JJ Market & Journey to Chiang Mai – Feb-21-09

Okay so I thought yesterday was a big day… Today Jacki and I went to what must be the largest market in Thailand (the size of 3 football fields) Chatuchak Market (referred to as JJ Market by the locals – not sure why)… It’s only open on the weekends and is a bargain hunter’s paradise. We checked out of the Shanti Lodge and stored our bags in the luggage locker and walked through the market and took the ferry (around 9:30) to the sky train…we took it up to Mo Chit and along with many other locals and travelers embarked on the overwhelming task of navigating the catacombs of this market.

We grabbed a quick bite before entering the main isles, which were reminiscent of a flea market. The Pad Thai here is great and usually pretty cheap – a nice size plate was $2 and then we were ready to go!

Our intention was not to buy anything (we both just arrived and will be back in Bangkok again before we leave) but we wanted to just look around so we could price things out along the way – and we did pretty well! I couldn’t resist a couple of neat things… I found a woman selling small clay stones with Buddha and sacred geometry flowers and another small gift for someone – I only spent 100Bht ($4). We also bought fruit on a stick 10Bht and I bought a drink that was pretty popular – which I have really no idea what it was – looked like little green worms in coconut milk and ice – like tapioca or something – was pretty sweet and I drank most of it (20Bht).

I have to say there were too many things to see and everyone is trying to get you to buy something and practically holding your arm to get you to pay whatever you want… it was intense!!! We decided to get the heck out of there (as it was getting pretty hot also) and headed for the park to sit and rest and drink water.

While sitting we both had the idea (practically at the same time) to get out of the heat and into some air-con! So where else would we do that then the mall!!

So we hopped the sky train to the Siam Paragon – a very large mall reminiscent of Sherway Gardens or Yorkdale. It was nice and cool and the bathrooms alone were impressive! We didn’t really shop at all – instead we headed for the food market (in the mall – like a grocery store with prepared food market). We thought we would grab some food for the train ride here… I discovered a great place called BREAD TALK! All the breads you could want (YUM!) and I also got some fried taro root and sweet potato (lightly breaded). We then headed to the Food Hall food court (all that food shopping made us hungry) – this is where you buy a card to get in (loaded with as much $$ as you want 100Bht is usually enough) and then you go around to the vendors and get food and they swipe the card removing $ credits… pretty neat! I took a video of the line of vendors that shows the range of foods – but all pretty same-same (but different). You could also get western food in the mall – I saw 2 McDonalds, a Burger King and KFC and other chains. Also some sit down restaurants and in the lower level there is a large aquarium (but it was very expensive to get in so we didn’t bother).

Once done at the mall we headed back to the Shanti Lodge to collect our bags and get a taxi to the train station – our night train was scheduled to leave at 6pm and we arrived with lots of time around 5:15pm. The train station was full of travelers both native and foreign and many foreigners were going to Chiang Mai along with us.

We boarded car 6 and were offered food to buy and orange juice (which we declined – after we were told the food on the train was horrible). We were befriended by a nice porter – she was around our age and had been working on the train for 20 years (since she was 15) she practiced her English with us and Jacki showed her photos of the train she took in Australia in the months before this trip.

Squat toilets are more common here in Thailand then western sit toilets – and I have to say I do enjoy using them… however on a moving train this process becomes slightly more challenging! I was able to manage – but on some of the bumps I was uncertain – what an experience!!!

Around 9:30pm our seats were converted into sleeper bunks… Jacki had the lower bunk and I got the upper bunk (much smaller – so if I get an overnight train again I’ll go for the lower bunk for sure). We’ll see how I sleep – I’m pretty tired so I’m sure it’ll be fine!