I can now report back to all of you that I have found the place in the world where you can buy anything.
It’s the Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok, and it’s amazing. I spent 5 hours there the other day, and I can confidently say I probably saw about 10% of it. Prized items in my haul include: a super cool string of lantern lights for the terrace, candles in the shape of orchids, a woven purse, a huge bag of saffron for about $2, a cute white linen dress for $9, enough Masaman and red curry paste to make a lot of Thai dinners, woven placements, handmade chopsticks with tiny knife and fork decorations on them (utensil irony), and a beautiful painted ceramic tea set.
But those things were far from the weirdest or most exotic wares available in Chatuchak. After seeing whole stalls delivered exclusively to the following: silk flowers/snow globes filled with Disney princess dolls/life-size bronze elephant statues, I thought I had seen everything. Then I hit the “puppy” row. That’s right, an entire endless chain of stalls devoted to selling every kind of adorable, wriggling puppy available in Asia. If I thought I could sneak a dog through Pakistan customs, I would have bought one on the spot. (Not that I support keeping little puppies in cages.)
Oh, and I also got to drink coconut water out of a coconut they hacked open in front of my eyes, have a surprisingly accurate cartoon of myself done in 6 minutes, and shovel down delicious pad thai from an outdoor makeshift set of “restaurants” in the center of the market that beat the pants off any food court I have ever seen. (Picture little old ladies manning huge wok-like pans sizzling with food that is scooped out and put directly on your plate. Why is the food SO GOOD in Thailand. Everywhere.)
Some estimates put the number of stalls at Chatuchak at 15,000, but no one really knows for sure. And don’t go there when it rains unless you want to wade through water up to your ankles, apparently. (Good shopping doesn’t always come with good drainage.)
Yeah, you’re sweaty, yeah it feels like you’re lost in a maze of endless products only some of which make sense to you (an entire stall of fake plastic fruit? spicy cuttlefish tentacles?), yeah you have to be okay with no personal space, quick currency conversion math, and a murky pricing structure, but it’s something you definitely don’t want to miss if you ever have the chance. Viva la Chatuchak!