Top tips for shopping heaven: Chatuchak Market, Bangkok!

I have been dying to write this “top tips” post about Chatuchak Market for the longest time. Not weeks or months, but years.

From the very first time I hit the stalls shopping at Chatuchak Market, in Bangkok, Thailand, I have never been the same.

I literally find it painful spending money anywhere else.

When I say cheap, bargains, budget, chic, cool, fun fashion I mean piles of it. You are going to feel like you died and woke up in fashion heaven where you can afford EVERYTHING.

Affectionately called JJ Market, the area is stuffed to the rafters with more than 8,000 stalls, which are open from 9am to about 6pm (indoor stalls) and 9pm (outdoor stalls).

Watch my video below and keep reading for a few tips on how to master the art of shopping at JJ.

You are going to feel overwhelmed, you are going to feel tired and you are going to spend too much. So listen up.

 

Don’t ever go looking for something specific. This place is just too massive for that. One must go with the attitude of thinking ‘it would be lovely if I found a …….. but if I don’t see one it’s cool.’

Do go with a budget – 20 GBP or 1000 THB is plenty for small treats.

Do go with a suitcase – you may just want to stock a shop or a walk-in wardrobe or buy enough Christmas and birthday presents for the next five years. And you won’t be the only one filling a case. I’ve seen the smart ones at it before.

Send stuff home from the market using the parcel services a the entrance near MRT Chatuchak.

Haggle. Start with the words. “Can I have a discount?” I used to think this was a bit too forward but having observed other people haggle this way, I have tried it and had great results.

Take small notes. When you want to pay 200 THB for a 300 THB dress the seller is much more likely to say yes to your price if they can see, smell and touch the money!

Never open your wallet first and then ask how much. You have just gone and put yourself at the mercy of the seller. Be cool.

Take a friend who is also shopping because when you buy more than one thing from a stall you can always bargain the price down even lower! Wholesale!

Wear flip flops for when you want to stop for a foot massage. Chatuchak Market is the biggest market you are likely to ever come across. You will be doing so much walking your feet will thank you at the end of the day.

Use the MRT underground station or BTS Skytrain to get there and back. The taxis and tuk tuks in these areas bump up their prices so much, paying for a ride will eat into the savings you made while shopping…think about it…

Get off the train at MRT Kamphaengphet rather than MRT Chatuchak. Why? Well the stores are way more fashiony in my opinion. Yes I said fashiony. This is MY BLOG! Lol!

 

 

Songkran water festival in Thailand is just one month away!

 

Check out my feature on how to survive Songkran – one of the world’s craziest parties.

I wrote this one for Jetstar Asia inflight magazine for all those people heading to the festival and in need of travel hacks to make sure they have the most bodacious time ever! ūüôā Go to the feature by clicking below.

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8 of the kindest ways to experience elephants in Asia

Riding an elephant was one of the biggest regrets I have from my travels. I was new to the whole thing and wanted to experience elephants in Thailand so I booked a cheap tour that included an elephant ride. BIG MISTAKE.

The worst point was when I was sitting on a chair atop an elephant that was bleeding from the head because the handler kept on poking it violently with a metal stick. The elephant and I were in the middle of a muddy stream and I had to decide whether to protest and get off or shut up and deal with it. I chose the latter because I didn’t know where ¬†I was or how to get off. It was a sorry sight. I was a bit tearful because the elephant was being abused right in front of me and it was all my fault. I just wanted it to be over.

This was my first and last experience of elephants getting a rough deal as a side effect of tourism in their countries. I later learnt that they are often drugged, beaten and put through horrible ordeals in order for tourists to enjoy a ride. Their spirits must be broken to bring on submission. There is a name for this process. It is called ‘phajaan’. Rather than me explaining in words I found this video on YouTube for you to see for yourself.

Click here for video

There are so many other better ways to enjoy these majestic animals while travelling Southeast Asia. Organisations that protect elephants let tourists visit and help care for the elephants and an increasing number of elephant camps are transverting to this conservational style of tourism. Yes you will have to spend a bit more money but that is the cost of keeping them happy. Scroll over the project names in this article to find links for booking and more information. Enjoy!

  1. This is more like it. Rather than ride an elephant people are opting for washing them and caring for them at sancturies, such as The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.

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2. You can volunteer as a conservationist with Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society. This is more like being a scientist. You get to work with scientists and local people to help collect information, care for elephants and find solutions to help elephants and local people to live together without conflict.

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3.¬†Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage , in Sri Lanka,¬†is one of my favourites. It has the world’s largest population of captive elephants. The experience here is observatory, while relaxing with a snack.

4. You can actually go an see wild elephants roaming around Khao Yai National Park, in Thailand, which is just three and a half hours outside of Bangkok and easily reachable by minivan from Victory Monument Skytrain station.

5. One of the biggest elephant camps in Thailand, Sai Yoke Elephant Camp in Kanchanaburi, has transitioned into a conservation camp. Now called Elephant Haven, tourist trips include feeding, bathing and walking beside elephants.

6. You can emerse yourself in the Gwi culture by volunteering in a remote village in northern Thailand where The Surin Project provides economic sustainability to mahouts (elephant keepers) so that they don’t need to rely on elephant shows and riding.

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7. If you are visiting Chiang Mai pop into the Elephant Parade House where you can buy a painted elephant sculpture or even paint one yourself. There are no live elephants to see but your cash goes to support elephants conservation projects in India and Southeast Asia.

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8. Also see the Elephant Parade Exhibition in Bangkok at Asiatique from December 20, 2015, to January 11, 2016, and at Lumpini Park from Janury 18 to 31, 2016.

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My fave: Muay Thai for girls in Bangkok

Give me a pad and I will punch it. I first fell in love with kickboxing and Muay Thai back in England so when I went to live in Thailand my top priority, apart from finding a job and home, was finding a kick ass Muay Thai gym.

That place was Khongsittha, in Bangkok.

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I remember my first time at this gym in the Chok Chai 4 area of the city. It isn’t near a train station so it was hard to find for a foreigner like me because anything far from a the two metro lines in the city is hard for foreigners to find. I used Google maps to direct a taxi driver there (I knew how to say left, right, straight ahead and thank you in Thai).

Everyone was curious about me and greeted me with big smiles and lots of questions about where I was from, my job, how long I had been in Thailand and how I found the gym.

They thought I was a total novice so when I got in the ring and released a seriously powerful kick onto the pad that my trainer was holding everyone stopped what they were doing, turned around and said: “Oooooooooh!” That is Thai for, “I get it.”

The trainers put me through my paces but what they didn’t know was that in England I trained twice a week with MMA champion Denniston ‘Mad Max’ Sutherland so I could of handled more. After my first class I was ready to sign up for the future. I spent 6,000 baht (about 150 euros) on 20 classes.

The gym had everything I was looking for; fighters who trained clients, new equipment, lovely female changing rooms, friendly people, a full workout from warm up to cool down and fair prices (about 400 baht a session but less when you buy in bulk). Some trainers spoke English too but that was never a make or break condition with me. When you live in Thailand you get used to communicating with actions, Google translate and Google images.

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I loved training here. It was convenient because it was open for such long hours everyday of the week – drop-in training sessions take place on the hour between 9 and 12pm and 3pm and 9pm.

The routine at these sessions was always the same. Jogging, then skipping, then technique training, then pad work in the ring, then conditioning, cooldown and stretching. I always felt like every part of my body had been bootcamped and stretched. I got really strong and an eyebrow-raising pair of guns to match!

When I started going to Khongsittha it had been open for less than a year and was gaining popularity fast. One reason was because it was good and the other was because its owner was a famous television presenter in Thailand. Matthew Deane is one of the hosts on the Thai Fight show on Thai Channel 3. Guess what? A lot of females started popping up at the gym and sometimes, a TV crew did too.

One day Matt got my friends and I tickets to the Thai Fight Finals at The Thai King’s Palace in Hua Hin! Cheers!!

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You could certainly say Khongsittha is a buzzing place. I enjoyed the evening sessions because they are always packed with people and have a great social atmosphere but what I loved was those quiet mornings when the class sizes were smaller and I could get lots of attention.

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3 awesome places to take your hula hoop in Thailand

There was a time when I went on a week long trip around Thailand with little else but my hula hoop. People stared. It was bizarre I suppose. A girlfriend and I just turned up at places, pulled out our hoops and started hooping for no reason whatsoever.

  1. Amphawa Floating Market.

This is my favourite floating market in Thailand. It has a local feel. You don’t get on a boat here, the boats come to you.


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Best way to get there:

We took a van from outside Victory Monument Skytrain station in Bangkok. It cost 80 Baht (about 2 euros). You can also take a bus from the Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai) or go by taxi.

Best time to go:

Fri, Sat and Sun, from 2pm to 8pm. I would stay for a couple of days.

Best place to stay:

We loved At Casa Guesthouse because it was right on the river and had a lovely terrace where we relaxed with drinks and watched the boats go by.

Best dishes to eat:

Amphawa is famous for its grilled seafood and boat noodles, which is a meaty noodle soup.

Best things to do:

Shopping of course! Also, if you arrive early in the morning you’ll be able to catch the massage boat.

2. Erawan Waterfalls

It is the perfect way to cool down on a hot day and one of the most beautiful places you can go on a day trip outside of Bangkok.

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Best way to get there:

From Bangkok take a bus to Kanchanaburi from the Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai). They run from 5am to 10.30pm and cost about 80 to 100 baht. Best to get there before 8pm to make sure you get a seat. There are also vans for 80 baht from outside Victory Monument skytrain.

Best time to go:

In hot season between March and May because Thailand is super hot (40 degrees some days) and the waters at the waterfall are nice and cool. Also get there as early as you can because from 12pm onwards it gets super crowded.

Best place to stay:

I loved staying in a Thai National Park bungalow. They are not glamorous or anything but what makes them special is they are 500 meters from the falls. This means you can wake up early and get there before anyone else.

Best dishes to eat:

There are some shops selling grilled chicken and fruit smoothies. Booze is banned but some outlets will sell you a beer in a coffee cup!

Best things to do:

Climb the waterfall to the very top. It’s well worth going all the way up as the falls consit of seven different pools and you will come across less and less people the higher you go. You can slide down rocks or laze around in an oversized rubber ring. The fish at the waterfalls love nibbling on feet so have yourself a free and natural fish pedicure. It’s painless, although a bit daunting at first.

3. Hua Hin

This beach getaway near the capital is cool for partying, meeting expats and pampering yourself.

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Best way to get there:

Trains run from Bangkok’s Hua Lampong Station from 8.30am to 6pm on weekdays and from 8.30am to 12pm on weekends and public holidays. Buses from the Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai) run every 30 minutes from 3am to 9pm.

Best time to go:

Anytime really. Avoid rainy season, which really kicks in from July and goes on until the end of October in central Thailand.

Best place to stay:

By the beach at Putahracsa boutique hotel and beach club. They have 2for1 happy hour cocktails, a spa and gorgeous views.

Best dishes to eat:

Hua Hin is an expat haven so if you’ve been craving western food, this is the place to get it.

Best things to do:

Wander along the beach in search of beachclubs and beach restaurants because Hua Hin has loads! Go shopping at Cicada Market, visit Santorini Greek-style themed waterpark or Vana Nava Jungle-themed waterpark, play a round of golf at Banyan Golf Club or go to a spa.