By Maxmilian Wechsler
TWO large covered outdoor markets opened in Pathum Thani last year are proving incredibly popular with residents living in the housing communities that have mushroomed in the province in recent years.
Expressways leading into Bangkok are now choked with cars for much of the day, so it makes sense for locals and commuters to shop closer to home; the new markets are more convenient and less expensive than the glitzy shopping malls in the city.
The phenomenon isn’t limited to Pathum Thani. New retail outlets are popping up just about anywhere you look on the outskirts of Bangkok, all mirroring the scale and success of the two markets opened last year in Pathum Thani: Rung Ruang Market, on Nonthaburi Bang Bua Thong (Highway 345); and San Khok Market, off Pathum Thani-San Khok-Sera Road. Both markets are open daily from 2 – 9 pm. Parking is easy.
Some people are even making the reverse commute, from Bangkok to Pathum Thani, to do their shopping. The journey takes about an hour.
Hundreds of vendors sell an endless variety of products, fruits, vegetables, meats, ready-to-eat food, fresh seafood, cutlery, clothes, footwear, towels, bags, lingerie, groceries, hardware, mobile phones, all at bargain prices. The busiest times are from 6 – 8 pm on workdays and Sunday afternoons.
Foreigners shopping with their Thai wives are becoming a familiar sight. Most of them reside in the surrounding moo baans. Foreigners enjoy a bargain as much as anyone, and for many going to a suburban market is quite a learning experience.
Prices of clothes are low and the quality is generally quite good. Stylish and well-made jeans can be had for as little as 100 baht. Second-hand clothes can also be found. Most of the wares come from the famous Rong Kluea Market near the Cambodian border.
Prices at a pharmacy at Rung Ruang Market are lower than those in retail branches of the big chain stores. There are also about 10 conventional shops selling such items as spectacles, toys and pet supplies.
Sam Khok Market has generated an even bigger retail scene on its perimeter, with almost 40 newly established shops looking to attract customers drawn by the market.
On average, travel times between Pathum Thani and Bangkok have at least doubled in the last five years. Thousands of workers have to get up at 5 am or earlier to make the drive to Bangkok before the expressways get too crowded. The trip back in the evenings usually takes about two hours and sometimes longer.
VENDORS who set up their wares along the sides or footpaths of busy highways are proving an unnecessary and dangerous hazard. Often there is no place to park safely, and yet many drivers slow down to review the goods for sale. Some even stop on the road. This endangers not only the buyers and sellers but also people in other cars and motorcyclists.
Far too many accidents occur because a driver suddenly and thoughtlessly slows down, swerves or stops, leaving the vehicles behind with little time to react. Unbelievably, some vendors actually obstruct one lane of a highway.
Roadside vending is clearly prohibited by specific clauses in the 1979 Land Traffic Act, Title 13.
Section 109: No person shall commit any act on a footpath or any other way provided for pedestrians in any manner that obstructs other persons without sufficient cause.
Section 110: No person shall buy or sell goods, distribute materials or solicit contributions in a roadway or in the middle of the way without sufficient cause or that obstruct traffic.