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After experiencing the greatness of Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market, I didn’t think that there was a shopping experience that I could love more. Then I found the Saturday Vespa Market, so named for its origins as a gathering place for those selling vintage vehicles.

If Chatuchak is the popular prom queen of Bangkok’s market scene, then the Vespa Market is the rebel hipster smoking cigarettes behind the bleachers.

Everyone knows about Chatuchak. It is a place where the tourists sometimes seem to outnumber the Thais. Yet with the Vespa Market, I doubt if the cliche in travel writing of “hidden gem” was ever more appropriate. I first heard of it in passing from an expat friend in Bangkok. Online searches pulled up little info of use, and I could find just a few lines about it buried in my Lonely Planet.

When I realized I would be in Bangkok on a Saturday night with friends Zoe and Tom, I knew I had to go. I was a bit unclear on the location, but when we arrived at the Lat Phrao metro station, we simply followed the trail of young, pierced, and tattood Thais into an abandoned parking lot sheltered by an overpass.

You know when you talk to other travelers and they say something like, “We were the only farang (foreigners) there!” But really it’s kind of an exaggeration? Well trust me, there is no need for hyperbole: We were the only farang there! Not a white face in sight. It was such an amazing feeling to be part of something not set up for tourists, not on the face of a million postcards: just an authentic taste of a Saturday night routine for young urban Thais.

The lack of tourists had one major benefit: Prices were cheaper than I’ve ever seen. Even cheaper than Chatuchak! I bought new shorts for Mark for 100 baht ($3 USD) and two silk tops for myself for 150 baht ($5 usd!) I also picked up a few quirkier finds like a vintage magazine cover with illustrated scuba divers on it and some silkscreened notebooks. Even better, many of the prices were marked, which meant I didn’t have to deal with the dreaded market bargaining fiasco (a fiasco at least whenever I try it!)

But really, we weren’t there for the shopping. We were there for the underground atmosphere, the cooler-than-thou attitudes, and the hipper-than-hip people watching.

And did I mention the food? I almost went into a sugar coma as we walked around because every few stalls there was a snack I had to try. Sugar toast on a stick, orange slushies, condensed milk roti….

And while we munched we were serenaded by a local band who set up in the corner.

After we spent an hour or two exhaustively exploring, we felt like we had seen everything. So we started to leave, all the while commenting that while the market was amazing it was a bit smaller than we had expected. No sooner did the words escape our mouths did we turn the corner and stumble upon another open field of stall after stall about four times the size of the area we had just left. We hadn’t even made it to the full market… we had been in the annex!

And look at everything we almost missed out on. Plants…

Animals for sale…

Animals not for sale…


Hilarious reminders of my life back in Brooklyn… (, anyone?) [Edited to add: Cooler friends have since informed me that Run DMC was based out of Queens, not Brooklyn!]

An impressive collection of vintage microphones…

And so, so much more.

Eventually after all the hours spent walking the annex our feet were calling it quits just halfway through the actual market. What a wonderful excuse to make it back someday! I feel certain I will be here again, as this was undoubtedly one of my favorite Bangkok memories of all time.

If you want to check out this market for yourself, head to Th Ratchadaphisek and Th Lad Phrao using the Lad Phrao Metro stop between 6pm and midnight on Saturdays. Just follow the urban cowboys.

Believe it or not, this is an end to the recaps of my family and friends’ visit to Thailand! After this market I packed my way back down to Koh Tao to decompress after a month of madness. But there are more posts to come about expat life in Koh Tao, my impromptu visit to New York for the month of March, and what’s happening next in my life. Stay tuned!

  • John
    April 14 2012

    I went to a market that was very similar to this in Seattle – the Fremont Market. They had all sorts of old, vintage stuff…but no live rabbits.

    • Meihoukai
      April 15 2012

      If I ever get to Seattle I’m going to definitely have to check that out! I’ve never been to wild about markets but here in Asia I have become obsessed!

      • Andrea
        April 15 2012

        I’m from Seattle and I do love the Fremont market…but this looks cooler to me, simply because it’s at night! I love how there are so many night markets in Asia, it makes them seem so much more hip. 🙂

  • Jenna
    April 14 2012

    This post made me realize two things. The first is how sad I am that I’m not going to be able to go to this (we fly out Saturday night). The second is that I’m going to need to go on a spending fast before we go so I can end our trip with a whole lot of shopping!

    • Meihoukai
      April 15 2012

      Believe me, you will get your fill at the Chatuchak Market! And best of all you won’t have to go on too strict of a spending fast because prices are so cheap. You should, however, leave extra room in your suitcase (or pick up an extra one while you’re there….)

  • Audrey | That Backpacker
    April 14 2012

    This looks like my sort of market! So cool that you found vintage magazines about scuba divers – that’s a great find!

    • Meihoukai
      April 15 2012

      I know! I wish I had taken a picture of it before I sent it home… argh! I’m sure it will make its way onto this blog sometime in the future….

  • Rachel
    April 15 2012

    Looks awesome! I’ll definitely try to check it out when I make it to Bangkok.

    • Meihoukai
      April 15 2012

      I hope you do Rachel! And make sure you don’t just get stuck in the Annex…. 🙂

  • Dad
    April 16 2012

    I still like the photo of the used cameras. I voted for it as picture of the week a while back.

    • Meihoukai
      April 16 2012

      Good eye 🙂 It certainly was Photo of the Week way back when….

  • steve mckee
    April 17 2012

    Your best A.I.W. line EVER, Meihoukai:
    “If Chatuchak is the popular prom queen of Bangkok’s market scene, then the Vespa Market is the rebel hipster smoking cigarettes behind the bleachers.”
    Hope all’s well.
    Was great seeing you in NY,

    • Meihoukai
      April 17 2012

      Thanks Steve… I love getting writing compliments from you 🙂

  • Jay
    July 30 2012

    Never been to this market before but I’ve been to Rot Fai Market which was almost the same them with this one. Lots of vintage stuffs and I had a great time there.

    • Meihoukai
      July 30 2012

      There are so many amazing markets in Bangkok… I keep trying to tick them all off my list!

  • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer
    November 15 2014

    Looks like a really cool market! I especially love the vintage cameras! I recently bought a mirror-less camera that looks vintage, and I love it!

    • Meihoukai
      November 16 2014

      I have a small vintage camera collection at home that I adore. It was tempting not to keep adding to it here!