Let’s face it: the Chatuchak Weekend Market (also known as ‘JJ Market’) sucks. It’s unbearably hot, there are a million sweaty tourists slumping around and about 90% of the stalls are filled with useless crap (unless, of course, you’re a big fan of elephant pants and T-shirts with ‘funny’ texts). However, there are a few days a year when we’re forced to make the pilgrimage to Mo Chit, be it to pick up some necessities or because we couldn’t find the proper excuse to not join our friends visiting Bangkok on the weekend.
Luckily, there’s a few stalls and sections that stand out from this cesspool of mediocracy – making the suffering somewhat worth it:
Old is gold – Chatuchak’s vintage and antiques
If you’re, just like us, into the ‘weird and wonderful’, then Chatuchak’s section 26 is a true goldmine. Here, you’ll find everything from antique lamps to retro photo cameras and intricate silverwares to vintage teapots. We particularly love the vintage newspaper stand (section 26, soi 1/9, 224), selling hundreds of vintage newspapers and maps sourced from all around the world.
Walk a bit further down the lane and you’ll find Siam Rare Books & Collectibles (section 26, soi 1/9, 205), a shop full of bric-a-brac, antique Thai stamps and the most amazing collection of old packaging labels and cigarette cards, a serious source of design inspiration. Pick up a few vintage postcards to send home (ridiculously cheap at 10 THB/piece) – and feel good knowing that your purchase helps a young Thai girl go to school.
Walking around this section, we do sometimes question the authenticity of the wares – it’s Thailand after all, but the prevalence of serious looking grey-haired white guys spending hours around these stalls makes us feel that we’re in for the real deal.
Hip-ish Chatuchak homewares
Prop stylists, food photographers and interior design nuts – rejoice. While Chatuchak might not be known for its unique homewares, there are a few stalls selling stuff that wouldn’t look out of place on your Noguchi coffee table or your Tomado wire shelves.
Our absolute favorite stall for plates, bowls and glassware is TEE (section 17, soi 8/6), selling affordable Thai classics such as enamel plates, tiffin boxes and mugs – the kind of stuff you’d find at Urban Outfitters for $10 a pop. Products are sourced from old-style factories such as ‘Rabbit Brand’ and ‘Aeroplane Brand’, and you’ll find these wares on the tables of some of Bangkok’s hippest restaurants. Elsewhere, these items are usually sold in wholesale quantities, but buying them by the piece is no problem at this shop.
The woven bamboo baskets at Bamboo House (section 8, soi 14/1) come in a multitude of styles, sizes, patterns and colors and are perfect in many ways. They’re extremely versatile – use them as good-looking bottle covers, storage boxes or gift packaging – we’ve even seen them being used as lampshades! And, at only 20-50 THB a piece they’re too good to pass up.
Lastly, and we’re going to share an insider secret here, but some of the white-and-blue ceramics that make Bangkok’s Cabochon Hotel such a stylish place, are actually sourced from a stall in Chatuchak. Located in section 17 on soi 9/1, this shop is selling some of the better-looking ceramics on the market: think hand-painted teapots with brass handles and plates with intricate Chinese-style designs. Not extremely cheap (starting at around 350 THB a piece), but definitely cheaper than the real antiques in a similar style.
Stay hydrated: Squeeze ’n Grind
Beat the heat with a fresh cold-pressed juice from the friendly folks at Squeeze ’n Grind (section 23, soi 31/2). Juices and smoothies are prepared on-demand, and if it’s not the fresh fruit and vegetables giving you a kick, at least the drink’s names such as ‘The Cleanser’ and the ‘Green Machine’ will have you leave feeling healthy as fuck. They even serve up wheatgrass shots and cocktails, if you’re into that kind of stuff.
Not as healthy, but worth a quick visit are Wantong Cafe (section 26, soi 1/4) and Product of Gargoyle (section 26, soi 1/4), both serving up the usual smoothies, ice coffees and sweet snacks. The latter also has a great collection of cutesy porcelain mugs that’ll do great as gifts for your folks back home.
Chatuchak’s art galleries: Pariwat Studio
Chatuchak’s section 7 is home to booths and small galleries owned by local painters and artists, with artworks ranging from ‘so-so’ to ‘impressive’. While most of these works are nice to look at, but not necessarily something you’d want to have hanging above the couch, there’s one artist that truly stands out from the crowd: the friendly Pariwat Anantachina at Pariwat Studio (section 7, soi 3). His works, transforming everyday snapshots from cities around Asia into intriguing mixed-media collages are not only a joy to look at – they also make a perfect souvenir or gift. Opt for a rolled-up print, or ask him to assist you to ship one of his canvases back home.
Stuff your face: Moo Yang
We usually make sure to have a heavy breakfast before heading down to the market, and we try to make it out of there before lunch, skipping the need to find something to eat. The bustle, combined with cramped restaurants and – dear god – that heat, just don’t do wonders for our appetites.
There’s one stall, however, that we insist on dropping by for a quick snack or some take-home goodness: Moo Yang Nam Peung (section 22, soi 4/2), serving up sweet and tender honey roast pork chops prepared on a big charcoal grill in front of you. The shop is somewhat of an institution, judging from the photos of celebrities adorning the walls and the Thai uncles and aunties waiting in line. Luckily, its off-beat location keeps it secret from the big tourist crowds you find at other food stands in the area.
Alright, we admit – sometimes the Chatuchak Market isn’t all that bad, especially if you know where to look. Make sure to come early in the morning so you’re out before the mid-day heat strikes and the big tourist crowds arrive. Never pay the initial price, bargaining is a common practice. And, if you find something you like, buy it, the place is a maze so chances are you’re not going to find it back again.