Chatuchak Weekend Market satellites continue to spread across the capital
The sprawling weekend market next to Chatuchak Park has drawn steady crowds ever since it opened in 1978 (after vendors kicked out of Sanam Luang moved to land donated by the state railway). By the late 1990s, it was not only the largest market in Thailand, but one of the largest street markets in the world.
It was only a matter of time before it spilled over into the night, starting with a few rustic night-spots which catered to market-goers who felt like hanging around for a beer after dark. Some of these evolved into clusters of vendors inspired not so much by daytime Chatuchak as by the vintage flea markets of Europe.
One of the most prominent of these was the Railway Market (Talat Rot Fai), found just outside Chatuchak Weekend Market, where for a few short years Bangkok’s bohemian set gathered to trade in all manner of vintage clothing and accessories while grooving to retro vinyl and the occasional indie band. When the property lease expired, the Railway Market moved far across town to Si Nakarin Rd, where it continues to do well serving the young alt-shopping crowd from the nearby Lat Phrao and Ram Inthara neighborhoods.
The loss of the Railway Market left behind a vacuum that was soon filled by Jatujak Green, often abbreviated as JJ Green, a larger market that occupies a large parking area to the west of Chatuchak Park. A number of permanent food and drink outlets were added along the way, and nowadays the visitor density at night rivals that of Chatuchak Weekend Market itself.
Regulars prefer it to the daytime version for the obvious reason that it’s much cooler after the sun goes down, and because there is a wider variety of places to eat and drink. And like its predecessor the Railway Market, JJ Green cultivates a hipster image. Most vendors operate in the open, so an umbrella is a must when visiting during the rainy season.
Many items you’ll find for sale at JJ Green are similar to what fills the stalls at the Chatuchak daytime version, including endless piles of custom T-shirts, inexpensive sunglasses, faux-vintage denim, hipster lids, costume jewelry, and crafty-looking ‘Thai’ souvenirs.
Easily the most interesting part of the market is a large section dedicated to second-hand goods selected for their nostalgia value—old shop signs, neon art, antiques, amusing product samples, retro cameras, vintage photos, posters, and paintings, biker gear, and stacks of vinyl records and turntables. Some stuff is carefully arranged in permanent stalls, while other vendors purvey their selections from open vans and cars. In Green Vintage, look for a vendor called Good Glasses, which specializes in true vintage shades. Officially this section of the market is named “Green Vintage”, and some people are even calling all of JJ Green by that name nowadays.
Another legacy of the Railway Market is found further north in Nonthaburi. The Siam Gypsy Market is strung out along a 1.6 km roadside space that brings together guerrilla clothing stalls and minimalist drinking holes, along with much of the same merch found at Green Vintage. Rumour says gambler and businessman Chatchawal Kong-Udom invested 100 million baht into this Chatuchak satellite, perhaps because it’s right next to the new Bangson MRT Station, opening in August 2016 on the Purple Line.
Like JJ Green, it’s open Thursday to Sunday evening from 5pm to midnight, although a few bars keep serving until after midnight on Saturday and Sunday. In both night market areas, bargaining is acceptable, although you can only expect to shave 15-25 percent off the asking price.
Good spots to down a few drinks include Sathan Nee Ruam Mit, a cavernous shelter with minimal décor, cheap booze, and a boisterous post-uni crowd. Another popular gathering place is two-story Clock Tower, which is decked out in worn retro furniture and bright colors, and features live bands.
To reach JJ Green take BTS to Mo Chit station or the MRT to Chatuchak, then walk across Chatuchak Park till you see the signs. For Siam Gypsy Market, take the Chao Phraya Express boat to the Tha It Pier in Nonthaburi, and then hop a motorcycle taxi or tuk-tuk.