We’re in Europe now and some current posts should be flowing soon… in the meantime, flashback to January 2015…
The Chiang Mai night markets – “walking streets” – were some of our favorite pastimes during our visit to this northern Thailand city. Over the course of a month in Chiang Mai, we visited the night markets 3 or 4 times and always enjoyed ourselves (ok Kat always enjoyed herself; I mostly enjoyed the food – I can only look at so many Thai silk scarves).
Chiang Mai Night Market – The Walking Street
The idea of the walking streets (Chiang Mai night markets) is that for one evening a week, a section of the city center is shut down to vehicular traffic and opened to vendors and pedestrians. There are what seem to be endless booths selling t-shirts, toys, arts and crafts, fresh cooked food, delicious Thai tea and other drinks, and more.
Chiang Mai Night Market Food
I mentioned the food. Delicious. The food was my favorite part of the walking streets.
Along the streets you will see that you pass several monasteries. Well, most of them have food markets setup inside their walls, with a variety of different stands selling all kinds of amazing freshly prepared meals for pocket change.
Food Tip: I found the Chiang Mai walking street food markets some of the best spots to get a tear-inducing spicy green papaya salad. Go for 3 chilies. Just do it. Worst case is you’ll really entertain the Thai chefs and merchants.
Chiang Mai Night Markets with Kids?
The night markets, at least on the early side, are great for kids.
Check out some other great Chiang Mai kids activities.
The Chiang Mai walking streets feature tons of booths selling all kinds of toys, many hand made and all interesting. The shopkeepers will interact with the kids (of course trying to hook them into making you buy a toy).
We had one big toy quest during our night market excursions. Over the course of several nights we searched high and low for the right price for a couple of “gooey bears” that J&A were desperate for (they came up with the name).
These novelties, essentially balloons filled with flour and adorned with facial features that can be molded into funny shapes, were an obsession. Which is too bad, because about two days after finally finding them for the right price, AJ’s exploded all over our hotel room.
If you do want to buy anything at the walking streets don’t forget to negotiate. Just do it with a smile and have fun and it becomes an enjoyable part of the experience.
Wat Sri Suphan
Besides the shopping and eating, the Saturday walking street is a perfect time to check out the Chiang Mai silver temple – Wat Sri Suphan.
This temple, on a side street just off Wua Lai Road, is spectacular at night as colored lights reflect off the silver-clad walls. It’s a really unique change of pace among the myriad of gold-clad temples around Thailand.
Night Market Caveats
The Chiang Mai night market walking streets are not for everyone. If you are overwhelmed by (or just don’t really like) crowds, then I’d stay away. As the evening goes along the streets turn into a shoulder-to-shoulder pedestrian logjam. Street performers set up right in the middle of the road as well, making the flow of humanity slow to a crawl every 40 feet or so.
If you go right at the beginning of the evening the crowds are less intense. Also, avoid bringing bulky backpacks or other bags, as they make it harder to move around.
It’s best if you can walk to and from the market as well. The one night we tried to take a red truck taxi back from the far end of the Saturday walking street we had a hard time not getting gouged on the price. There are tons of people wanting rides and few taxis, and the drivers take advantage.
But taken in small early-evening doses we found the walking streets to be a lot of fun, and we are still enjoying many of the souvenirs we found wandering those booths!
Note: We visited Chiang Mai in January and February 2015. We got a little behind in writing about our experiences… then got further behind… and well somehow a year went by. So if you’re visiting Chiang Mai check the current details before heading out.