Separated by the hot afternoon sun, Thailand has two distinct market times/cultures.
Just before sunrise, the local markets become a hive of activity. Markets offer the basics necessary for the local Thais to make breakfast, offer alms for the monks, and small meals for people on their way to work.
When the sun starts to go down (5 pm+/1700 hr+) there is a whole new breathe of life in Thailand. The air cools, night markets come to life, street food carts are set up, and the locals come out to play!
Here is a list of Markets in Chiang Mai that you should make a point to visit while in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Gate in the Afternoon
Chiang Mai Gate Market (5am – 11pm)
Located inside the south-east gate of the old city, this is a daily wet market by day, amazing street food market by night. In the morning there is a full wet market offering the whole range of fruits, veggies, etc. This market is also known to have more of the “Northern Thai” offerings such as Chiang Mai Sausage and Nam Prik Noom.
In the mornings check out Sripan’s shop. Its in the front row inside the market, just behind the public phone and ubiquitous weighing machine. One of the best places to start your “northern thai food” education. Just about everything there is a Northern style offering, even the fried chicken!
After 5pm, Pa Shakes has the best fruit shakes in town(and she speaks a little English) She is across the road from the market inside the actual “gate” courtyard. Look for the small orange color cart just off the road.
Biryani & Noodle Soups
A little west of the gate, in front of the smallest 7-11(there are 3) is the best Biryani cart, and the best noodle soup cart right next door. The Biryani cart also does ox-tail soup if you’re up to it.The noodle cart net door is amazing, but will not serve until 8pm. Kind of annoying, but worth the wait!
Chang Puak Gate Market (5am – 11pm)
located just outside of the northern gate (Chang Puak Gate). Much like the Chiang Mai Gate market, there is a morning market selling all the usual Thai morning fare like fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat that you would take home to prepare, but in the evenings are when the big hitters show up.
The Cowboy Lady
The most recognizable figure in the Chiang Mai street food scene, and a master of brand recognition. She is small Thai lady that wears a big, 10 gallon cowboy hat. Her specialty is a stewed pork leg served over white rice with a soft boiled duck egg on the side. The “secret” to the stew is a Master Sauce, meaning every new batch is started with the last batch.(Think sourdough) This is the BEST stewed pork leg in town! There is no way to miss this cart. FInd the biggest crowd in the area, push through them(this is Thailand), and there she is, cowboy hat and a smile.
While you are there, take note of her neighbor just to the right, there is a small cart selling salapao in Thai, Bahn Pao in Vietnamese, or simply Bao in Chinese. The simple white buns filled with sweet creams or savory meat fillings. They are usually 5B each and really, really good. Personal Favorite: Moo Sap – savory pork filling.
Muang Mai Market (24Hrs)
This is THE Market!. This is the largest market and has the most variety. Early in the morning, the wet market is humming. This is the only place for the restaurateurs and cart vendors to buy their foods. Fruits, vegetables, meats (live and butchered), herbs, spices, pots, pans, etc, etc.
In the evenings, the road closest to the river is also the wholesale market for farmers. Find all the freshest fruits and vegetables picked earlier in the day. The farmers drive their pickup trucks full with today’s crop and will set up for sale on the side of the road. It pretty spread out so be ready to do a bit of walking!
Recommendation: Early morning for all your cooking needs. Evenings (9 pm+) for a tour of the market.
Kad Luang / Warorot (5am – 11pm)
This area is generally known as Chinatown. Early in the morning and afternoon it has everything you would expect. From imported fabrics, spices, toys, and the like. If you come in the evening there is a local market set up with food, clothes, and all kinds of trinkets. There are very few foreigners here and is a great stop for an authentic feel .
Recommendation – If you want to have clothes made in Chiang Mai start at one of the fabric shops at this market. Pick the fabric you like and ask where you can have it made. You’ll find that all the “Tailors” in town ship all the work out the back door to the tailors at Kad Luang. Save a few baht by cutting out the middleman!
Somphect (5am – 10pm)
Somphect market was once a local market. Now its more of a 50/50 split between locals and foreigners as its in the main backpacker area. Also, most of the cooking schools are located in this area and use the market for the “Market Tour” portion of the cooking class/tour.
Recommendation – Get some free advice by following one of the cooking tour classes around.
Night Bazaar / Anusarn (5pm – 11pm)
The Night Bazaar/Anusarn market is the tourist market. Just keep in mind that everything there is priced about 4x of the actual price. Whatever you’re interested in buying make sure you can negotiate price about 25 – 35% of the asking price or just look at it as a night out enjoying the sounds, the lights, and the throngs of people enjoying the market.
Recommendation – Check out the Cabaret inside Anusarn Market.
The Weekend Markets
Saturday Night Market (5pm – 11pm)
Of the two weekend, the Saturday market is the more authentic market. Set up on Wualai Rd. between Thippanet Rd. and the Chiang Mai Gate market, the Saturday market has locally made silver products, other hand-crafted goods, as well as the usual imports. While the market starts about 5 p.m. It doesn’t really get going until closer to 7pm or whenever it’s dark out. The local Thais prefer to stay inside until the weather cools.
Recommendations – Wualai Rd is locally known as the silver district. Monday through Friday the streets are full of different silver vendor shops and artisan studios. You’ll find a lot of their work at the Saturday morning as well. Also, make a point to visit Wat Srisuphan, known locally as the silver temple.
Sunday Walking Street Market (5pm – 11pm)
The Sunday Walking Street is the largest walking street market or them all. Starting from Wat Prah Singh and ending at Thapae Gate, as well as, taking over all the surrounding roads, at least one-third of the city is closed down on Sunday evenings. Just like the Saturday market, this market starts about 5 p.m., but won’t really get going until around 7 p.m. or until it’s dark out. Be ready to do a lot of walking as this market spans at least a couple of kilometers if you hit all the side streets!.
Recommendation – keep an eye out, or ear out, for the local performers in the middle of the street. Also make a point to go into Thapae Gate and the courtyard surrounding it, as the market has spread through there as well.
Want to see all the Chiang Mai markets mapped out? Check out the CMStay Points of Interest Map here!