This is a "MUST DO" in Chiang Mai. It's a fun and culturally unique experience!
The setup starts early in the day. Vendors come from all over to put up their tents and table displays of homemade wares. The Sunday Night Market officially begins at 6pm, with the loudspeakers playing what I think is their national anthem. Everyone stands still and is silent, with respect. Visitors take their cues from the Thai and usually also stand quietly. Once it is over, the scene is rather like pandemonium and yet, simultaneously peaceful and lively. Music plays in staggered locations, with no one music overpowering the others. Groups of people and even individual singers have microphones that are set up right in the middle of the street, with donation boxes for those who want to give. Shoppers just walk around the musicians and singers who are often sitting on a rug on the ground.
I've discovered that Thailand has supermarkets and modern shopping malls with imports and brand name items, all resembling the US and elsewhere in the world. But they also have local shops and this huge street fair every Sunday evening that is mostly handmade items. And it is a true family affair. Whole families work the booths and much of the time, many family members - children, aunts and uncles, grandparents - contributed in the production of whatever is being sold, from handmade note cards to the highly popular, elephant pants, to handmade purses and children's clothes and shoes to just name a few of the items.
There are blocks and blocks of the wares being sold, and all of it at extremely reasonable prices. When things are priced to sell, such as elephant pants for 100THB (about $3.00), then bargaining is not acceptable. Though sometimes a little bargaining still takes place on the more costly items, and it seems to be part of the fun. It's also not uncommon to be able to start buying before the official opening. Vendors often will sell, if someone wants to buy, as early as 4:30 or 5:00pm. Some vendors are still setting up at that time though. So, if you want to see everything before you buy, then after 6 is the time to shop. Personally, I like to scope it all out before it gets crowded.
Besides the items for sale, there are food stands everywhere. Smoothies, coconut ice cream, meat skewers, fresh mango and other juices, homemade jams, cups of cut up fresh fruits, and all sorts of Thai delicacies are available for people to buy and enjoy. These are not restaurant chains either, but rather individuals and families that made the foods, either right there on the street or often in their homes and then brought over in containers. Sometimes, the vendors have carts, and other times, it is just a table with a tablecloth. The food is also super reasonable, and it seems visitors and vendors alike - everyone is eating!
I've been surprised at how many Thai dishes have meat or seafood. Even most of the soups which are rich in vegetables are usually made with a meat stock or pieces of meat in the soup. While vegetables are plentiful and a part of most every dish I've seen here, vegetarian and vegan dishes are not that common. I've found plenty of delicious food to eat, but it is more of a search.
Thailand is a Buddhist country, and Buddha teaches it is not ever ok to intentionally kill animals or fish. Interestingly, Buddha says it is ok to consume meat from a supermarket. Thus the Thais eat meat regularly, even if it is in small portions. This would be a point of disagreement between yogis and Buddhists.
Continuing about the Sunday market, the Thai Massage stations are everywhere. Chairs setup, with tents overhead, and fans blowing for both the patrons and those working, giving the massages. Foot and shoulder, neck, head massages are enjoyed by many Thai and visitors, as the services and prices are hard to pass up.
With the writing of my book in full swing and occupying most of my days, I really look forward to the Sunday market, which I go to each week. It is a fun and uplifting way to end the week! If you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai, be sure to experience the Sunday Night Market.
Sending You Love from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Thank you for taking this journey with me!
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