After the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Chiang Mai felt to me like a gentle pastoral town. Instead of skyscrapers, I found temples. Instead of oppressive heat, I found the cool temperatures of northern Thailand. Instead of mega malls, I found a Saturday Night Market.
Chiang Mai, northern Thailand’s largest city, is a favourite among long term travellers. It boasts affordable prices, delicious food, good wifi, independent coffee shops and a laid back vibe. Spending my days wandering the city, drinking fresh fruit smoothies and making new friends, I found myself settling in easily into a slow rhythm of life.
After a peaceful day exploring Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of Chiang Mai’s best known temples, my new friends and I decided to visit the Saturday Night Market. Night markets in Thailand are serious business. For the Thai people, they are a way of life. It’s little wonder they are so popular as they include all of the Thai’s favourite activities: talking, shopping and eating.
There is no dying that I love markets of all kinds and I was happy to see that this market was the place to be on a Saturday night for both natives and foreigners alike. Composed of hundreds of stalls lining both sides of the street and spanning multiple city blocks, this is no small market. Even though there were thousands of items for sale, I somehow found it to be less tacky and more authentic than some of the street markets I had visited previously in Thailand. Perhaps it was the abundance of handmade items, or the mixture of tourists and locals, but the feeling was pleasant not pushy.
Through word of mouth we learned that the Saturday Night Market in Chiang Mai is known for it’s deals and it’s food, so we skipped dinner and went hungry. One of my favourite aspects of eating at markets is that you can sample dozens of items. Want to give that strange looking meat on a stick a try? Go for it! It will only cost you 10B ($0.28US) and you’ll have plenty of room left for a fried wonton or that fluorescent coloured dessert.
To sample the most delicacies, I recommend sharing with some friends. Between my friends and I, we tried Sai Ooa, a spicy northern sausage; BBQ’d chicken on a stick; fresh mango, strawberry, passion fruit juice (delicious!); Gac fruit juice (horrible!!), vegetarian cold rolls; fresh pineapple with chilli sugar; a banana Nutella crepe, and much more. While we didn’t try them ourselves, I noticed that the market also had prepared meals food stalls with seating and even a booth that made ice cream to order.
[bctt tweet=”Insider tip: When visiting a Night Market in #Thailand, skip dinner & go hungry! #ttot” username=”globallocavore”]
One of my favourite sustainable travel hacks is to bring my own reusable utensils and collapsable takeaway containers when visiting markets. I have found that they come in handy street food stalls, in hostels and even during the odd impromptu picnic. Thailand is notoriously bad for using disposable cutlery and plastic bags without any recycling facilities. By bringing your own you can reduce your environmental footprint and save resources. Plus an additional benefit of your own cutlery (or even travel chopsticks??) is you can be 100% sure it is clean and free from bacterias reducing your risk of food poisoning. That’s a win win in my book!
With full tummies and rapidly tiring legs, we turned down a side street at random. Moments later we’d stumbled upon an open square filled with music and picnic tables filled with diners, overlooked by a stunning silver temple. It was one of those perfectly magical travel moments where serendipity blessed you with an unexpectedly lovely and candid moment. With delicious food, lively music, stunning temples and a welcoming atmosphere, I can see why the Saturday Night Market has a well deserved reputation as a highlight of any visit to Chiang Mai.
Tell me about a magical travel moment you’ve had when something simple turned into something wonderful!
Now It’s Your Turn! When visiting the Saturday Night Market in Chiang Mai, arrive early to avoid the crowds. The market opens around 6pm and goes until midnight, but hours seem very dependent on the whim of individual vendors. The market runs along Th Chang Khlan from Th Tha Phae to Th Loi Kroh, but if you head out “East Gate”, you will easily stumble upon it. If you are as big a fan of markets as I am, Travelfish has a list of great markets to visit in Chiang Mai – day or night, all week long.