1. Two less know markets
2. Amulets and Buddha statues
3. Directions to the Amulet Market
4. Flowers, fresh fruit and tons of ice: The Flower Market
5. Guided Tours
6. Directions to the Flower Market
If it’s not your first time visiting Bangkok, you’ve probably seen the top attractions: beautiful ancient temples like the Wat Arun and Wat Po, the Royal Palace, Lumphini Park and the Jim Thompson’s house; you’ve probably enjoyed shopping at the huge malls downtown, and you’ve ridden the ferry on Chao Praya River.
You may have been to Chatuchak market and sipped a cocktail at one of the luxury roof-top bar as the Vertigo or the Marriott the Surawongsee, taking in breathtaking views of the city at night.
But if you have a few more days left in the city and wish to experience Bangkok like a local or if you’re a repeating visitor who already covered the Must see/ Must do lists, here you'll read about two less known markets that make Bangkok so original.
The first market is not far from the Royal Palace and it’s known as The Amulet Market.
Thailand is (mostly) a Buddhist country and amulets play an important part in the Kingdom’s culture and religion.
The Amulet Market is where monks, collectors and Buddhism followers go looking for both ancient, expensive amulets and everyday talismans to keep at home or on themselves for protection.
The second market is not strictly religious, however the goods on display are, for a great part, used to decorate temples and public buildings, other than hotels, restaurants and private houses: I'm talking about the Flower Market.
Amulets & Buddha statues
The Amulet Market spreads from the area behind the riverfront of Maharaj Shopping complex, back to Chiang Pier, so it’s convenient to reach it by ferry as well as taxi, bus and BTS.
It is close to the Royal Palace, however I’ve never visited it before last month, for lack of time or because, to be honest, I never managed to find it.
I’m sure I’ve been in that soi (narrow lane) before, but either the market was closed that day or I can't explain how I missed it.
Once you get to the right alley, it’s really hard to miss: dozens of stalls sell thousands of sacred amulets bestowed with protection and Buddha statues, or other religious items.
It’s a local market that attracts residents who buy for their own collection and daily practice, and, of course, monks.
It possesses all the charm and the colours that you can hope for when visiting a market in a foreign land, however not all vendors are okay with tourists taking photos and videos.
You will notice many “No Photo” signs and some very rude merchants.
Most sellers are kind and polite, though, and a few even speak enough English to help with explanations about their amulets.
I ended up buying a few small amulets for Buddhist friends from a friendly vendor who was pleased by my interest and questions.
From what I understood from the patient seller (and from my friend Alice, always a helper in these cultural matters), the power of each amulet varies: some are believed to ward off spiritual evils, ghosts and imbalance; others are believed to shield owners from physical dangers like car accidents, bullets and so on.
So, each buyer who goes to the Amulet market has something specific in mind; they are looking for a special talisman who will guarantee them the protection THEY desire: blessing for a new project at work or for a new house, good luck for their family, a desired heir, or the winning lottery ticket.
The amulets can have the shape of medallions or Buddhas or other Hindu or Buddhist deities, and they come in different materials: wood, clay, stone, brass or even human body parts (like hair or bones of a deceased monk).
Unless you really know what you are buying, my suggestion is to choose what you like without bargaining too much on the price: some amulets are old and precious, most of them are made in series, so it’s a gamble!
Just pay the price you would pay for a souvenir, it can cost as less at 10 THB or up to several thousands, it all goes down to your faith OR your wallet.
Watching buyers at work to consult the vendors and identify their talisman, the one who will work the magic for them, is what makes this market so fascinating to see, even if you aren’t looking for a talisman to bring home.
The Amulet Market runs parallel to the Chao Phraya River, not far from the Grand Palace, in Maharaj (sometimes spelled Maha Rat) Road, behind the temple Wat Mahathat.
The main part of the market is behind the cafes and restaurants on the riverfront, so the easiest way to reach it is by Ferry (like the Chao Praya Express) getting off at Chang Pier, Maharaj Pier and Phra Chan Tai Pier.
Some stalls are along the main road (Maharaj road) while the core of it is in an alley marked as “‘Trok Maha That’, keep you eyes open until you see it. The Amulet Market is displayed also on Google Maps, so once you are in the area, you can check your phone and follow directions.
By BTS National Stadium, take Exit 2, then U-turn and walk to the bus stop of bus 47. It’s a 30 minute ride from there to the Royal Palace.
Flowers, fresh fruit and tons of ice: The Flower Market
The second market I’m going to write about today is called Pak Klong Talat (meaning “market at the mouth of the canal”).
It’s best experienced at night or in the early hours of the morning when at its busiest, the roadside transformed into a riot of colours from all the flowers and garlands that vendors are busy piling up and stocking, however I happened to be in the area one early afternoon and decided to visit it anyway.
Pak Khlong Talat, the Flower Market, occupies several alleys and buildings on Chak Phet Road in the Old City, south of Wat Pho and a stone away from the Chao Praya river.
One of the biggest flower markets in Asia
Pak Klong Talat is a wholesale market, one of the biggest flower markets in Asia.
Vendors sell flowers and props for flower arrangements of every shape and size, from vases to baskets and ribbons, but also fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and ice containers to keep the plants fresh.
The smell and colours of fresh flowers is intense: there are thousands of orchids, lotus, jasmine, lilies, marigolds and roses grown in Thailand, and imported species like irises and tulips.
Wholesalers drive to the market from every corner of Thailand bringing truckloads of fresh flowers to sell to retailers who will buy and resell around the city: restaurants, temples, hotels and government offices are the best customers, in need of new flowers every day.
You will see young and old vendors patiently assemble garlands and offerings for the temples or arrangements for funeral ceremonies, thin but muscled young men carrying enormous blocks of ice to distribute among sellers, cats roaming and playing hide and seek among cardboards and shipping equipment, a merchant or two taking a nap in a corner .
Mind your steps and don’t stand in the middle of the narrow walking lanes between the flower shops because people are working hard and fast here, and it can become frantic!
Moreover, be careful of the bikes and scooters running the aisles of the market like they own it, there have been accidents involving pedestrians in the past but drivers keep riding in the market despite a rule that forbids it.
Even if you are not up for a late night/early hour tour of Pak Klong, the market is open 24 hr a day, seven days a week, so you can visit anyway: it’s true that it is sleepier during the day, but it’s also easier to navigate; vendors are more relaxed and inclined to chat or pose for a photo and you can fit the excursion in a tour of the Old District.
In case you prefer to have a guide, there are ways to experience Pak Klong Talat by different tour operators, have a look at Get Your Guide or Tripadvisor.
Here's a few examples:
Pak Klong Talat lies in the Old District of Bangkok, not far from the Memorial Bridge.
I visited it after the Amulet Market, so I reached it with a short taxi ride from the Royal Palace (about 1 km away), but there are other ways to travel to Chak Phet Road.
The best way is by ferry (the orange flag Chao Phraya Express or one of the other Tourist boats) disembarking at Yodpiman pier.
From the pier, stroll along the riverside walk (Yodpiman Riverwalk) which is lined with shops and restaurants.
By MRT subway, take the Blue Line train to Sanam Chai station.
From there, walk for about 5 minutes on Sanam Chai Road East, then cross Rob Krung canal into Chak Phet Road.
Do you know any not-so-famous market in Thailand deserving a visit? Since I love to spend time at markets, I'm all ears for recommendations.