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Best Bangkok night markets
Forage for tourist tack, authentic antiques, vintage junk and hot fashions at the city's top evening shopping haunts
When you've had your fill of fancy malls and brand boutiques, Bangkok's night markets open your wallet to a whole new set of retail delights under the moonlight.
Open for business the minute the sun dips below the city skyline, explore and forage in a well-stocked world of whimsical products and flexible price tags, browsing everything from tourist tack to authentic antiques, fragrant flora to fight-ready flick knives.
The subtext for Bangkok's street traders seems to be "if we sell it, they'll buy it," and like it or not, you probably will.
It requires a little commitment to find and make the most of the markets listed here, but your efforts will be justly rewarded.
Keep in mind: it's best to avoid Monday, when a city-wide ban on street vendors is loosely observed.
Khao San Road
Khao San, once geared solely towards backpackers, hosts street vendors selling all things overtly Thai -- think pad thai noodles, Chang/Singha beer T-shirts and wooden ridgeback frogs that make a convincing croak.
But in recent times the foreigner-to-Thai ratio has evened out somewhat thanks to local-favorite watering holes such as Hippie de Bar and Brick Bar.
In addition to the standard same-same-but-different souvenirs, an increasing variety of independent designer clothes and trinkets is being hawked, making for a fun stroll down the street to shop for one-off items and gawk at interesting tourist characters.
Though an undeniably colorful aspect of Bangkok, Khao San is hardly the poster child of all things Thai, so don't make this the only Bangkok market you visit.
Where: Khao San connects Chakrabongse and Tanao roads, just off Ratchadamnoen Klang Road. All cabbies and tuk-tuk drivers know it, regardless how off-tone your pronunciation.
When: Daily, all day. Tour operators and food stalls open in the mornings to cater to the tourists staying on Khao San, but when the sun goes down, the music starts thumping and the street gets progressively carnival-esque, tapering off at 11 p.m. or so.
A wholesome commercial district by day, Silom turns into tourist central by night, with makeshift shops appearing on the sidewalks on both sides of the road, selling mainly souvenirs and knockoff accessories.
Between Silom Soi 4 and 6 lies the infamous street that has done its part in immortalizing table tennis shows the world over.
Depending what floats your boat, Patpong is a shopping and entertainment zone with a "come-one, come-all" openness -- running the red-lit gauntlet can be daunting with pesky show promoters tugging at your arms, but hey, where else are you going to find that Borat-esque swimsuit?
Right across from Patpong, at the top of Soi Convent, stands a savior to night owls citywide -- P'Uan -- diligently grilling his moo ping (pork on sticks) late into the night.
Where: Silom stretches from the Dusit Thani Hotel on the corner of Rama 4 Road all the way to riverside Charoenkrung Road. Take the Skytrain to Sala Daeng station to jump in the middle of the action.
When: Vendors on Silom are in business from around 6 p.m.-1 a.m. from Tuesday to Sunday, while Patpong stays open every night until 2 a.m.
Pak Khlong Talad
Though more of a traditional market than a shopper's delight, Pak Khlong Talat is a comforting place to soothe insomniac tendencies, with flowers in a riot of colors giving off gentle aromas that waft through the air.
Fresh flowers and decorative plants arrive by the truckload during the witching hours of the night, making the pre-dawn hours the busiest.
Tagete marigold flowers, jasmines and roses are delicately threaded into the patterned garlands seen all around town, and orchids and a cornucopia of other flowers are arranged into bouquets and elaborate displays.
A fresh market towards the rear sells betel nuts, vegetables, and fruits, and beverage pit stops serve up drinks such as lavender soda.
Where: Along Maharat Road, close to the intersection with Chakraphet Road and Saphan Phut night market. Take the river boat from the Skytrain Saphan Taksin station and disembark at the Saphan Phut pier, or cab it if you're visiting at night.
When: All day, every day, with floral action peaking after 2 a.m.
Ratchayothin Night Market
In the big lot right beside Major Cineplex Ratchayothin, an open-air night market caters mainly to locals and moviegoers killing a few minutes before showtime.
The majority of the stalls hawk affordable fashion (as in, heavy on the Japanese and Korean influences), as well as cosmetics, jewelry, phone accessories and other kitsch.
Yuppies browse the goods on display, and there's a hipster bar overlooking the shopping area conveniently close by for the non-shopping enthusiasts.
Though always advisable to bring cash to go to a market, some of the stalls also accept credit cards should a retail wave wash over you.
Where: Adjacent to Major Cineplex Ratchayothin. The closest stations are Mo Chit and Phahonyothin. From there, take a cab or brave a motorbike taxi if the traffic looks bad.
When: Tuesday - Sunday, from 4 p.m.-11 p.m.
Saphan Phut Night Bazaar
The night market adjacent to Memorial Bridge (aka Saphan Phut) swarms with a younger local crowd, with secondhand items and cheap price tags that appeal to pre-workforce shoppers.
A variety of goods and services tempt the predominantly university student shoppers, from hookahs to handbags, tattoos to T-shirts.
The area under the bridge is a popular spot for local teenagers to hang out riverside, and caricaturists are often found sketching for a small fee.
One of the best snacks here is the squid eggs, served in a styrofoam bowl on a bed of raw veggies.
Stairs leading up to the bridge give you a nice view of the Chao Phraya River, and its proximity to the flower market makes for a two-stones outing to glimpse two facets of the local lifestyle.
Where: At the base of the Memorial Bridge, at the intersection of Maharat and Chakraphet roads. Take the river boat from the Skytrain Saphan Taksin station and disembark at the Saphan Phut pier, or cab it if you're visiting at night.
When: Tuesday = Sunday. Stalls start to set up around 6 p.m., with the market really kicking into gear around 8 p.m. until 2 a.m.
Ratchada Night Bazaar
Rachada Night Bazaar's origins as a vintage automobile swap meet are still very much evident in the market, with retro collectibles and mod fashion accessories sold from VW camper vans.
Also known as the "Vespa Market," these classic scooters still pepper the grounds, many of which are driven by the hip artsy Thai crowd that frequents the market.
Nostalgia-inducing goodies up for grabs include LPs, gramophones, typewriters and vintage everything -- toys, cameras, fans, posters. There's a fair amount of secondhand clothing and books recycled here as well.
For shoppers mourning the loss of the Suanlum Night Bazaar, work is underway to relocate the Bangkok mainstay to this area next year.
Where: At the junction of Ladprao and Rachadapisek roads. Take the train to Ladprao station, exit 1.
When: On Saturday, with the first vendors setting up around 6 p.m., sellers are out in full force from 8 p.m. until after midnight.
Talad Rot Fai
Another market playing to the romance of yesteryear is Talad Rot Fai. The bazaar's name is a nod to its location next to train tracks and disused creaky coaches.
Other than the hip attitude sported by the visiting clientele, all the wares on display here ooze old-school cool -- vintage toys, Matchbox cars, retro furniture, and Soviet-era pins -- with warm colored lightbulbs bathing the entire market in a dusty sepia ambiance.
Even if you don't purchase anything, it's an inviting place to hang out with a bevy at a pub decked out in wood and belting out classics from 1950's bubblegum pop to Johnny Cash, serenading the crowd.
Where: Take the train to Kamphaengphet station. Turn right at exit 1 and the market's a few blocks down on the right-hand side.
When: Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. to midnight.