Authentic Thai Fresh Market
One of the oldest and authentic fresh market in town and also the biggest. One of the landmarks of the city that didn’t change for decades, the market for the restaurants, regular customers, housewives, street food stalls and vendors are coming here to make their buy most of every day. Every space is occupied, and each of them is busy. You will see all the ingredients and food you have certainly enjoyed in a restaurant, food courts in a shopping mall or in a street food stall.
Sights, Smells, Colors, and Sound
The market runs along the Rama 4 road and what remains of the small Pandan (Bai Toei en Thaï) canal – hence the name of the district, Khlong Toei – the canal like many of them unfortunately in Bangkok is used as dustbin, smells bad. There is a lot of work for local health authorities, but also a large part of the responsibility of the “I don’t care attitude, or ignorance” of the locals.
The market seems to have always been there (the canal that was dug in 1850), and if you ask a Thai about a market to visit in Bangkok you will get answers such as, Chatuchak, Sampeng, Bobe, Phra Kanong, but if you mention a fresh wet market, Khlong Toei will be the only one. The seafood and meat stalls are the busiest, with relatively dry soil, the vegetable sector, is where one least “wading”, and the one for fruits and groceries is much more quiet. Some sellers are very active and, as in all markets around the world, shout to try to get attention, many put price tags but this does not prevent buyers from bargaining. This is not a place for the faint-hearted, chickens, ducks that come out of their cages alive are cut down with a sharp knife on a nearby cutting block. Live fish slide on top of each other in large plastic bins or on aluminum plates (beware of splashes) from Live toads, frogs, eels and crabs, insects, all kinds of other animals are for sale here. You will also find other items, clothes, shoes, cooking utensils and others, including the famous home cook Kiwi/Kom – Kom brand knife.
Although it may seem questionable, the whole area is regularly cleaned, most stalls keep everything on or in the ice to keep the products fresh, strangely enough, not many flies, but I saw rats there.
The porters are very busy, they transport the customers’ purchases most often to the Tuks Tuks parked at the foot of the footbridge on Rama 4 road. The cost of the trip varies according to the weight, from 30 to 50 baht, they sometimes make a delivery out of the market, it happened to me to cross one of them pulling is handcart in the Soi Paisingto. A good day’s work earns 4 to 500 baht.
A Little Pick-Me-Up
For the curious, have a taste of Ya Dong. Ya means medicine. Dong means pickle, or preserve, so pickled medicine. Ya Dong street liquor is herb-infused Thai alcohol made from local ‘Lao Khao’ or ‘White Spirit, which is made from distilled fermented rice. Dried and sometimes powdered, herbs, wood, bark, vines, roots, and seeds of trees and other plants thought to have medicinal properties. It is said is good for the libido, but not to everyone’s taste. Considered as the poor man’s whiskey, some hipster hangouts in Bangkok have made it in recent years a chic homemade drink. Ya Dong is served with a pinch of salt, pepper, and sugar (prik glua) of sour, unripe mango (mamuang priew).
In provinces a lot of people make their own Ya Dong their way, some will leave it to ferment for at least 6 months. I did see a few with snake or scorpion in bottle. Listed below are some of the most well-known and available varieties, as well as their original Thai names and presumed properties.
* Lady (naree) For the ladies, made from a mixture of a lot of blond wood chips, then diluted with honey for you girls
* Grown Up, Doesn’t Know How to Fall Down (tow mai ruu lom), Well known ‘give manpower’ brand name, Ingredients are not the same from one store to another
* Tigers (seua sip et tua). The only brand of ya dong allowed to sale in a bottle, and widely available in Thailand. Red has a petrol-like appearance once in the glass, but not the taste
* Black Fingerroot (grachai dum) dark and mysterious, earthy taste, very bitter and strong. Known in Thailand as a remedy against male impotence as well as joint inflammation and poor blood circulation
It is preferable not to go with your Sunday best, water everywhere on the ground, so it is better to wear sandals or waterproof shoes. The alleys are very narrow with many people, and you might be a little shoved, but everyone remains polite and courteous, be careful with pickpockets. Not really a tourist destination, only for those looking for authenticity, and it is possible that you may be the only foreigner(s) during your visit. I go there from time to time to relax and mainly buy fruits which are fresh and a little cheaper than at the seller in my Soi. People are friendly, I always take a few pictures but never had any bad looks or remarks. I have never eaten there but there are a few food stalls and, if you are there at lunchtime, why not have a meal or a small snack. A market anywhere in the world is always an attraction and a picturesque curiosity, and Khlong Toei in Bangkok is the fresh market to Visit.
The market never or almost never sleeps, and early in the evening the pickup trucks and later trucks start their delivery. The best time to go there is early morning, before 10 am, the afternoon is more tranquil.
Opening Hours: 06:00 am- 02:00 am daily
After the Visit of the Market
After the market a walk in the “village” or why not a bike trip to Bang Krachao. Thai boxing fans (Muay Thai) will take the opportunity to visit the Super Export shop located just next to Rompo Mansion a few steps from the market.
To Go There
A stone’s throw from MRT Khlong Toei station, exit 1 and take right when you come out. The Queen Sirikit National Convention Center station is the closer and the market access is easier, exit 1.
What will become of Khlong Toei?
Khlong Toei Rama 4, the new landmark of major real estate companies, is rapidly expanding, many projects are under construction and others are expected to be completed in the near future, high-rise residential, schools to replace the famous Khlong Toei slum, including a mega shopping center a high-tech port, office buildings, service apartments, Khlong Toei will finally soon look like Bangkok.
I hope this will be helpful for planning your next trip to Bangkok. If you have any questions, I will be more than happy to help you out