IT’S that time of the week when every shopaholic is itching to go to where their body compass is pointing to – the weekend market. The pop-up shopping phenomenon is nothing new to the Thais; in fact, it is all around the country. From the north to south, from Chang Mai to Phuket, stalls arise as the sun goes down. The most exciting of which are the weekend markets. Think Chatuchak, undoubtedly one of world’s largest weekend market with more than 15,000 stalls selling just about anything you can think of, except an aircraft carrier.
Expect nothing less in Phuket. There may be the regular shopping haunts and there is also Chatuchak’s counterpart in town called the Chao Fa Market, names so because of its location, the Chao Fa West Road, the town’s main thoroughfare. It may be not as large as Bangkok’s famous weekend market but it is as exciting and as busy as the day (or night) wears on. Expect to dive into a heavy shopping traffic (so what else is new?)
Just like Chatuchak, the Chao Fa Market is open only on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday, except that Phuket starts theirs late in the afternoon, by 4 p.m. (a perfect time when the afternoon temperature is cooling down), and closes at around 10PM. The stalls are set-up on a cemented area with minimal navigational space allotted as the shopper’s pathway. There is no escape the elbow-to-elbow intimacy at any time in this place, it’s part of the charm.
As for the goods, there is a treasure trove of finds—useful and not. The Chao Fa market trumpets—“from clothes to pets, from stereos to plants, from tools to toys, music CDs, belts, second hand everything, fashion clothes, jeans, jackets, and lots of great foods too. Coming here is just great fun. Everyone is welcome…”
Indeed coming to this destination is fun. But there are a couple of essential things you us have -- a strong will and a stuffed wallet. You may have something in mind to buy but you will definitely be taking home more than what you have on your list, so let me wish you good luck on sticking to it. There are just too many “cute” and irresistible items in this market that will get the tourists (and even the locals) to part with their bahts. Like I said, resisting is futile.
My Phuket weekend market stop was for nourishment. A section of the market is dedicated for food, and Yashee and I chose to have dinner in one of the stall’s dining area. Of course, that didn’t happen. It was like the cocktail hour for us. On foot we moved from one cart to another tasting the local offerings served on a skewer, Styrofoam plate, a cup, a paper sheet or a plastic bag, and consumed the food with a plastic spoon or fork, a straw or with the fingers. At the end of the zigzagging trail, our hunger was sated and hoping that some of the calorie intake was burned along way.
So we called it a night and left the Chao Fa weekend market lugging our treasure finds— in our stomachs. Although I didn’t find anything for myself, I was in a charitable mood and wanted that colorful Louis Vuitton bikinis for a friend, unfortunately I didn’t know her size so I decided not to buy it. Perhaps on the next trip, I will.
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