Friday, February 17, 2012

Thailand: The Itinerary, The Weekend Market

Also known as Bangkok, Part II

11/27: The Chatuchak Weekend Market

If you've ever been to a flea market, like 7 Mile Fair for those in the WI/IL area, the Weekend Market is kind of like that...but supersized. It's almost as though the world's most eclectic collectors each had an 8x10 storage locker in the same oversized storage locker maze, and all at once they opened their lockers...overwhelming and yet amazing.

To set the mood for the day, we wandered down to Th Suhkumvit to the friendly neighborhood McDonald's, again, for some familiar comfort food. We then decided to wander the soi's (side streets) to see what was in the area. After aimlessly wondering past countless massage parlors and hostels we decided to hire a tuk-tuk to take us to the market.

We approached the driver, who spoke English impeccably well, and asked to go to the market. Without hesitation this fine gentleman told us it was under water, closed, flooded...but he could offer to take us on a 2hr tour of all of the must see sights of Bangkok for 200 baht. It's true, much of Bangkok had recently been devastated by floods...but something didn't small right. And for once it wasn't the soi. We decided to take a chance and walk away from the very persistent tuk-tuk driver, who followed us btw, and ask the nearby cab driver. The cabbie was quite willing to take us to the market and assure us that the market was quite open. Turns out the market was farther than the tuk-tuk could go, but desperate for business the driver was willing to say and do whatever it took to convince the silly foreigners to hire him anyways...

Let that be today's lesson. Thailand is touted to be the 'land of smiles' with the friendliest people. Wellll, sort of. We did not find this to be entirely true in Bangkok, which I suppose is a reflection of it's size and high tourism rate. Know where you want to go, what is a reasonable rate, be willing to barter, and be firm. And don't be afraid to say no and walk away.

Minor hiccup aside, we made it to the market with a few hours to shop and browse. I think it is best to let the picture do the talking...

We seem to have been dropped off at the antiques and fine art end of the market. It was almost as thought we were transported back in time...ornate woodworking, beautiful furniture, sculpture and fine art surrounded us. It was astounding. We wound our way through that section of the market, without any plan or direction, until we ended up at one of the many, shall we say, food courts.

The smell of chestnuts roasting filled the did the stench of dirty soi and fish, but I'm choosing to remember the chestnuts.

Fresh fruit as far as the eye could see. Tangerines, strawberries, pineapple, coconuts, dragon fruit, watermelon. The fruit was being continually transformed into fresh cut fruit cups, coconut water, popsicles, smoothies and fresh squeezed juice. We partook in the fresh tangerine juice and it was heavenly.

We even found freshly roasted ears of corn on the cob, which I am astounded to say that W refrained from trying.

From food court to the bizarre...knock off handbags and clothing, underwear, lots and lots of underwear, and pet apparel. This particular little guy was sporting a SWAT team vest of sorts and helmet complete with protective visor for scootin'. And believe me, the Thai scooted with their pets.

From there we seemed to be transported back a decade or two. Boatneck tee-shirts, neons, sleeveless t's and "retro" prints. Only I don't believe the items to be revival pieces...I think that our 80's wardrobes finally made halfway around the world.

My only true regret in Thailand was not picking up one, or ten, of the slap watches that seemed to be all the rage.

From there we found our way to the shoe department. While there were hundreds of seemingly handmade shoes, there was also an abundance of used footwear. Original Air Jordan's? No problem. The highest of hi-tops in every color of the rainbow? You betcha. It was like falling through the rabbit hole and finding yourself in the closet of an 80's pro basketball player.

We wandered down aisles of precious,and not so precious gems, beautiful beads by the sold by the string or pound.

We looked at reams of fabric of every style, color and weight....

And eventually found our way to the fish market. This might have been the most astounding part of the market. Goldfish and Koi of ever color, shape and size imaginable. Amphibious lizards. Plants. Piranhas. Waist-high swimming pools set up to house fish nearly as big as I am. And more. Astounding a terrifying all at once.

And that is when we decided it was time to call it a day.

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