Talad Rot Fai: Bangkok’s Hippest Market

For the hip young things, Bangkok’s Chatacak market is old news. Overpriced, crawling with sweaty tourists and baby bunnies in tutus, swelteringly hot, row on row of the same stuff all held in a purpose built market. And, let’s be honest, a purpose built market? Who does that these days? If you’re all about the oversized geek-chic glasses, rockabilly beats and painted-on black skinny jeans, then Talad Rot Fai is the place to be seen.

Talad Rot Fai in Bangkok (Photo credit: Peter Newbigin)

It’s also the place to pick up everything from Bakelite to Bert and Ernie dolls, all in the dim half-light of dozens of abandoned train carriages, converted VW camper-vans, and market stalls scattered on the pavement. Started just a few years ago, disused train carriages have been converted into retro-chic bars and hold-alls for the treasures of yesteryear. Talad Rot Fai is known in English as ‘The Train Market” and it is an unmissable photo opportunity. The train carriages, the bright young things, the clothes, the jumble of antiques that changes throughout the night, the lighting… Charge your camera and get ready for some fantastic photos. Antiques dealers will be in paradise in the antiques sections, where hundreds of temptations crowd for space. Old mannequins lean against fancy pin-ball machines, ancient telephones tumble off smooth leather recliners, peeling advertisements and retrofitted vintage bikes tempt the passerby. Don’t expect any logic in layout or a set price. Half the fun is exploring and bargaining. For the serious collector, there are some definite finds here. It’s a long walk to the nearest ATM, so come financially prepared.

For those settled in Thailand, the nursery sections is a great, if slightly random, place to pick up new plants. Suit up for your next fancy-dress party, burlesque performance or simply next weekend with some amazing vintage clothes. But if you don’t fancy a powder-blue suit or a polyester prom dress, head round to the clothes section. Here, venders display their custom made t-shirts, hats, dresses, toys and skirts. Everything’s new, hip, and unique. And the dek neaw (hipsters) love it. At a fraction of the price of Khao San Road or Chatarak, its the perfect place to replace your travel-worn wardrobe with something different. Perhaps a complete penguin or turtle costume? Or an ironically ‘80s tee for the less zoologically-inclined? Some sequined hot-pants for your friends back home?

Drinks and food at Bangkok’s Train Market (Photo credit: Peter Newbigin)

Tired of all the shopping? Pick a train carriage and settle down for a cold beer or iced coffee. Or if you have fond memories of Woodstock (or simply wish you’d been there), have dinner out the back of a converted VW camper van. From live music to the best of the 50’s, there’s also some classic quality audio entertainment to be found. Come with an empty stomach and a full wallet. From bargain-priced noodles to fruit shakes to retro-inspired cocktails, its the chance to dine with the in-crowd. And speaking of the in-crowd, Talad Rot Fai offers some excellent people watching. This is a crowd that knows how to dress- and doesn’t let scorching hot nights or monsoon rains stand between them and some seriously impressive fashion. So grab a cold drink, sit back, and, from a stationary train carriage, watch the world go by.

Vintage fun at Talad Rot Fai (Photo credit: Peter Newbigin)

At present, the market runs Saturday and Sunday only. While Talad Rot Fai officially opens at 2pm, venders and crowds don’t start arriving till 8pm. The market runs until midnight. Public transport closes around 11:30, so if you want to see the market through to its final glorious moments, you’ll be catching a taxi home. Getting to Talad Rot Fai is easy on Bangkok’s metro/BTS systems. Simply catch the subway to Kamphaeng Phet station and walk away from Chatacak Market. There are sometimes signs pointing to Talad Rot Fai, but if in doubt, follow the dek neaw! Walk pass a bizarre collection of bonsai nurseries and glitzy nightclubs and the market will be on your right. The gate to the market is clearly signposted, but the sudden crowds, smell of food and 50‘s rock are the best indicator you’ve made it to the right spot. If you’d prefer, take the skytrain to Saphan Khwai and then take a taxi or tuk-tuk to market. Talad Rot Fai is relatively new so ask for the name of the market to be written in Thai as many taxi drivers are still unfamiliar with it.

Got your skinny jeans, camera and an empty stomach? All aboard!

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About Verity Danbold

Verity Danbold has written extensively for stage and page.
After completing her BA Honours (English and Drama) and MA (Theatre and Development) at the University of East Anglia, Verity went on to write for a number of international NGOs, including the UN Maternal Health Project in Cambodia, dance4life Vietnam and Empowerment International in Nicaragua. Her creative writing credits include Scenes from an Everyday Affair and Soliloquies for My Lost Sisters, nominated for Best Emerging Writer and Green Room Awards in the 2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival. She is currently working on the film of Soliloquies and two new works.

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