Getting lost in Chatuchak Market is a rite of passage for new arrivals to Bangkok. It’s only once you’ve felt that panic, that real thud in the chest realisation that you’re lost and dehydrated and if passed out on the spot nobody would come to look for you, you’d just get swept up with the rest of the rubbish at the end of the day, that you truly feel like you’ve arrived. But if you want to leave the tourist goods behind, the elephant-printed parachute pants, the ‘authentic Thai’ but made in China silk, the tie-dye everything, then you need to head to the market the Bangkok locals love, Rot Fai.
Rot Fai, or the Train Market, is a huge open-air market selling antiques, vintage clothes, furniture, food and a million other things. No matter what your niche, sixties girl-group vinyl, 18th century Chinese ceramics, Seattle grunge band t-shirts, there’s something here for you.
As with the rest of Thailand, there were ice boxes full of beer everywhere you turned, minivans turned into cocktail bars and enough food stalls to feed a Heavy Metal festival. On the night we went there was also a rock band playing a set outside a warehouse full of Vintage Harleys, a pet shop giving discount haircuts to a whole brood of baby poodles and a bar showing English Premier League football. Being in Bangkok makes me want to be a teenager again.
I ate scallops from a street vendor and didn’t die instantly of dysentery as the guide books would have you believe. I resisted the urge to buy a vintage leather handbag, a Back to the Future t-shirt, a Chinese ceramic teapot and about a hundred other things I’d have to carry around the rest of South East Asia. I drank a few cans of beer, wandered around and enjoyed the feeling of being in a foreign place without feeling like a foreigner.
Rot Fai Market is open Thursday to Sunday evenings and the best way to get there is to take the BTS to Udom Suk station and then take a taxi from there, it really is too far to walk which is one reason most tourists give it a miss. The crowds getting in and out are a bit intense but be brave, it’s totally worth it.