Raiding Chatuchak Market: The 6-hour 10,000-peso shopping spree was worth it!

July 24, 2019 – Chari Trinidad

It was my first time to visit Bangkok, but if there’s anything I knew about Thailand, it’s that the country is a shopping paradise for the trendy and stylish. It wasn’t long until I proved that to be true—and oh, what an amazing experience it was! We spent six whole hours trying to go through the dizzying fashion lanes of the city’s famous street market, Chatuchak.

The Chatuchak Weekend Market was one of the two main shopping areas near our hotel. Before we set out to do our shopping spree, our editor, Tim Yap, told us a bit about the Thai fashion scene. This fashion expert shared that the local government recognizes up and coming designers each year and helps them become worldwide sensations. Promising designers are sent abroad to study the industry’s textiles and trends, applying their learnings with traditional and local fabrics.

Thai artistry is put front and center in this shopping capital, too. There are malls dedicated for local boutiques like Siam Paragon. Here, famed local artists are featured with their upscale designs. Each store has unique pieces, some bordering couture, while others, avant-garde. With artistry came the steep price tag. It’s a really interesting and admirable #supportlocal movement. How I wish artists and entrepreneurs here in the Philippines received the same support from the government!

Chatuchak Market was only 15 minutes away from Rama 9 road by taxi. We only had one free day to roam around so we wasted no time on commuting. Word of advice, if you want to get around the city faster, cabs are a whole lot cheaper than Grab rides. We arrived at the market at exactly nine in the morning and spent spent six hours under the scorching heat of the sun, looking for the best finds this market has to offer. Time went by so fast that we didn’t realize the day has reached the afternoon—shopping indeed makes time irrelevant.

The first thing we did was to look at the map of the market, take a photo, and agree on meeting at a specific gate number in case anyone got lost. The heat in Chatuchak was too much to bear, but for a first-timer, I wanted to see as much stalls as I could. The place can get a little too overwhelming with its various sections—bags, shoes, leather goods, and retail fashion are often seen together. We wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t spot all 15,000 of its booths—it’s humanly impossible!

We passed by so many stalls but I was drawn into very few of them. We rummaged the market looking for pieces that catered to our styles and needs. One of the trickiest aspects of shopping at Chatuchak is not being allowed to try the clothes on. You’d need one heck of an imagination to visualize if the pieces would look good on you. Most importantly, you have to be good at guessing your size—so know your measurements before hopping on the plane to Bangkok!

I spent most of my money at this one stall that had a standard price of 100 baht for tops and 200 baht for their bottoms and dresses. They used cotton linen for all of their pieces and the designs all came in muted earth tones. You can easily make a monotone terno for yourself, too. The catch? The stall only offers the clothes in a one size.

I obviously went crazy and got five tops, two bottoms, and a dress from this one shop. It was also a hit to many of the market visitors as we browsed its racks with a handful of other tourists.

Let me tell you a little about the clothes I hoarded from this particular store... What I got were mostly basics that can be easily paired with those I had in my closet. I bought a cropped sleeveless buttondown, a ruffled boxy top, and a knotted sleeveless piece—all in the color white. They are classics—equally edgy and dainty that can magically hide anyone’s real age (particularly anyone past quarter-life). These tops also look best with high-waisted light-colored denim.

I also brought home a mustard garterized cropped top that cinched the waist. Of course, I couldn’t help but pair this one with mustard trousers—they were simply made for each other! I also got the same design in the color white and I have no regrets. I guarantee those who like wearing ternos will have fun shopping at this stall.

This stall carried my style so much that we’re still talking about it. My terracotta picks from here were a slip dress and a tiny tank top. They are comfortable and easy to style—you literally just slip these on and pair them with strappy sandals. Since it bares a lot of skin, you can opt to accessorize it with necklaces or statement jackets. It’s too bad I didn’t take note of the stall number, but I remember it being on the main road between Gate 1 and Gate 3.

Most of the purchases that I would label as a miss would have to be the satin bottoms that we found in one of the shops near the Gate 3 entrance. They had multiple sizes from extra small to large, but we weren’t allowed to fit them to our disadvantage. From here I got loud and vibrant wine-colored pants. The fit was a bit off, but on the plus side, its dark color can give your legs a thinner appearance. I also bought fitted shorts in the similar shade as a gift for someone. Since the bottoms were sold for nothing over than 200 baht, I opted to get white satin shorts as well. They’re pretty comfortable but the back is a bit see-through. I have to be very particular about innerwear with this one.

As we went through our day of shopping, a change of clothes was in order. I grabbed the cheapest cotton sleeveless top I could find and changed immediately. It was a cute find with a zebra graphic. Another learning: Go to Chatuchak in your most comfortable clothes. Note to self: You did not go there to take pictures.

We also had to buy large tote bags to help us carry all our purchases. It was a little bit costly at 250 baht each, but the canvass bags we got had such cute designs that the cost-per-wear will make it worth it. If you don’t want to spend extra cash, I suggest bringing your own totes for a less hassle shopping experience.

Speaking of bags, I had two purchases under this category that are nothing but chic statement pieces. I found a handcrafted wooden bag that we have decided to call the “Bird Cage.” It has an interesting shape that’s skillfully carved from bamboo and can be worn with any outfit. I love how it instantly adds sophistication to any look.

I also fancied a handwoven rattan bag. Even if it’s the type that can be found almost everywhere these days, I believe it never goes out of style. It is generously spacious with a size that’s perfect for any day-out without looking too bulky.

The other novelty accessories I got from Chatuchak were a leather belt, trendy block heels, and statement sunnies. These were my golden purchases! The leather belt was my most expensive buy at 1,300 baht, but it was made with authentic leather and showed superb Thai craftsmanship. I remember being taken aback with its worth, but I was convinced by what my shopping partner said: “A belt is as much as leather shoes.”

The cream-colored heels I got were easy to pair with any outfit, too. The gold arch made it unique (and was the main reason why I bought it). We also spotted black sunnies that reminded me of Tony Stark. It gives its wearer such an edgy look, and can add a strong personality to any outfit. I love it 3000!

I spent a total amount of 6,000 baht at the Chatuchak market. My conversion was at 1.75 since that was the rate I got in the money exchange in the airport. So my hefty haul rounds up to P10,500. Just a recap: seven tops, five bottoms, one dress, three bags, one belt, a pair of shoes, and a pair of sunglasses all for P10,500? I call that a success!

Even after spending six hours at Chatuchak (yes, we stayed there from 9 AM to 3 PM), we surprisingly missed a big chunk of the area. Apparently, there’s an air-conditioned section with other interesting stalls, which you can find at the JJ Mall. This just gives me all the more reason to go back. But the next time I’m braving this 35-acre market, I would schedule my trip at four in the afternoon. It would force me to do a 2-hour shopping sprint (the market closes at 6 PM), but I would be strolling in an uncharted area I know I’m bound to find things I’ll love.

Chatuchak, I am definitely coming back for you!

Photos by Vinz Lamorena. The alike team thanks Mr. Jerry Looi of the Unilever Network for touring us around the best of what Bangkok has to offer.