The husband has a rather inflexible mind-block about going to a city, when on holiday. His definition of a holiday is to cut off and go someplace that offers him a locale that he cannot experience too often. Cities remind him too much of home, the cities we leave behind when we take off on vacation. But I’m quite the city-holiday-lover. I believe it has a special charm. To me, the emphasis is on the travel rather than the destination. And something about going to another space and time, stepping into a world that is so removed form your own and experiencing life as a different set of people do, even if for just a few days, is just as exciting as being on an island cut off from the mainland or going off into the hills far, far away. Someday I want to experience the city life and character in Dubai, New York, Hong Kong, Paris too.
So what does one do on the only Sunday in Bangkok with a husband who is unenthusiastic about roaming the streets and feeling the pulse of the city?
One entices him with the idea of a lot of photo ops!
Ask us to choose between a place with plenty of must-see tourist attractions and a single place with lots of character, and we’ll jump for the latter. Ironically though, Chatuchak is a hardcore tourist destination, quite the place we would ordinarily have never set foot in. But when I was told it is a flea market of sorts, I decided to brave it, despite some bad reviews, because I knew that we were more interested in the sights to devour, and the pictures we would take back. And it didn’t disappoint.
Open on weekends from 6 am to 6 pm, the market area is spread over a colossal 35 odd acres, and is filled to the brim with collapsible stalls, that dish out the yummiest food, turn into the quaintest bars, and offer some of the most quirky shopping. It was the visual treat I was expecting it to be. How can you be disappointed when you get to see characters like this
Shopping wise, there is nothing you will not find at Chatuchak, I was told. From the typical clever, tongue-in-cheek t-shirts Bangkok is known for, to ethnic Thai handicrafts, plastics and wooden knick-knacks for the home, export rejects, leather goods, antiques and pets even (!!), this is a place for it all. It can be quite dizzying, a maze of alleys, inter-linking the various zones, there is no way to navigate the market really. The only way to do it is to find an entry point, dive in, wander till you cannot wander anymore and lead yourself out to the nearest exit. Once out, reroute and try and find your way back to where you started. Which is just what the husband and I did once we had had enough of the shopping. Which happened in no time at all. I pretended to be a little enthusiastic about buying something, because I knew it was the only chance we had to pick up souvenirs and gifts for folks back home. So we did some interesting shopping, which I thought was pretty nifty. The husband thought otherwise, heh. But we couldn’t complain, because it meant that for the next 7 days, we didn’t have to distract ourselves with thoughts of having to shop, just because we were in a forren country, since both of us loathe shopping in general.
Chatuchak = maze. Everything and everyone looks alike and I learned the hard way that this is a place where once something catches your fancy, you have to just pick it up. The let-me-check-out-the-rest-and-come-back option doesn’t exist, because you will never find your way back. So much roaming later, we gave in to the fact that even a whole day (or two, maybe) wouldn’t do justice to capture everything the market has to offer.
And just then we stumbled on to an exceedingly inviting bar. Overlooking one of the main alleys, a wood and rope decor with fairy lights entwined in a web of twine that clung to the ceiling, low leather stools for seating and upturned crates for tiny tables, a chalk board menu that featured only alcoholic and fruit beverages, and an uber cool DJ, belting some awesome house.
It was surreal. Right in smack in the midst of market chatter, the midday sun scorching down on us, was a little day-time party. And the way the DJ and staff was grooving, it was hard not to move. We were tired, sweaty, hungry and in need of refreshment. So we grabbed the first empty seats we spotted, and ordered Thai beer, only to find out that it really was only a bar. No food said the pretty Lady-Man who handed out chilled towelettes (full marks for attention to detail) and rushed off to get us our beer.
The only other way to get the husband excited about roaming was the promise of beer of course. Beer changes everything. Even in a market, in the middle of the city, after a frantic bout of shopping. The man who thought I was bonkers for dragging him on a train all the way across town, was happy and smiling, once a couple of beers made their way into his belly.
We sat our patooties down there for a good hour or two, and I people watched my hearts out. People in Thailand (locals and tourists alike) are amongst the nicest looking I have seen in a while. There is no better way to take in the ambience of Chatuchak than to pick a nice spot in the shade, and watch the world pass you by. And that’s all I did for the next few hours, while the husband downed Singha after Singha.
When I was up to my eye balls watching people, animals, policemen on bicycles come and go and it was time to eat. The husbands eyes instantly lit up at the thought of venturing out into the street side stalls and grabbing dumplings, pad thai and noodle soup outside the main market area. So off we went. And that is the stuff of a whole post in itself!