The Sunday Walking Market was easily my favorite thing about the city of Chiang Mai. We arrived last Sunday just as it was getting started, so we spent the evening wandering through the huge expanse of handicraft, clothing, and food stalls. Little did I know, we were right in the middle of the BEST, and cheapest, food in Chiang Mai. I had fried banana spring rolls, a chicken and pineapple kebab, passion fruit punch, and “Thai Pancakes,” little deep-fried balls filled with coconut cream and chives for about $1 total, and it was all soooo good. It got me excited for a week full of incredible food, but as it turned out, nothing else I had was nearly as good as the food from the street market, and all of it was more expensive. All of the pad thai, rice, noodle, and tom yum soup dishes were good, but never quite as delicious as the food the first night. Also, the meat in I tried on occasion was always a bit questionable, particularly the mysterious white Thai sausage that had little bones in it. I did have some great rotees, a kind of fried bread with fillings; I had a banana and honey rotee at the Night Market before I discovered the mother of all rotees right outside my guest house one night — fried bread wrapped around an egg and banana and topped with chocolate and condensed milk. It sounds like a strange combination with the fried egg in there, but it was actually really good. Another good night market find was cups of corn: fresh roasted corn on the cob that you could eat off the cob or, if you’re the kind of person that makes a mess of yourself eating, they’ll slice it into a cup with salt and butter for you to simplify things (guess which version I had).
One thing that was just as good, cheap, and delicious outside of the Sunday Market was Thai Iced Tea. I don’t know what exactly they put in it apart from the ever present condensed milk, but it’s so good. The best part is the presentation: if you get it to go from a lot of road side stands, they’ll make it in a plastic bag and tie a rubber band to it so it can just hang from your wrist. If you actually get it in a cup, then they put the cup in a plastic sling of sorts. All of this so that you don’t actually have to hold on to the cold container that has waterfalls of condensation running down the sides. It’s pretty ingenious, really.
So, after a week of good, just not great, food, I was SO excited for the Sunday Market, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. The market isn’t scheduled to open until 6pm, but a lot of the vendors who are on the sidewalks set up much earlier than that to take advantage of business. One section of the market was totally up and running when I walked through on my way to some book stores around 1pm, and by the time I was heading back even more vendors were opening up. I went into the market with full intentions of just gorging on all the food, and that’s exactly what I did. Over the course of the next ten hours, I consumed the following, all for a total of less than $4:
-Pad thai (best I had all week)
-Three fish and vegetable cakes
-Shaved ice concoction that filled the small square styrofoam container it came in and tasted like a mix of fruits with a subtle hint of a flavor akin to bubble gum
-Strawberry bubble tea topped with oreo
-Banana-filled waffle topped with chocolate sauce
-Spicy pork and sticky rice fried ball
-Sticky rice with mango and coconut milk
I was going to have banana spring rolls as well, but they must have run out of bananas because they closed up early. I could live off of fried bananas and banana spring rolls, mmm. Throw some mango sticky rice, pad thai and thai tea in the mix and I would be totally set.
I’m getting hungry just typing this up, and I just had crab won tons, corn on the cob, and kiwi bubble tea for dinner here in Phuket.
Anyway, over the course of those ten hours, I ended up walking around the entire market three times when I wasn’t just chilling somewhere. The market is positively huge, sprawling across blocks and blocks of the city center. You can find just about anything there: silk, wood works, jewelery, clothing, art, and more. Amongst the stalls are various performers, singing, dancing, and playing instruments for donations. The only thing that can be found in greater abundance at the regular Night Market as opposed to the Sunday Walking Street is the variety of counterfeit items that Asia is known for. (Knock-off) Ray Bans, Pumas, Gucci and more can all be found at the Sunday Market too, but this market caters more to the genuine Thai articles such as traditional pants and handicrafts. Between bites of snacks, I did manage to pick up a few souvenirs, too.
All told, the Walking Market was a huge success for multiple reasons, not least of which was being able to stuff my face with delectable food for hours on end while haggling over great souvenirs. Thus far, the Sunday Market was easily the best market that I’ve been to yet. It was a great end to my week in Chiang Mai!