A Pedacito of Thailand Markets
In Thailand, if you want to go shopping, you go to Bangkok; if you want breathtaking mountain vistas, you can head to Chiang Mai. For world-famous beaches, you go to the south of Thailand and the surrounding islands. However, if you want a taste of local flavor, you go to a market.
Thailand's markets come in many forms: There's flea markets, wet markets, floating markets, markets that are open daily, and markets that are only open on the weekends.
Some of the markets pander to tourists, such as the Cicada Market in Hua Hin. The experience and availability of goods and services can change radically depending on where you go in the country.
A town usually has several markets with its own unique offerings. Two of the most prominent markets in the capital, Bangkok, are Chatuchak and the Train Night Market.
Chatuchak, which seems to always be as hot as the sun no matter what time of day you go, has pet shops and bookstores overflowing with stacks of used books in no discernible order; coffee shops; restaurants; quasi-bars, garden centers, and assorted curios.
The Train Night Market also has restaurants, trinket shops, and other offerings, which is a good place to grab drinks with friends. There is an abundance of rooftop bars and the view from above is one of the market's biggest selling points.
A bird's eye view of the Train Night Market makes it look like a Lite Brite due to the stall's multi-colored canopies being lit up in bright pinks, dark blues, vibrant greens, and canary yellows.
The more provincial markets are less of a tourist attraction and more of a social hub for the community. In Trang, a southern Thai province, one of the most prominent markets is Cinta. At Cinta, I would frequently run into my landlord, a Muay Thai fighter I sparred with, and the other teachers in town.
Cinta has many wares, offerings, and reoccurring figures, some of which are: a craft beer bar, a barbershop, a young girl who busked to live music every night; a place where fish would nibble the dead skin off your feet for a nominal fee (for the owner, the fish did it for free), and a Muay Thai gym (among many, many other offerings).
But what Cinta real provides is a sense of community.
When someone new arrived in town, they would inevitably go to Cinta and their appearance would be noted by the other teachers. Introductions would be made and questions of what school they were going to teach at, where they were staying, and where they were from were posed.
When you wanted to meet up with friends for dinner, Cinta was almost always the first choice. If you don't know what you wanted for dinner, no problem: markets like this are one of a myriad of choices.
Trang also has a smaller market that is only available on the weekend. This market, like the one in the heart of the town, is not to be missed if you visit Thailand. It's located near the train station and is a good place to stroll around and graze: eating small meals that cost around 40 baht (half a dollar-ish) each.
There are all sorts of delicious barbequed meats, grilled seafood, as well as Thai desserts on offer.
Markets are integral to Thai culture. They're a place to buy fresh produce and seafood. A place where you can have a beer after work and enjoy the cooler weather of the evening. They are outdoor malls and your one-stop shop for everything.
They are also egalitarian. That is, many places in Thailand offer a two-tiered price structure but markets do not. The two-tiered price structure consists of a price for the "farang" (foreigners) and a price for the locals. The farang price is often much higher and exists for parks, hospitals, beaches, and many more places.
The options in Thai markets run the gamut from fried grubs and scorpions to haircuts and tattoo shops, keychain M-16s, and wooden penises; they can take up several blocks and have fancy signs and they can pop up in shopping center parking lots.
But what they really offer is an experience you can't miss and the more you go to the more you'll learn about the cultural make-up of the country.
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