to be uncertain. The market came to an abrupt end in May 2013, when its structure was partially demolished in spite of verbal agreements with the SRT, which sought to reclaim the land for construction of one of the city’s new transit lines.
After a brief absence from the Bangkok night market scene, Talat Rot Fai re-emerged on a disused spot behind the Seacon Square shopping centre on Srinakarin Road, in the east of Bangkok and far from its previous location.
It still stands here and, despite being less well served by public transport than the Saphan Khwai site, has grown enormously in popularity since opening. Sporting much more of an organised, branded identity than its original incarnation, Talat Rot Fai continues to host a number of traders selling vintage and retro goods.
That said, the market has also gone far more mainstream in recent years, and it is now possible to find all manner of goods here – everything from inexpensive street fashions to electronics, home decor items, and plenty more besides. You’ll even find old-fashioned al-fresco barber shops serving up on-trend, retro-style haircuts for as little as a couple of hundred baht. In addition to the main outdoor market area that sits at the very back of the site, there are a number of alleys of bricks-and-mortar shops that visitors are led through on their way in.
The selection of eating options has also exploded in size, too, both in this more conventional shop setting and outside in the raw grit of the market itself. You’ll find just about every kind of Thai food here, from stir-fries and curries to northeastern somtum papaya salad and southern biryani and meat-filled mataba pancakes. The market also plays host to one or two particularly well-known food stalls, among them the Jompalung noodle soup setup famed for serving hugely oversized portions to share, loaded with fresh seafood like tiger prawns and whole lobsters.
Bars are a prominent fixture at Talat Rot Fai, too, and for many these make the market just as much of a destination as the shopping opportunities. You’re sure to find a spot to suit you no matter whether you choose to kick back at one of the ‘proper’ structures with actual walls, both along the market’s entrance walkway and around its perimeter, and often with live music, or prefer to pull up a stool alongside a Volkswagen camper van or car turned into a makeshift cocktail bar that turns out mojitos and other classics (of variable quality, admittedly) for as little as 100 baht a glass or 350 baht per pitcher.
With its growing popularity, Talat Rot Fai has now expanded the additional location. The Ratchada Train Night Market has now arguably one of the most famous night markets in Bangkok among tourists. Even though its setting is slightly smaller than that at Srinakarin, there are lots of food trucks that has been increased and the location is easily to be reached by public transportation, behind the Esplanade Cineplex, such factors have been drawing a lot of interest. The market is home to plenty of food, bars, fashionable items, vintage stuff, toys, and even barbershops. You can pretty much find everything you need. If this is your first time and still have no idea how to start, here is some information that will guide you to explore the market.
If you love shopping please be careful as this market can make you broke. All trendy clothing and accessories are gathered here at a reasonable price. Vintage lovers would love this market too as there are lots of cool vintage items, antiques, and second-hand stuff that you can find good deals on. Also, if you love creativity, there are thousands of handmade hats, bags, shoes, necklaces, bracelets, custom clothes, and mobile cases which most of everything is affordable. Moreover, the market brings back childhood memories with vintage toys and snacks that rarely to be found elsewhere. If shopping takes you a very long time till your hair starts to grow, you can get a haircut at vintage street barbershops which is an eye-opening experience. As the shops are opened air located in the middle of the market and the haircut styles look very cool!
However, if shopping cannot fulfill all your desires, there are hundreds of food stalls that will surely kill your hunger. One can easily get lost in between all those food stalls which is why we have some recommendations for you that will not only fill your stomach, but you will go back with a big smile on your face.
This is a place for seafood lover! It is not like any seafood restaurant where they have a long menu for you to choose from. But it is a certified Instagram friendly restaurant that will fill your inbox with likes and comments. Basically, this place will serve you shrimps, scallops, shells, squid in a bucket topped with some chili paste, and after mixing it well they will dump everything on your table.
Don’t worry you will not get dirty as they will give you a chance to prepare yourself well by handing out apron and gloves. They are so good that they know that not everyone can eat spice, so you can also select the spice level.
Oh, did we mention that they also serve super tender BBQ Pork Ribs? That is another delicacy that they offer and there are many sizes that you can choose. If in your group someone cannot eat seafood, then pork rib is also a great idea!
After a good dinner, your stomach will ask you for dessert and your stomach is right as no meal is complete without a dessert. Here at Ratchada Train Market, you will find many shops of Mango and sticky rice and to be honest they all taste almost the same, even the way they decorate the shops are similar. Well, no one has stopped you from having 2 desserts, the 2nd one can be ice cream. Think about having ice cream in hot weather can be refreshing but which flavor should it be. We would recommend a coconut ice cream simply because it tastes super good.
If you are not full yet and still crave more food, then a few things that you can try are Talay Krok which is crispy coconut pancake topped with seafood item. If you are thirsty then Watermelon slush will keep you hydrated for a long time, we mean a really long time because watermelon slush will be served in watermelon shell and it’s huge! If someone is feeling adventurous and foody then there are plenty of choices for fried insects as well.
What follows by a heavy dinner is a calm and relaxing Thai massage. They have a whole building dedicated to Thai massage and being honest, they do it quite well.
After having some food and desserts, it’s time for drinking. Many bars lines on the street at the back of the market, giving cool vintage vibe as some bars made from shipping containers and old cars such as Volkswagen.
It’s a popular area for locals to hang out as there is a variety kind of drinks from smoothies to alcohol and live music to enjoy. Also, the average price for the drinks is very cheap comparing to other night bars in the city. Since the market closed late, you have time to relax and immerse a good atmosphere. Most bars have a rooftop, so you can enjoy the panoramic views of the market seeing the way of life at night.
Meanwhile, the newest location is on Kaset-Nawamin Road, on the far outskirts of northern Bangkok and likely not within convenient reach of most visitors. But it also boasts a slightly different and far more ambitious concept – while for the moment it’s still just a regular flea market much like Talat Rot Fai’s other two locations, in time the plan is for it to be transformed into a faux 1950s-themed town, complete with its own imitation train station, and shops occupying carriages.
Those of us who were in on the secret of Talat Rot Fai from the beginning, and remember the golden days of its early existence, may reminisce about the spontaneous edge that its newer versions admittedly seem to have lost to some extent – but the truth is that all three of today’s locations offer great spots for shopping, eating, and relaxing with friends over a few drinks. If you’re looking for somewhere to soak up the vibe of Bangkok’s famous night market culture, Talat Rot Fai should be high up on your list.
Talat Rot Fai Srinakarin: Thursday-Sunday, 5pm-1am; Srinakarin Road Soi 51 (behind Seacon Square shopping centre); take the BTS to Udomsuk, and then take a taxi or motorbike taxi for around 50-70 baht; www.facebook.com/taradrodfi
Talat Rot Fai Ratchada: Open Daily, 5pm-1am; Ratchadaphisek Road (behind Esplanade Cineplex); signposted and easily reachable on foot from MRT Thailand Cultural Centre, exit 3; www.facebook.com/taradrodfi.ratchada
Looking for other Bangkok night markets? Click here for our round-up of 11 of the best.
Photos by Talat Rot Fai Srinakarin, and Chris Wotton
Have you been to Talat Rot Fai? Let us know what you thought in the comments!
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