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Thieves Market Bangkok – Edition 2011

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

© Frank P. Schneidewind


The recent past has been very hectic for us with a relocation to a remote island for ourselves. Koh Chang
is our new home and after well over a decade of Bangkok, we did decide that it was about time to flee the hustle of the huge city. We gained a roomier place to live and will face higher costs for food and other items. Island prices are known to be inflated a bit, but Koh Chang really did it within reason unlike Phuket or Samui.

However, our first trip back took us to our favorite shopping area – and we hat a long wish-list to browse for. Wall-plugs, faucets, tools and personal gear for us three were to be had here at fractions of the island prices and well worth the traveling expenses.;(

Our good friends Klaus and Shella left  the island in their roomy SUV and gave us a ride to the outskirts of Bangkok, from where we took a taxi. They were going back to beautiful Penang in Malaysia, where they establish an alternative residence for them.

It was a Saturday night and the timing couldn't have been more perfect for us as the real "Thieves Market" was about to start in a short while. It starts every Saturday evening around sunset time and runs until midday on Sundays. Our previous report covers the night part of it, so here we start at 6 A.M. on Sunday morning to give you an update.

No less than four huge backpacks were brought empty and a merciful ATM supplied the much needed cash for the task. We shopped until after midnight like tourists on steroids and accomplished about 50% of the items on our shopping list. The heavy plumbing things went straight in my shouldered backpack, accompanied by needed tools, whilst our rollered biggies held the bulkier items. It was a hellish task, but we were quite successful. We checked into some cheap 300 Baht hotel with porn feeds onto the TV and free condoms provided. They gave us wild looks, when we occupied the room with our baby in tow. :D

We were so exhausted and slept a bit immediately. This would not have been a place of choice for us, but the close proximity to the action gave us the chance to be there again with the first rays of sunlight. The 300 Baht really didn't dent our budget too much, as we saved multiples of that with every load we added to our limited cargo space. Faucets, tools and acrylic sealant weigh too much for a fun stroll, but brave Melona carried Teddy in his carrier as there is no way to survive here with a stroller or such.

A morning coffee taken at a roadside table, gave us the energy to dive in for the remaining things. I made an oath to check into some nice, clean, real hotel after the market to compensate for the stress. The monks were strolling barefeet in groups according to their custom and religion. The were raking in handouts from early morning shoppers and stallholders alike. You'll never see them there, if you not make it to the site prior to 7 A.M.!

There were so many groups of monks in their robes, the Thieves Market was theirs after dawn. Their chants sounded so familiar to us, but may appear most exotic to first time visitors or tourists. We noticed they were stopping a short while for an extra chant, if a giver was generous enough.

This time we weren't looking for antiques or such, but we snapped away some scenes for you to give you impressions. Nothing has changed since 2009, when I wrote the first report on this spectacle.

Hordes of people roamed as well as the morning progressed. The dealers were wedged away in the hallways and on the pavement.

Teddy behaved (rare occasion!) in Mommy's baby-carrier out front, constantly checking if I keep the pace. Melonas backpack filled up gradually as well and we run out of storage space, what a dilemma – so many great deals! ;(

Some eateries were hidden under market umbrellas. But we didn't feel like sampling Chinese snacks – those come with the risk to have the need to find a toilet quick, and there are hardly any to be found here.

Novelty items were out in abundance as usual, copied trademarks are a normality in Thailand. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook's owner) may have gotten himself a pair of flip-flops with his brand, would he ever have made it here.

Shorts, house pants, boxers and other garments for a fraction of a US-$. All brand new and even with the GAP or Puma labels attached inside.

My department looked like this, no room for a circular saw – but a replacement for my broken down sander will help me next week to clear coat some of my furnitures back on the island.

These practical joke items sell well with Thai people! Energy Savings Plugs with capacities up to Millions of Watts , only the very uneducated believe this crap. Scams are also very frequent here, as the scamsters are generally left unharmed by the local cops.

We were now facing a situation with countless plastic bags dangling from the handles of our roller equipped backpacks and could barely make it back to the main road. Fresh squeezed vitamin boosts were very welcome for a few coins.

We noticed the market changes a bit towards a less hard core Thieves Market on Sunday, gone are the cellular phones, digital cameras and laptops. Out came more snacks and fruit vendors with their delicious loads. Very tempting indeed!

We rewarded ourselves after this ordeal with a nice hotel room near Sathorn Road, where we had some meeting to attend on the following morning. Smart repackaging of bought goods enabled us to fill the four original backpacks to the brim. We have saved a fortune versus shopping the same items onour island or in a nearby town.

This is the real "Thieves Market", where contraband and stolen goods change hands in the night and in broad daylight. Don't be mislead by some tourist brochures that point you to another location (tourist trap). Bus line number 8 takes you from Victory Monument (BTS) to Worachak Road. That is within a stone-throw of the market. The market covers several blocks and has no clear borders, but it stretches for miles and several blocks. On the flanks are Phayabaan Klang Hospital or Klong Thom Center. Ask for either one if you come by taxi.

Thieves Market Bangkok, 2010 Edition

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

© Frank P. Schneidewind

 


We call a “Thieves Market”, what seems to be a market – where contraband, copies of luxury articles and obviously stolen goods are offered. Bangkok once had a Thieves Market, but that one did deteriorate quick with public knowledge and the arrival of tourists in numbers. It operated for some time in Chinatown’s Nakhon Kasem, and then mutated to just another tourist trap, where questionable merchandise is still offered at times. Prices soared and fake Gucci bags, Rolex watches, porn DVDs and such were on sale for an almost exclusively tourist- and foreigner-clientele. Unattractive for bargain hunters on holiday or shopping-spree and knowledgeable expats alike.

The insider crowd shuns the over-touristed markets like Chatuchak, Patpong or Suan Lum Night Market, those are neat and big for rookies and traveling folks with too much to spend at hand. A true pickpockets galore daily or weekly, but no terrain for us anymore.

The SIAMPEDIA-Team takes you now into the zone called Yaowarat or simply Chinatown. This area isn’t far from the historical Thieves Market. Here, you can get and acquire semi-legally the real stuff, some treasure hunters are after! Luxury articles “found” in hotel rooms and electronic gadgets of all sorts. You never know what you may encounter here. Some vendors show up weekly, but others only when some merchandise of any sorts becomes available. The venue is held Saturday nights and lasts well into the late hours, it fades out on Sunday.

 

Prepare for a trip into the busiest market in downtown Bangkok, no holds barred – here you’ll discover it all! Buddha figurines are high on the “Things to confiscate”-List at Thai customs, no discussion possible – anything Buddha-related stays in the country, fines are hefty! Some brass reproductions signal to the concerned collector that there may be more for sale, hidden from public view. Stolen artifacts or temple decorations switch hands here for stacks of Dollars, Euros or Baht. Cambodian or Laotian antiques and devotional or religious goods are high in demand with collectors worldwide!

Below pictured Chinese vendor sells booze by the sip and cigarettes by the stick. We use an archive picture here because those are rare and the illegal vending practices (common nationwide), are easy to spot, but difficult to document. You can also buy canned drinks and bottled water at these stalls throughout the market, which stretches for every small side Soi between the roads flanking the Lungbaan Phayabaan Klang, a major Hospital and the Worachak Road at Khlong Thom Center. New is the relative interesting “flashlight”-section to the left of the hospital’s main entrance in the unlit side roads there! Bring a light or shop in the dark here, usually the vendors carry a flashlight to attract passersby and they illuminate their wares briefly for them.

Radios, which are sadly missed by some car owners, steering wheels with and without undeployed airbags, whole sets of used tires on rims – that all moves quickly and unquestioned. Cut off cables on some and ripped off GPS antennas without a complete base do tell stories on their own .;) It must be hearsay, that you can “custom-order” any electronic car accessory or sets of wheels here cheap.

Since the prohibition of advertising for alcohol in Thailand, they crank out a large program for giveaways or on-pack-offers for those brands. There are stall with branded incentives, which may have been channeled somehow differently by a source within the chain. Here, the freebies generate a quick cash-flow.

Only the regular vendors have stalls set up professionally. Most hawk their valuables from tarps or blankets, those often disappear fast, if a uniform shows up here. The market is patrolled by police, which may prevent illegal merchandise to be displayed more openly.

Arrests and confiscations are frequent here, hardly a Saturday night without success for the BIB (Boyz in Brown), when on duty here;(

Elephant tusks (ivory) and countless amulets are presented here. Within time, the highly illegal ivory offerings may vanish (to under the tables!:)). Gold is rare to be found, at least the real stuff. Swiss Coffee, French Champagne or German Chocolate spread or bars are at half price and a real bargain. Watch out for fake packaging and false labeled containers! Not every NESCAFE glass needs to contain the real Swiss instant coffee here.

The funniest folk around are the vendors of hand tools in often professional quality here! Wouldn’t it be cool to see the faces at the lockers on the construction sites in daybreak, when they discover all tools went missing?

Laptop offerings change as fast as new ones appear on the market. Older ones are on sale, but also brand new ones with dual cores and impressive storage and features. No warranty is guaranteed here or trade-ins welcomed. Digital cameras prove to be hot sellers, the older models move slower than the latest decked out versions!

Cameras mostly have the accessories like the charger or the bag missing, but those are obtainable inexpensively in the electronic-malls like Panthip Plaza, Zeer or any larger IT Center

Shavers, Snorkels, suntan lotion or Lonely Planet guidebooks anyone? Perfumes, shades (Ray-Ban or Oakley?) or camcorder bases without the cam. Surely these items were displayed in a hotel’s room before – many assortments here have rather unusual places of origin. :D

Acquisition cost hardly exceeds 45 seconds of fear, the real valuables plus any cash or jewelry is somewhere unknown since long. No shopper here thinks twice, but haggles the heck for a low price!

Silk ties, 5 for 2 Euros? Unbelievable, but true! What’s manufactured locally, finds a buyer quick – if the price is right.

Want to know how to get there? Take the BTS to SIAM or the subway to Hua Lamphong. From there find a Tuktuk to haul you to the Hospital: Lungbaan Klang. This should cost you 40 to 50 Baht. Even a Taxi will not cost over 100 Baht from mentioned points in any type of traffic. Do not mention the market, just ask to be taken to the hospital’s main patient drop off. You are right at the perimeter of all market activity here.

The set-up starts in the afternoon, but the dark hours until after midnight is when finds can be made. Privateers flock into the road in front of the hospital later in the night (22:00) and hundreds of small dealers sell on the sidewalk. Bring sturdy shoes, your toes will thank you for that. Isles are narrow and traffic is tremendous.

Count your change always on the spot and make that a habit whilst in Asia. Watch your mobile phone, if holstered on your belt and never consider coming  here with your own or rented car. Car parking is steeply inflated on Saturday night and some vendors have “agents” scouting the vicinity for a resupply of valuable goods!.

Have fun! Khlong Thom Center hosts a KFC (clean toilets nearby) with A/C, it is located roughly on the opposite end of the market, if seen from the hospital. Don’t complain about sour feet to me! The pavement is mediocre at best and the market is huge.