Night markets were my raison d’etre for coming to Chiang Mai. It doesn’t seem to matter where in the world I am, I love a good market. What I tend to forget is that David, my husband, hates crowds. How, you might ask, did we end up on a trip in Southeast Asia if he hates crowds? Jury is still out on that one. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that we could survive on $80 CAD per day in SEA versus double or triple that in Europe.
Anyways, back to the markets. Chiang Mai is my market catnip. Our guesthouse is in the area of Wau Lai, so the Saturday night Wau Lai Walking Street market was literally on our doorstep. We were woken from our jet-lag induced nap by the sounds of drums and the smell of barbecued meat. Om nom nom. I was ready for big eats.
Markets are sensory overload. Street musicians battled it out for tourist dollars, while on a big overhead speaker you could hear Thai remixes of North American music. Smells would shift from spicy sausages on a stick (not far off from the offerings at the Calgary Stampede) to grilled corn and then I’d be overcome with the desire for waffles. Ah… waffles. All in all, David and I ended up sharing: herbed Thai sausage, Chinese dumplings, a waffle with banana and chocolate, and it was finished off with the grand finale of mango sticky rice. If I ever commit a crime and end up on death row, I think I want mango sticky rice as part of my last meal. Sooooo good. The sticky rice is covered with condensed milk mixture and the mango is so ripe and sweet. Ahhhh… All of those delicious treats came to a total of 135 Baht or $4.65 CAD.
I may have also succumbed to buying a pair of Thai Harem pants. That might have happened. Look, I had tourist jealousy, ok? I’ve been sweating buckets since I arrived in Thailand and all the other farang (foreigners) are rocking the harem pants in awesome patterns including elephants and… I just had to do it. Besides, for $4.50 CAD for a pair, I couldn’t go wrong.
The second night market that we visited was the Sunday Night Walking Market. From my research that I found online, it looked like it was just one street, Rachadamnoen Road, but in fact it is made up of a number of roads spiraling off. We worked our way first north up Prapokkloa Road and found the start of the walking street. What a difference to the Saturday Night market. Sunday night is where true arts and craftsmanship comes out to play. Many a time David and I regretted massively that we didn’t bring more money with us… but on second thought that was probably a good thing. The artwork was to die for and I heard many tourists in the same boat as us. “If only I’d known!” “How will we ship it home?” “Why didn’t I bring more cash?” Yep. Everyone was in agreement about the art.
Food was a bit more spread out at this market. My advice – if you see something you want, get it then and there. Don’t wait to find another more convenient stall further down, because it might not be there.
The part about both markets that takes me aback is that down the centre of the street, you’ll come across musicians or artists who seemed to primarily be injured, blind or in some way disabled. It was as though these two nights provide them their income for the week, and I can’t imagine the vulnerability as crowds of people weave around you, particularly for the blind. There was one man who broke my heart. He was in a wheelchair and had a board of lottery tickets to sell. His expression was one of utter depression, and I can’t blame him. I wonder how those without musical talent fare during their time at the market.
On a more upbeat note, signs of the upcoming Loy Krathong are everywhere. Lanterns filled the streets but were not yet lit up. It’s like setting up the Christmas tree, lights and all, but not being able to flick the switch until December 1st. One Wat had a few strings of lights that made me jump for joy. Just a few days now…