Markets are the heart of many cultures, including of course here in Thailand.
Our local market in Hang Dong sells just about everything. I buy all of our clothes there, and our daughter loves the small toy stall that sells versions of mainstream brands.
Everything from stationary to selfie sticks pack the many stalls that hundreds of locals flock to every Monday and Wednesday.
But it’s the food stalls that are the main attraction.
From pre made curries to sweets and even salt-encrusted grilled fish, you can basically find any Thai dish you’re craving.
The wonderful thing about virtually every country is that cuisine is different in each region, and Thailand is no exception. When we moved to Chiang Mai from Phuket, I had no idea gaeng som pla would be hard to find at markets. But of course it makes sense: we don’t live near the ocean, and this region’s cuisine has more Laotian and Isaan inspired flavours. Plus, delicacies only found here in the North.
I’m now a regular at the local nam prik stand, and load up on sticky rice and steamed pumpkin to take home for dinner.
Most of our local stalls offer take-away, such as pre-made curries or snacks. Only one or two stalls have seating areas.
Thailand has thousands of markets. Practically every neighborhood has one running at least once a week, if not daily. But it’s the main ones that tourists tend to flock to, such as the walking market in Chiang Mai or Naka ( weekend market) in Phuket.
I prefer small, local markets to the uber trendy ones that get lots of recognition in guidebooks. Sure, they may have lots to offer tourists and locals alike, but so do the ones that aren’t making headlines.
My suggestion is to always ask locals what their favorite market is, or which they recommend in your neighborhood. Next, ask what items they buy from said market, if you’re new to Thai cuisine and culture. If you’ve been in the country for some time you’ll probably know what dishes you like already, so ask friends which stall serves the best curry/kanom/etc
While markets may be kid friendly ( many stall owners bring their kids to work) they can get cramped and hot. My daughter prefers us going to our local market early, right after the stalls have set up.
The majority of Thais buy clothes from their local market, or sometimes at hypermarkets like Big C. This is because the clothes are not only a heck of a lot cheaper at markets, they’re cooler.
Because it’s hot as hell here in Thailand, I tend to only wear light-weight dresses. But I’m a quite curvier than most Thai women, making it harder to buy items that fit me, unless I shop from Western brands ( and even then I find most sizes are XS). The plus sized clothing stalls are too big for me, and the super cute trendy boutique-like stalls are extremely small, size wise.
However, I’ve gotten really lucky here in Hang Dong and found my go-to dress stall at our Monday and Wednesday market that sells the cutest dresses in my size ( about a US medium or large) for 100 baht!
My husband on the other hand is a slender fella, and finds shopping here to be a breeze. The lucky guy buys some pretty epic shorts and button up shirts at almost any market we go to, including the popular Sunday Walking Market.
Which brings up another important point: if you don’t speak any Thai or are at a particularly popular market, you may end up paying more than if you were a local, or if you were at a smaller market. We had this happen more in Phuket than here in Chiang Mai and isn’t something we’ve encountered often at markets.
Thailand is home to many exotic fruits, most of which you can buy at your local market. You’ll even find pre-made or made to order sliced fruit and syrup/dipping condiment at stalls throughout Thailand.
I particularly love mangosteen, which have a white fruit inside their purple exterior. Mango and pineapple are perhaps the most popular, and the latter is available in green or sweet varieties. The sweeter the mango, the better it is to accompany sticky rice. But I find Thais ( and yours truly) prefer the sour, green slices and some chili-sugar/salt to dip it in.
Depending on what region you’re visiting or living in, you’ll find seasonal fruit from that part of the country at your local market. Imported fruit is more readily available in supermarkets, and for a high price ( blueberries at Rimping are nearly 300 baht!)
Thai Vegetables & Herbs
Each region has its preference of herbs & veg that they use in their favorite dishes. In the South, you’ll find loads of stink beans ( sataw) at markets, which is harder to find in the north as it doesn’t normally grow here.
Markets will always have packets of herbs for Thai dishes, such as tom yum ( galangal, kaffir lime, etc).
Our local market has just about everything, from used shoes to fortune readers to puppies. Because it isn’t geared to tourists and caters more to locals, the prices are great, whether you’re buying a vintage YSL apron or getting a hair cut.