Chatuchaking and tuk-tuking: Participles for Bangkok days

Chatuchaking (v.) – to buy an overwhelming amount of items you don’t really need at the Chatuchak Market.

Chatuchak – oh, the mighty Chatuchak! The world’s largest outdoor run only on the weekends is the best free amusement in Bangkok, in my opinion. While it ends up not being entirely free because one will inevitably want to buy food, drink, and all sorts of unnecessary goodies ranging from the mundane (say, Union Jack-inspired cosmetic bags) to the interesting (something covered in tassels) to the downright exotic (I do believe that was a chinchilla-type animal in that cage?).

Most of the time, you can hone your bargaining skills at Chatuchak because the prices aren’t set in stone, so if you’re not used to the bargaining game, practice before you go, because those sweet smiles along with the “No, I can’t do that [price]”. This should be accompanied by a quick, “sure you can – I’m buying [insert number here] and want them for my [students/kids/in-laws]”. Proceed to smile and be very polite, but insistent. Eventually, you’ll win out because you smiled. Success!

A few foodie favorites at Chatuchak – I love the coconut ice cream man (near the main clock tower) who has a motion-activated doorbell on his stand that will constantly be going off, even if you don’t stand right in front of it. I’ve run into him twice now, and he said the dinging doesn’t bother him any more. He just keeps scooping the coconut ice cream into the half-shells (don’t forget to peel off the scrapings of coconut flesh on the shell – a bonus!) and saying “buffet toppings”, which meanings you can put as much of the goodie stuff on top of your ice cream. I recommend the peanuts, brightly-coloured jellies, and the weird-tadpole-egg-like jellies – that is, if you don’t mind the sensation of slurping on slippery jellies. I’m not a fan of the red beans, but I got all the buffet toppings I could desire!

Try the fried chicken wings with a tart/sweet/spicy vinegar sauce spilled over them. A baggie of these cost around 100-140 baht depending on how many you want, but they are worth getting sticky-fingers over. At the same stands, you can usually get fresh-off-the-pig pork belly, which has been soaked either in a five-spice mix or grilled straight up. It’s chewy, but it’s surprisingly delicious. Chicken wings are to die for.

Fruit juices are plentiful here, but don’t just stick to the orange or lime. Try something different. I had the tiger herb juice, and it was definitely “exotic.” Not sure what else to say about it.

There are a ton of little restaurants around the far left and back of the market if you crave a sit-down meal. We scored a huge platter of pork satay with homemade peanut sauce and vinegar sauce, pad thai, and pork floss omelette with rice for less than 300 baht (US $9). The satay was beyond awesome, and the two mains were delicious. You just have to contend with the yelling waiters who sound a bit like over-eager auctioneers calling in the food orders and shuffling people to tables under the wide canopy. Side note: Don’t try to switch out the wobbly stools with a table across the way. Apparently, that’s another restaurant, and the staff will chase you off. :/

There is loads of grilled fish here, and it really should be tried. Freshly-caught, smoked over a grill, and tender – that’s some good eatin’. Sure, there will be bones, eye balls, and fins, but remember, only in America do we macerate our fish so it looks like little pinky slabs of meat in a nice, neat styrofoam rectangle. Everyone else enjoys it al natural.

My final favourite finger food snack is the fried prawns. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill fried shrimps you get at the Red Lobster. These are monster prawns, liberally dipped in frying batter, and serving burning oil hot with a sweet vinegar dipping sauce or a sweet chili sauce. Get the takeaway container, find a shady spot, and munch.

In between liberal amounts of snacks, there is shopping galore to do. Bringing your own bag is recommended, and it’s not uncommon to have your feet run over by wheely suitcases. Your elbows and hips come in handy later, on when the crowds swell bigger and yet more people stop to text or take selfies in the narrow aisles.

You must go Chatuchaking if you’re in Bangkok over the weekend. Trust me, your holiday isn’t complete without a rat race through the lab maze of stalls.

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One of the covered restaurants at the market
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A great cafe for coffee, shakes, and tea – in soi 26, lane 1/6. Bonus points if you can find it!

If one goes Chatuchaking, then one must also go tuk-tuking. Cabs are cheap and easy to find around Bangkok, but in most areas, a cheap tuk-tuk ride is just a bargain away. Tuk-tuks are great for late night runs from Soi 11, after you’ve been having a little too much fun (is there such a thing, really?!), as the zip-zip of the tuk-tuk can get you through tighter spots in traffic. Besides, if your stomach isn’t at its finest moment, the open air railing helps with things when you go belly-up.

Most tuk-tuks are reasonable, but know your distance and know what you’re willing to pay to get home (or go out). If you have the word “tourist” tattooed on your forehead, you may end up paying a good deal more, especially if you’re in a very busy touristy area, such as near temples, Soi 11, Chatuchak, or Khao San Road.

Tuk-tuks are great to share with friends when you want to feel the air zip by you and listen to the put-put of the engine as your driver accelerates. Be prepared for potholes and the occasionally hard bump that’ll send you skittering around the seat. Everyone should ride in a Bangkok tuk-tuk at least once – there’s no similar experience once you’re out of Asia.

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