I explore the dazzling network of street vendors in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photos, Stories, and Bucket List Successes
Chiang Mai has hundreds of night markets, whether they are massive fairs or small areas with a smattering of stalls. The Night Bazaar is by far the largest and most popular, with a massive network of tents, streets, and stall after stall. It is open every single night and is a great place for shopping and Thai street food.
My very first night in Chiang Mai (which I would call home for nearly two months abroad), I visited Chiang Mai’s famous Night Bazaar. We took a Sawng-Thaew (red taxi), which dropped us off at a place with a large white tent and colorful lanterns. This spot quickly became my favorite to explore.
We browsed through stalls, looking at colorful elephant pants, hand-woven bags, vibrant paintings, and even comedic phallic whistles that doubled as bottle openers. One could easily spend hours at the bazaar every single night for two weeks and still not have explored the entire expanse of stalls.
Here, I got to experience something I’ve always wanted to try… Durian! The infamous King of Fruits, renowned for its pungent revolting-ness. You can read more about my thoughts on my reaction to the fruit here.
Many areas of the night bazaar were sectioned off to accommodate eating and dining from street food, including bars with live music.
Our first night exploring the market, we dined at a sit-down restaurant at one of the eating sections of the market. It was a bit pricier than ordering from a stall, but the food was divine. Pineapple fried rice (served in a pineapple), spring rolls, Pad Thai, the works! Everything was spectacular. Other visits to the night market, I tried whole grilled prawns, noodle dishes, as well as mushrooms wrapped in bacon.
Eventually, I figured out how to order smoothies properly by saying “Mai Ow Wan” = Don’t want sweet! Thai beverages are almost always served with a nauseating amount of sweetened condensed milk and thick syrup. Bleck. It is so satisfying to receive a smoothie that is pure fresh fruit.
Another famous Thailand specialty is anti-griddle Ice Cream. At least, that’s my own nickname for it since I probably watch way too much Food Network and I know what an Anti-Griddle is. Basically, a cream base is poured on a freezing flat surface, and then toppings are added. (I chose a Thai Tea Ice Cream with coconut and kit-kat add ins: YUM). A paddle is then used to mix everything together and then roll the ice cream into adorable little curls. It’s so much fun to watch your own creation taking shape!
Also at this particular Night Bazaar is a country-wide famous Cabaret show, which I had the pleasure to attend on my first night in Chiang Mai. You can read about my experience here.
Overall, exploring Chiang Mai’s night markets was a huge highlight of my adventures while living in the vibrant city. I wish I could be back right now!