Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Shopping in Chiang Mai
The main venue for shopping in Chiang Mai, indeed all of Thailand, the night bazaar is a can't-miss part of the Chiang Mai experience. Ground zero of this nightly commerce bomb is located at the intersection of Chang Khlan Road and Loi Khro Road but the whole thing spreads out for two blocks in either direction. Set up time is around sunset (usually about 18:00) and shopping goes on unabated until about 22:30 with a few vendors remaining open even later.
A good way to check out the whole thing is to start at Tha Phae Road and work your way south towards Loi Khro. Once you reach the end of the market, cross the street and work your way back along the other side. Don't forget to peek down the little sois (alleyways) and arcades along the way. If you see something you like you might want to be patient-there are hundreds of vendors and an absolute flood of products for sale.
What to Buy at The Night Bazaar
The night bazaar consists of countless stalls packed along the sidewalks and spilling out into the street. Here you can find vendors selling almost anything you can think of. The selection is simply staggering and items on offer include CDs, DVDs, clothes, shoes, Thai silk, handicrafts, purses, wallets, watches, video games, luggage, housewares, furniture, statues of aliens made from auto parts, spices, souvenirs, samurai swords, art, jewellery, silver, antiques, and a hundred other species of knick-knack and goo-gah that defy categorization. Quality varies from vendor to vendor but low prices mean you almost always get good value for your money.
The best goods on offer here are usually clothes, from hand-tailored Thai silk to the latest 'designer' fashions to the ubiquitous Red Bull and "Same Same But Different" t-shirts. Another big draw for visitors is the huge selection of cheap CDs and DVDs. When buying music or movies make sure you test the disc before buying. The quality of the copies is sometimes abysmally low, especially for the newest movies (i.e. ones that are still in theatres). Most CD and DVD vendors will have a player set up so you can check out the merchandise before making a purchase.
Most of the stalls sell pretty much the same things as other vendors in the bazaar (one sarong starts to look a lot like all the rest after a while) but keep a sharp eye out-you can find some really unique treasures if you look hard enough. Some vendors will have a small shop or storeroom with further wares if you don't see what you want on display.
For a step up in the quality (and price) of goods, try out the two level, purpose-built Viang Ping Night Bazaar, near Tha Phae Road. The handicrafts here are more authentic, the clothes are more durable and the fabrics are of better quality. Although there are plenty of specialist markets and shops in Chiang Mai, the night bazaar is a great cross-section of everything the city has to offer.
Bargaining and Prices in The Night Bazaar
Prices in the night bazaar aren't fixed so make sure to do a bit of haggling to get the best deal. If you're a serious bargain hunter you might want to try being the early bird. It's considered bad luck if the first customer of the day doesn't buy anything and watching proprietors whack their goods with the day's first cash is a great photo opportunity. The end of the night is also a prime time to get some real steals as many merchants are willing to give a very good price to squeeze in one last sale.
When haggling with Thais remember to smile and be light hearted and friendly. A good joke and some patience will get you a lot farther than hardball tactics. Although haggling and getting a good deal is all part of the fun of the market, don't forget that most of these vendors make very little and ten baht means a lot more to them than it does to you.
Food, Drink and Services in the Night Bazaar
For mid-spree snacking there are plenty of restaurants and bars in the vicinity where you can take a load off and review your purchases. Just off the main street you will find a delightful selection of Thai seafood and noodle restaurants, while Loi Khro Road just east of Chang Khlan Road (towards the river) has a number of international restaurants and pubs. If you need your fix of western comfort you'll find a Subway, a McDonald's and a Starbucks on the main strip. Also in the area are numerous other useful services such as travel agents, internet cafés, mobile phone shops and camera shops.