But markets are not exclusively for Thais. This month we visited some of Bangkok’s biggest and most popular fresh markets to see what bargains we had been missing out on and find out exactly how much we could save on our monthly shopping bill.
Klong Toei Market
If you’ve ever eaten street food in Bangkok (and who hasn’t), then you’ve certainly eaten food made with ingredients from this market. Klong Toei Market is Bangkok’s largest fresh market and is undoubtedly one of the cheapest. Majority of Bangkok’s food vendors make their way to Klong Toei in the early hours of the morning to buy their stock straight off the delivery truck. Meat, poultry, seafood, fruit, vegetables, fresh herbs, selected dried spices, oils, rice cookers, cutlery, and clay pots – almost anything you can think of can be found at Klong Toei Market.
The market itself is located on the corner of the Rama III and Rama IV intersection. Hidden behind a line of tuk tuks and trucks, the market goes unnoticed by those who don’t know it’s there.
Upon arrival, you’re greeted by the welcoming smell of Roti Sai Mai and sugary sweets. To the side of them: rows upon rows of green vegetables under the shade of a tin-roofed metal structure. As you progress down the aisles you soon reach a kaleidoscope of colours made entirely of fruit. Guavas the size of your head, watermelons too big to carry, and mangoes so yellow they look fake. And the prices? Unbelievable. Strawberries for 25 baht per kilo, kale at 30 baht per kilo, dragon fruit for 50 baht per kilo, rose apples for 35 baht per kilo, and much, much more!
As you progress further into the market and leave the cool shade of the metal structure you’re soon hit by a wave of heat, and with it the smell of raw meat and seafood. Klong Toei Market is definitely not for the faint-hearted, but there’s no reason to turn around and run as all the meat is kept out of the sun and the seafood is constantly packed with ice.
Different cuts of chicken range from 25-70 baht per kilo or whole chickens start at 80 baht, pork ribs 120 baht per kilo, beef 230 baht per kilo, a whole fish for 40 baht or three for 100 baht, and different varieties of prawns ranging from 160-360 baht per kilo. Not forgetting the herbs, 5 baht for one bunch or three for 10 baht. It’s no wonder locals walk around proudly carrying their bags of produce they got for 100 baht.
The market is busy throughout the day but quietens down in the evenings. Motorcycles, shoppers, cart vendors, and attendants carrying giant baskets of produce weave through the maze of stalls like worker ants. Best to go in the mornings before 12 pm to grab produce fresh off the trucks and beat the Bangkok crowds. But be wary – fishy ice water covers the floor and often splashes on your feet, so be sure to wear closed shoes.
How to get there: Queen Sirikit MRT station exit 1 or Klong Toei MRT station exit 1 – the market is a short walk away from either of these stations
Opening hours: Open 24 hours
Or Tor Kor Market
In 2012 CNN Go ranked Or Tor Kor Market as one of the world’s best fresh markets – and it’s no surprise why. Compared to other fresh markets in Bangkok, Or Tor Kor is the Rolls Royce of markets.
Known as a high-end market, Or Tor Kor is held in a brightly lit open warehouse next to Chatachuk Weekend Market. Benches, market maps, and direction signs are situated throughout the market while high ceilings, pristine white tiles, and mounted fans keep the market cool and breezy, making for a highly enjoyable shopping experience.
Rows running parallel are lined with perfectly ripe organic fruits and vegetables; fresh meat, seafood, and poultry; kitchenware and utensils; and a wide range of traditional Thai treats. Fruit displays are plentiful and stacked carefully as vendors take pride in their produce. Gold jewellery, fine clothes, and intricately woven baskets can also be found at Or Tor Kor Market.
But with high-end produce comes high-end prices. Or Tor Kor is definitely not as cheap as your average fresh market, but it is still affordable. Different varieties of fish range from 350-700 baht, strawberries at 80 baht per kilo, rose apples 150 baht per kilo, and grapes 250 baht
The food court offers a range of dishes from the four regions of Thailand and white tables erected away from the heat of the vendors’ cooking station. Large fans also provide a cool breeze making a comfortable environment in which customers can enjoy their treats.
How to get there: Kamphaeng Phet MRT station exit 3
Opening hours: Open daily from 6 am – 6 pm
Huai Kwang Market may not be as extensive as Klong Toei or as luxurious as Or Tor Kor, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character. Huai Kwang Market does not have a traditional structure encompassing it; instead, the market forms a 100-metre permanent fixture along the pavement and takes up the front of gold shops and other mom-and-pop shops.
Upon arrival you’ll immediately notice the seafood. Known for its seafood, the entrance of the market is lined with trays of fresh fish, squid, crustaceans, and shellfish – expect some fishy icy water to cover the pavement. Prices are similar to Klong Toei Market with two large fish going for only 70 baht and mussels for 60 baht per kilo. As you walk around the corner you’ll soon find meat, vegetables, herbs, oils, fresh coconut shavings, and much more on offer.
How to get there: Huai Kwang MRT station exit 3, the market is a short walk away
Opening hours: Open 24 hours but picks up after 4 pm
Suan Phlu Market
Suan Phlu is one of the oldest communities in Bangkok making Suan Phlu Market one of the oldest too. Hidden inside a warehouse on Suan Phlu Road, this humble market operates incognito to those who cannot read Thai – with only a small signpost written in Thai above the two roadside entrances giving away its location.
The market is small in size and takes up approximately 50 x 50 metres. The produce on offer is, however, more than sufficient for anyone looking to grab groceries for a quick dinner. Meat, poultry, seafood, fruit, vegetables, Thai herbs and spices, oils, eggs, rice, and noodles are all on offer. Prices are slightly higher than that of Klong Toei Market but are still extremely affordable.
With the high number of expats living in Suan Phlu and its proximity to several condominiums, there’s no reason for expats to spend their hard earned salaries at overpriced supermarkets.
How to get there: Lumpini MRT station exit 2, then a short taxi ride to Suan Phlu Soi 8
Opening hours: 6 am – 8 pm