Every evening, the centre of Chiang Mai comes alive with the massive Night Market that stretches for several blocks and includes restaurants, bars and entertainment. Few people visit Chiang Mai without picking up a few bargains here. In fact, the stalls that are squeezed on to the pavement and in the purpose-built arcades of Chang Klan Road are one of Chiang Mai’s biggest attractions.
In addition, there are two ‘Walking Street‘ markets each week – the Sunday Market along Ratchadamonoen Road (through the old town), and the Saturday evening market along Wualai Street (through the traditional Silversmith quarter). It’s worth planning your trip to coincide with one of these, since the products on sale are more authentic arts and crafts.
At the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar you can pick up everything from antiques to fake Rolex watches and an astonishing variety of handicraft souvenirs, or sample the smoothness of the colourful silk on sale everywhere. You can have a suit measured up, ready for your collection the following evening, browse exquisite Asian silver jewellery, or stock up on cheap DVDs.*
The Chiang Mai Night Market is considered legendary and certainly one of the cheapest places for tourists to shop in Thailand, owing to its close proximity to the source of products and the lower cost of living in Chiang Mai. It is situated along a three-block stretch of Chan Klan Road in the heart of the city, and within walking distance of most hotels.
Clustered around it are many restaurants and other useful services, such as camera shops, travel agents, internet cafes, massage and more. One popular activity is to have your portrait done all dressed up in traditional Thai costume. A word of warning; it does get crowded in the high season and the narrow lanes between the stalls become a human traffic jam. Many of the more traditional handicrafts can be found at the more pleasant Sunday Walking Street in the old town.
The actual Vieng Ping Night Bazaar is the main locus of trade and comprises a two-storey mezzanine arcade where quality antiques, clothing and crafts can be found. Across the road is the renovated Kalare Centre, where you can settle your appetite after all the bargaining and haggling. It has a more upmarket appearance and better selection of local goods than the pavement vendors. There is an international selection of food in an open-seated area with entertainment provided by traditional Thai dancers and music – though the food here is mediocre at best!
After many of the properties in the area were bought up by one of Thailand’s richest tycoons, there has been a gentrification that is otherwise quite shabby in the daylight. The Chang Klan Plaza offers indoor shopping centre-type shopping at the northern reach of the Night Market area, while the busy Anusarn Market, towards the southern end of the strip, offers the largest selection of eateries, particularly seafood.
Wandering along the crowded pavements, admiring the beautifully-made handicrafts and seeking out bargains on more contemporary consumer goods, is the best way to enjoy the Chiang Mai Night market. Take your time and be patient but, most of all, learn how to bargain.
Thai market traders expect it and their opening gambit will always be about twice what you ought to pay. The longer you persist with a ‘friendly’ argument, the better your final price. However, be aware that these goods are already cheap and the vendors earn modest incomes. How to Bargain in Thailand.
The many goods on sale include: colourful Thai fabric, silk, clothing, t-shirts (souvenir and fake name brands), copied sunglasses and watches, luggage, music and DVDs, cheap shoes, handicrafts, silverware, interior décor, wood carved products, gems, antiques, toys, accessories and travel convenience goods.
Walking Street in Chiang Mai
There are two of these and they can be considered the highlight of a shopping trip when visiting Chiang Mai. On weekends, Chiang Mai Walking street markets are organised on both Saturday and Sunday, and though crowded, are worth it to find better handicrafts, artsy items and souvenirs – displaying the full creativity of this city. Lots of items on display are simply ‘cute’ – there’s no other way to describe them – often sold by the makers themselves and are unavailable at the Night Market. Typcially, they begin in the late afternoon and run through until about 23:00.
The Sunday Walking Street runs along the length of Ratchadamnoen Road (through the centre of the old town), all the way to Thapae Gate and includes the forecourt beyond the gate. Often, there are performances here, too. The street is lined with vendors, along with plenty of restaurants in which to take a break. There’s also live music in some, and buskers to add to the atmosphere. It’s better to come before dusk when it starts to get very crowded, but the shopping experience is far nicer than the Night Bazaar.
Wualai Walking Street in Chiang Mai occurs on Saturdays on this road, which has traditionally hosted the silversmiths and jewellery shops of the city. It is a similar experience to the Sunday Walking Street, though more geared towards locals and less arty. The road runs off at an angle, outside of the old town, south of Chiang Mai Gate.