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Mon May 24, 2010 3:28 pm

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Chock-a-Block at Chatuchak is interesting travel story from the country Thailand. I hope you will enjoy to read this story !!!



Shopping, like whisky, has been a true blue mood elevator for most of the people. So how do you gauge the mood of the vast populace swooping down on the weekends to a seemingly unending market with almost anything and everything on offer? We are talking about Chatuchak in Bangkok, the largest weekend market in the world and the mood there is simply festive. A huge shopping extravaganza with 15,000 stalls spanning across 35 acres and 200,000 to 300,000 daily visitors on an average, this would certainly take your breath away! Come Saturday morning…it is not the smartly dressed regular office goers but fancily clad tourists, who throng the Sukhumvit line of Bangkok’s sparkling metro, christened as the Sky train. As the Sky train terminates at Mo Chit station just at the outskirts of Bangkok, one simply needs to follow the swelling crowd going down to Chatuchak weekend market. Chatuchak is an experience, quite a heady one though playing havoc on all your senses! It confronts you with a riot of colours, charms you with the most intricately carved ornate designs and titillates your palate with the aroma of freshly prepared Thai delicacies. Chatuchak would test your tethers, your limits on how much to explore or rather how soon to give up? Thanks to the Internet, I had some idea about Chatuchak and I desperately wanted to be there on my next trip to Bangkok. On the first weekend as we arrived in Bangkok in June 2007, my wife, Bulbul and myself headed straight to Chatuchak to soak in that special shopping experience! Going by the sheer variety of vends, Chatuchak would surely impress the highly disinterested or the most discerning shopper. The market is supposedly divided into specific zones based on the goods on offer. But actually good old chaos prevails and everything is available almost everywhere! So what exactly would you like to buy in Chatuchak? Woodcarvings, bamboo, glass and ceramics, brass and pewter, textiles and garments, jewelry, leather…take your pick! The long alley of the market leads you to rows of shops with display of interesting wooden toys to finely carved figurines. Buddha statuettes are ubiquitous in the standing, reclining or all too famous posture of practicing penance and also laughing heartily, a la Chinese style. Brass & bronze castings of Thai danseuses, musicians, Gods, Goddesses and other mythological characters are truly a collector’s delight. The wind chimes made of bamboo, the wooden masks and the toad, which croaks when a wooden pin is rolled down its back are good buys. The painstaking Thai workmanship and their obsession with the finer details have redefined the art of making artificial flowers – the shops selling such flowers promise a veritable feast to the eyes with variety of flower forms and colours. Thai people are really good at their handicraft, a traditional skill, which has been honed to perfection with the infusion of modern design & technique. But the two products, which truly establish the Thai finesse, are basketry and ceramics. A whole lot of innovations has gone into making the baskets and their materials ranging from plastic yarns to various types of reeds. Baskets for seemingly every purpose are on offer; be it the fashionable magazine holder to the mundane storage of vegetables. The skill in knitting the baskets, their flawless finishes and most importantly, introduction of modern designs for forms etc. have all turned them quite attractive. On a similar note, ladies’ purses & bags, mostly made from the dyed reeds with excellent colour combinations and weave patterns could be the head turners. But the best part of Chatuchak that really woos the shoppers are the prices. The prices of all those handmades with the finest of carving and painting are really music to the shoppers’ ears. And if one can skillfully engage into bargaining, prices of most of the items drop by about 30 percent. After trudging along the lanes and by-lanes of the market and on reaching at least one final end of such a grand affair, we needed a break from the scorching sun. We really earned ourselves a good lunch. We spotted ‘Toh-Plue’ restaurant, right on the main thoroughfare. The restaurant resembled a roadside café with good patronage by the international tourists. We opted for the mini meal combos with Bulbul asking for roasted duck with rice noodles and me going for the fried rice with squid. It took a little time but Toh-Plue ensured that the items ordered by us were freshly prepared with the right spices and served piping hot. The food all over Thailand is very affordable as long as one sticks to the local fare. Chatuchak was no exception with our lunch bill totaling less than THB 120. Food is actually a great Thai obsession and one would see the people snacking on noodles or sipping a soup throughout the day. To appease all the foodies, Chatuchak does boast of an equally grand culinary fare. Innumerable eateries dot the market at comfortable intervals with up-market air-conditioned dining facilities to large open-air food courts. Somewhere I read about the pet section of the market. By asking directions from the people for the aquarium fishes, we discovered the market dedicated to pets. Going by the South-East Asian obsession for ornamental fish, the huge collection of Oscars, Discus, Cichlids, Gold fishes, Koi carps, Siamese fighters…was quite understandable. Apart from the tropical fish, the latest fad is to recreate a tiny bit of ocean world at home with a collection of colourful marine fish. Besides the pets, all the necessary accessories for keeping and maintaining an aquarium were also available. The pups and kittens were too many: Pekinese to Pugs, German shepherds to Golden retrievers and the famed Siamese cats, the choice was wild. But I was not exactly prepared for what came next – the shops specializing in exotic pets: snakes & lizards. The glass boxes had large green tree pythons, Bayaks and many such wriggly species! The shops would sell day-old chicks too for feeding the snakes. And the variety of lizards, geckos and monitor lizards on display was too eerie. We also saw the ferrets, mongoose and porcupines all too eager to be picked up as pets. The shops were selling turtles and tortoises ranging from a few inches to pretty large ones. They had a strict ‘no photography’ diktat giving rise to doubts in their dealing with endangered species. No description of Chatuchak can be complete without mentioning its tourist friendly facilities. There are at least 8-10 ATMs and bank counters all dealing in foreign exchanges. A tourist has to walk about 50 meters to locate one currency converter. And to make the shopping a truly seamless experience, there are over 15 agencies, which deftly pack your large and weighty wares and forward them to your address with care by air or ocean freight, all for the right fee! So do not bother to lug around the huge brass danseuse, she would reach your home as you get back after the vacation. Something, which can get gruelling indeed is the afternoon sun in Chatuchak. So your shopping experience would do better with a few strategies in place. As a rule, one should try to reach the market by 10 o’clock and adopt a focused shopping approach, as it would be almost impossible to cover the entire market for an assessment of products & their prices. May be with such shackles on shopping, one can head for the lunch by early afternoon and then walk down to the Sky train or better still take the underground MRT to get back to the reality. -Soumitra Biswas is a Chemical Engineer by profession and works as an Advisor in the Union Ministry of Science & Technology, Govt. of India. He dabbles in photography and travel writing in his spare time. Soumitra lives in New Delhi with his wife and two children. The photographs for the article were also taken by the author.





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Thu Aug 12, 2010 2:00 pm

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title ki kuch samajh nahi aai



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