Street markets, night markets, and weekend markets are popular across Southeast Asia, and the Southern Thai island of Phuket is no exception. Here are eight of the island’s most popular open-air markets – plus some useful shopping and bargaining tips.
Most open-air markets in Phuket are open one to three days a week, usually opening in mid- to late afternoon and remaining open until after dark. But they usually only really come alive after sunset.
Most of the markets are temporary in nature, with vendors arriving by truck late morning or early afternoon.
They set up stalls, stands, and tables, with beach umbrellas or tarpaulin providing protection from the elements.
A few of the markets are more permanent in nature, with covered areas. They sometimes have cafes and bars.
Often covered markets are open daily, with outdoor flea markets and farmer’s markets enhancing the experience on selected days of the week..
Each marketplace is different, but they usually sell souvenirs, handicrafts, garments, DVDs, and other products – sometimes made by the vendors themselves.
Some of the markets have stands selling fruit, vegetables, and other foodstuffs targeted at locals, who will take their purchases home.
Most of the markets have stands selling food to be consumed on site. Usually it is cooked right in front of you, offering a great chance to “eat like a local”.
A few of the markets even have live entertainment on weekends! These are especially popular with locals.
Nai Yang Market
Located a 10 minutes’ drive from Phuket International Airport in Northern Phuket, Nai Yang Market is held three times a week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
The marketplace is located at 48 Thep Krasat Tri-Nai Yang Road, Tambon Sa Khu, Amphoe Thalang, Chang Wat Phuketto, which is right around the corner from Proud Phuket, the second hotel I stayed at during a seven-night visit to the Southern Thai island.
I literally “heard” about the market when vendors setting up their stands started playing music, which made its way into the corridor of the hotel.
I heard it on my way to the swimming pool, looked at the scene, and thought, “I’ve got to check this place out!”
Vendors start setting up their stands, stalls, and carts in late morning. It is busiest between 3 o’clock in the afternoon and 7 o’clock in the evening, closing at about 9 pm.
By late afternoon, most of the vendors have set up shop and both locals and tourists start to arrive.
Some of the most popular vendors with foreign tourists sell all manner of creams and lotions and oils.
The products often contain ingredients such as mango, coconut oil, aloe verde, and other exotic tropical substances.
Please don’t bargain! The asking prices for these items at this market were substantially cheaper than you would pay at conventional stores and markets.
I know because I checked at some nearby fixed-price shops!
Vendors selling clothes and accessories are targeted mostly at local shoppers.
For this reason you won’t find any T-shirts imprinted with slogans such as “Mom and Dad Went to Phuket and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt!”
But you might find something you forgot to pack or that you can wear to the beach.
Farm-fresh vegetables, fruits, and other kinds of produce are in abundant supply, catering mostly to locals. You will also find fresh seafood and other kinds of ingredients.
Tourists, however, can stock up on fruit to take back to their hotel rooms!
Food cooked in front of your very eyes is also available, offering a tempting opportunity to sample local delicacies.
Other Popular Markets
There are several other street markets scattered around Phuket, and each one has its own personality.
These are some of the most popular …
- Phuket Weekend Market – the largest night market on the island, the Phuket Weekend Market is divided into two sections, covered and open air. This is where to head for T-shirts and souvenirs as well as snacks, DVDs, and apparel. Chao Fa West Road, Phuket Town, Phuket. Open Saturday and Sunday from 4 pm to 9 pm.
- Malin Plaza Patong – the usual selection of goods you would expect at an open air market plus an unusually large selection of yummy snacks sold at low prices. Prachanukhro Road, South Patong Beach, Phuket. Open daily from 2 pm to 12 midnight.
- Phuket Walking Street – a 350-metre stretch of road lined with Sino-Portuguese shop houses comes alive on Sunday with stalls selling souvenirs, local handicrafts, and snacks. There is sometimes live entertainment. Thalang Road, Phuket Town, Phuket. Open Sunday from 4 pm to 10 pm.
- Phuket Indy Market – Relatively small, Phuket Indy Market has vendors selling their own creations along with the usual street market fare. Limelight Avenue, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 4 pm to 10 pm.
- Chillva Market – Targeted at Thais more than tourists, Chillva Market has shops and food and beverage outlets housed in containers that are open daily and a flea market on weekends. There is a also small stage with performances. 141/2 Yaowarat Road, Phuket Road, Phuket, Thailand. Container shops open daily from 4 or 5 pm to 10 pm. The full market is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 4 or 5 pm to 11 pm.
- Karon Temple Market – Various kinds of apparel – some with witty sayings imprinted on it – and lots of local food is on sale on the grounds of this somewhat garish temple. Karon Temple, Karon, Phuket, Thailand. Open Tuesdays and Fridays from 4 pm to 10 am.
- China Town Plaza – There are two rows of shops selling typical street market fare with a giant statue of a Chinese warrior at the end of them. At the corner of Rat-U-Thit and Sai Nam Yen roads, Patong, Phuket, Thailand. Open daily from 10 am to 11 pm.
Opening and closing times can vary. Individual vendors do not always open and close at the same time.
Bargaining at street markets in Phuket can be fun, but it is also easy to get carried away and either buy more than you need or pay more than you should.
Here are a few street market bargaining and shopping tips …
- If you have the time, check the price, selection, and quality of goods sold at fixed price shops before hitting street markets. Only then will you know a bargain when you see it.
- Feel free to bargain. You can typically get 10% to 40% off the asking price – but not always.
- Sometimes it’s best not to show interest right away in what it is you want to buy. Look at a few objects first, picking them up and asking the price to “open a dialogue”.
- Many stalls sell the same products. Ask the price at several stalls before making a purchase. Invariably one of them will offer a better deal than the others.
- When bargaining, keep your sense of humour and don’t forget to smile.
- Don’t play hardball. The vendors have to make a living. As long as it’s a reasonable price, buy it. If not, walk off with a smile on your face.
- Be careful buying “antiques” and “precious stones”. The markets are full of fakes.
- Be careful buying objects with images of Buddha or other deities. They may require government approval to be taken out of the country.
- Consider shipping your purchases home if they are heavy or bulky. The main post office on Montri Road in Phuket City offers a parcel-wrapping service.
Most important, of course, is to have fun. Phuket’s street markets, night markets, and weekend markets can offer bargains, a chance to eat like a local, and a chance to witness (and take part in) a slice of local life.