Chiang Mai has a great selection of markets that delights both residents and visitors. While there we got to explore two of these markets – the Wualai Saturday Market and the Sunday Walking Market. The Sunday Walking Street Market is not only a showcase for the best of Thai arts and crafts, it is an evening out for the whole city! The Wualai Market is said to be the best night market market in Chiang Mai.
The Wualai Saturday Market
By far, the best night market in Chiang Mai. It is on a long stretch of road just to the south east of the southern moat of the old city. The market starts at 5pm and runs until way past 11pm, but the earlier you go the better since the crowds grow quickly. The products and food here are just fantastic! We went to this market after having dinner with the four friends that we had met on our journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai via overnight bus. This market is a smaller version of the Sunday Walking Market but it definitely has a lot more of a soul. A lot of Chiang Mai locals come to this market to hang out, shop for hand made items and eat delicious foods. Cheaply! We listened to a great live band, ate some fresh fruit and BBQed meat, and then checked out some of the market stalls.
One of the things I love about traveling in South-east Asia is the fact that tamarind is so freely available, and so amazingly delicious! The tamarind tree produces edible, pod-like fruit which are used extensively in cuisines around the world. The Thailand, tamarind is grown specifically to be eaten as a fresh fruit. It is particularly sweet and minimally sour. I loving buy them in bags, like the one you see above, and snacking on them for hours.
A very popular sweet street food in Thailand is Mongo Sticky Rice, above. To make it sticky rice is cooked by steaming, and sweetened with coconut milk and sugar. The sticky rice is then served with freshly cut mango cubes. This is a very popular dessert among travellers!
The Sunday Market
The Sunday Market (or Walking Street) is a large market located right in the centre of the old walled city area of Chiang Mai. Starting at the Tha Phae Gate at one end, the Sunday Market extends for roughly 1km down the length of Ratchadamnoen Road. You can go to the market every Sunday from 4pm until midnight. This road is always closed to traffic while the market is open. This allows shoppers to browse the goods on display, bargain with vendors for a good price and wander freely all around without watching over their shoulder for a motor bike zipping past. The Market is growing bigger and every year and has now started to spread down many of the side streets off the main road, as well as into the big open area around the Tha Phae Gate itself.
Unlike the night Bazaar, which is filled with imitation designer labels, the Sunday Market is a showcase of the art and craftsmanship of the Northern Thai people. Many of the stall vendors make and sell their own products and the quality of the craftsmanship is superb. The goods available are made from a wide variety of materials such as silk, paper, fabric, wood, metal, glass, ceramic, etc.
The handicraft products displayed are perfect as gifts or beautiful and useful items to decorate your own home. You will also find many vendors selling shoes, jewellery, souvenirs and clothing (like Thai silk boxer shorts for $2). There are a number of restaurants, coffee shops and bars in the market area where you can escape from the crowd and sit and enjoy a meal or a drink and watch the flow of shoppers as they pass by. The Sunday Market really comes alive after dark when all the street entertainers, musicians, puppeteers, Thai dancers, and bands start to perform; and all the pretty coloured lights are turned on. If your feet get sore from wandering around, you can have a foot massage for 60 Baht ($2) for 30 minutes.
We explored this market with our friends – Zach and Heather – from back home (and by”home”, we mean — China, the States, and South Korea). We decided to have dinner at the market since not all of us were very hungry on this evening. Plus street food is so yummy, so why not!?
What you see above are omelettes cooked in banana leaves. In fact, I was thinking of getting a couple of these for us to try. That was until we asked the guy sitting next to us what he had in his! Take a look at the omelette filling options below – the last three are “fish eggs”, “bee eggs”, and “ant eggs”.
After a few snacks and some smoothies, we headed back to the main section of the walking street to start buying some souvenirs. We bought three paintings, like the ones pictured below, all of them with elephants on. We were already excited to add them to baby’s elephant-themed nursery.
Both of these markets are great to explore if you find yourself in Chiang Mai over a weekend, and you want to do some wandering around. There is plenty to eat, buy, or simple just look at. We could have, and would have, bought much more if we didn’t still have two weeks of traveling ahead of us. We knew that we could buy most of that we wanted in Bangkok, but there are many gems in Chiang Mai that you can’t find in the other parts of Thailand.