Hua Hin Local Markets
Thai markets are usually lively places to shop and those in Hua Hin are no exception. There are several vibrant markets close to the town centre which can be easily accessed within a few minutes walk. Each provides a unique experience for visitors and locals, and makes a worthwhile activity on any visit to Hua Hin.
Hua Hin night market is conveniently located on both Dechanuchit Road and Soi 72 that runs between Petchakasem Road and the railway station road (Liap Thang Rotfai), interrupted only by the intersection with Sa Song Road. Only a short walk from the town centre, it’s the most well known and popular local market and a recommended place to eat and shop. It starts every night around 6 pm and finishes late on or around 11 pm, though food stalls may open slightly later. Aimed mainly at tourists, prices are rather higher than the other markets but it’s usually possible to negotiate prices down slightly.
Eating here is a delight as there are a range of good seafood restaurants to discover, displaying the day’s fresh catches temptingly outside. There are also an abundance of stalls selling roti, mango salad (yam ma-mooang), Isaan (eastern Thai) snacks, spring rolls, and several inexpensive Thai-style street restaurants selling Phat Thai noodles and fried mussels.
Up and down the street there are small cocktail bars (which are really just tiny stalls), and the Retrophilia Bar nestles behind the stalls at the top end of the street on the right hand side, a two-level restaurant and themed bar with a good view of the market from the upstairs balcony. From here you can unobtrusively watch the shoppers below or marvel at the spaghetti of overhead electrical cabling in the street.
In addition to food and drinks there is a dazzling variety of stalls selling clothes (from jeans, t-shirts and watches to jewelry, hats, belts, and sunglasses), as well as countless souvenirs and typical Thai handicrafts such as intricate wood carvings and embroidered silk cushion covers. Many of these items can be found cheaper elsewhere but there is certainly a good choice here.
The alleys on either side of the market also contain a few surprises including a small gallery and several budget guest houses tucked away.
There is a small extension (sometimes known as the Bazaar) to the night market just behind the City Beach hotel on Soi 59, between Poonsuk Road and Petchakasem Road. Almost the same products are available here but it’s quieter with a much reduced selection, however it’s close to the entertainment area and there are some popular restaurants nearby. Vendors here tend to sell handicrafts and souvenirs, and cheap copies of branded clothing labels.
Another recommended Hua Hin market is the Grand Market located at the Grand Hotel Plaza, just a short walk south of the town centre and adjacent to the San Paolo Hospital. Held nightly except Monday and Tuesday, it starts around 5 pm and closes at 11 pm.
Normally quite busy, there tend to be fewer tourists and more local Thais here; there arenÕt many souvenirs to be found but you can obtain all kinds of goods: mainly clothes, bags, leather wallets, jewelry, toys, pets, flowers, and garden plants. There are several massage outlets (one of which is a tented foot massage stall) and an air-conditioned indoor section with more of the same items in addition to a few health and perfume shops. This leads into an attractive courtyard containing one or two small bars and more vendor stalls. Occasionally a low-key live band or event (such as a motorbike display) is held here.
The market has a selection of Thai restaurants and dozens of small stands offering tasty morsels such as fried chicken, spring rolls, various drinks and even fried insects – an Isaan delicacy.
Chat Chai Market
Chat Chai undercover market specializes in fresh and inexpensive produce and is where many of the locals go to purchase food each day. Situated close to the Night Market on Sa Song Road, early morning (open around 5 am) is certainly the busiest time when the locals gather and you’ll witness a steady stream of motorbikes coming to-and-fro. Visit at this time of day and you should be rewarded by the sight of orange-clad monks wandering the street receiving alms from the residents.
Inside the market you’ll experience the hustle and bustle of the various activities, but watch out for motorcyclists delivering ice-packed buckets precariously down the narrow aisles. The stalls are resplendent with fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, fish and dozens of brightly coloured pungent spices. Further inside there are vendors selling clothes and other goods, and even a few small noodle-style restaurants.
Activity declines later in the day, and by 2 pm it’s pretty much over for yet another day.
Pae Mai Market
Pae Mai market (pronounced as ‘pair mai’) is located on the Riab Khan Khlong canal road close to the golf driving range and is perhaps the largest and most popular local-style market, buzzing with folks looking to find cheap food, clothes, motorcycle accessories, electrical goods and an assortment of other goodies.
As a tourist attraction it’s certainly worth a visit to appreciate the scale and enjoy the atmosphere (especially with a Thai host), but it’s a little too far from the town centre to walk; either take your own private transport or a motorbike taxi.
The main day is Tuesday and it’s closed between Thursday and Sunday. Typical opening hours are approximately 5 pm to 10 pm.
Yet another fresh produce market is known colloquially as Dinosaur Market, situated close to Soi 56. To get there turn left at the main crossroads when heading northwards on the Canal Road, and continue another hundred metres or so.
Not open every day (one local stated Wednesdays and Sundays only) the market has earned its reputation as having a great variety of local produce at excellent prices. In the rainy season it can become rather muddy and you could easily be the only farang present, which can be the source of some amusement for the local shoppers.
Markets Further Afield
Cicada Market is a very popular art-oriented market situated outdoors at Suan Sri near the Hyatt Regency on the main Khao Takiab road. Open Friday to Sundays only (invariably 4 pm to 11 pm) it becomes especially busy with Thais and features a lovely tropical garden; several themes divide the experience into key areas such as performing arts, eating, art galleries and local crafts.
At least one large floating market (Sam Phan Nam Hua Hin Floating Market) plans to open in Hua Hin during 2011, several kilometres out of town at Soi 112. It will be interesting to see whether this market can attract sufficient crowds and establish itself as one of the town’s premier tourist attractions.
Cha Am has a very popular covered market near the train station which even attracts Hua Hin residents. There you can find fresh produce similar to Chat Chai but this market has a more open layout and is somewhat easier to navigate between the aisles. Cha Am also has a regular night market where you can buy food and clothes; the location changes depending on the day.
Further from Hua Hin many towns and villages hold regular small local markets, which often provide fascinating insights into the ebbs and flows of local life.