For most people, Chiang Mai is nothing more than a shopping and foodie paradise.
Two of the best places to do just that are the Saturday Night Market on Wua Lai Road and Sunday Night Market on Rat cha dam noen Road.
Nothing beats shopping and haggling more than these two famous night markets of Chiang Mai.
Some call these markets as “walking street” but when I think of walking street, I think of a different walking street that is the exact opposite from the ones here. Instead of calling them “walking street”, I’ll call them night markets, which make more sense to me.
If this is your first time visiting Chiang Mai, it’s something you really need to check out. Something like this only exists in Asia and prepare yourself for some shopping and sensory overload!
Both markets opening hours: 5pm to 10pm or 11pm
I personally start going to the night market after 7:30pm after sun down. At 5pm, I still find it too hot and sweaty for me and believe me, if you go during spring or during the summer time. It’s as hot as heck. But if you want to avoid the crowds, head there early, although it is cooler at night.
Saturday Night Market at Wua Lai Road
The second largest night market in Chiang Mai, which runs through Wua Lai Road, just south of the Old City.
There are hundreds of night markets scattered throughout Chiang Mai. Some are small, with 20-50 stalls selling all sorts of Thai food and fresh fruits to large night markets like this Saturday night market with hundreds of stalls selling all sort of fresh food, spices, flowers, gadgets, clothing, toys, handmade accessories, souvenirs, knock off brands, cheap jewelry, arts and drafts and much more. But, don’t expect any high end or brand name products.
Sunday Night Market at Ratchadamnoen Road
This is the largest night market in the Chiang Mai City. The market runs through the old city along the Rachadamonoen Road from the Tha Phae Gate to the police station and along the Prapokklao Road which intersects with the Rachadamonoen Road.
The entrance of the market can be from any direction. I happened to see some street performers at the gate, and I then followed the crowd and accidently entered the market.
This market was much longer and bigger than the Saturday Night market. In fact, this is the biggest and longest night market I have ever been to.
The products on sale here are mostly the same as the Saturday Night Market with many of the same street performers and vendors.
This Sunday night market does offer many options for food and restaurants, although I think the Saturday night market offered a bit more in terms of food.
For the less adventurous and more sensitive pallet, you can find Western restaurants and Western fast food chains scattered throughout the market.
How to Bargain & Haggle
Many of the vendors offer the same products. If you want the best deals, just ask for the price of the stuff you want (if the price is not visible) to buy, but hold off from buying, as there is a good chance six other vendors down the street may offer the same items.
Try walking through the night market picking out the items you want to buy. Then turn around to go back to select the items you want to purchase once you get an idea of how much they cost. Don’t worry, everything will still be there.
Also, it is expected of you to haggle and it can be a lot of fun. Even though the price seems to be cheaper than what you find in your country or cheaper by your standard. Unlike shopping in big shopping centers in Thailand, shopping with the street venders is more flexible since you’re likely to be talking with the owners.
You should try to haggle and try to get about 10%-30% off the asking price. If you can get at least 30% off, you’re doing a good job. If you get 50% off the asking price, you’re doing better than me.
Then again, everyone know you have money because you probably took an airplane or a train from your country into Thailand, so if you haggle too hard they will just ignore you or tell you to go elsewhere. If that happens, just smile and walk away. However, you may use that as a haggling strategy, come back later and start haggling again, and then finally agree on a serious discount.
On the other hand, if the price is not to your liking, just smile and walk away. Aggression and overly assertive behavior will accomplish nothing.
Also, most vendors are not pushy or actively trying to rip people off and many are open to negotiation, unlike some other touristy parts of Thailand.
Not Buying or Shopping, or Haggle
You don’t have to haggle if you don’t feel like it. Even if you’re not planning to buy anything from the night market, just going there for a walk is an amazing cultural experience and something you cannot find in a western society.
These Saturday and Sunday Night markets are vivid, with bright lights, busy, with great atmosphere and alive. The entire experience was very relaxing and enjoyable for me. It’s worth going just to check out the vibrant atmosphere.
I went there during the beginning of the low season in March and April. The night markets were still full of locals and tourists. It was extremely busy. I can’t imagine how busy these markets would be during the “high season”.
Only Have Time For One Market
I think if you have the chance to visit Chiang Mai, you should go to both Saturday and Sunday night markets. But, if you only have time to visit one of these night markets, which one should you go?
If you want to see more variety of Thai food, Thai street food and restaurants, then check out the Saturday Night Market Walking Street. I’m not saying the Sunday Night Market doesn’t have any good food or restaurants, but there is more Thai food available at the Saturday Market. Although the Sunday Night Market seems to have more western fast food restaurants because it’s located inside the Old City.
In terms of shopping and products on sale, both Saturday and Sunday Night Markets have many of the same vendors selling the same products. Although the Sunday night market is a bit larger with more items on sale. Also, Sunday night Market has a larger collection of artwork like paintings up for sale.
So, if you can only go to one. Go to the Saturday Night Market if you want more Thai food and Thai Street food. Go to the Sunday market if you want a few more western fast foods, a bigger market and more artwork. Overall, both have many of the same products for sale with many of the same vendors and street performers.
Art, Painting & Drawings
All the artwork here are for sale. Don’t worry about how to get them home. If you purchase a painting, for example, the vendor will gentle roll the painting for you and inserted them in a round tube to protect the artwork. You may take the artwork inside the tube into the airplane as a carry on and place it in the overhead compartment. If that doesn’t fit, ask one of the flight attendant to place it somewhere and don’t forget to ask for it when you land.
Red Truck: Getting Back To Your Hotel
To avoid paying the inflated fare for the red truck (red truck are the these guys people use to get around Chiang Mai), try walking a block or two away from the main actions and you’ll find the prices usually return to the normal 20 baht rather than the 150 baht asked right at the market. If you’re there with a group of people, then that’s fine, you can split the cost.
If it’s very late or past midnight, the red truck and tuk-tuk drivers know you don’t have much of an option. You will probably have to pay the asking price, although you can always negotiate, but I wouldn’t pay any more than 150 baht in the city.
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