If the recent demolition of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar taught us anything, it’s make the most of the city’s distinctive shopping delights while you can. With this in mind, we strongly recommend you check out the latest Bangkok market to be getting talked about around the watercooler – Talat Rot Fai.
While not the place to pick up your typical tourist clobber and souvenirs, this retro flea market just around the corner from Jatujak Weekend Market is still worth the trip, for its hipster vibes and photogenic setup as much as what’s flogged there.
Since opening up last July word has spread. Hundreds of antique hunters and retro-mad dek neaw (teen hipsters) now flock to this plot on Saturday and Sunday evenings to browse and bargain for vintage collectibles, reproductions and fashions.
And yet, the chance to pick up a beat up old Michelin Tyre sign, a vintage BMX, or a hip new wardrobe is only part of the appeal. There’s also the novelty factor – flanking Talat Rot Fai, or the Train Market in English, is a row of decommissioned train carriages left there by the State Railway department.
Thick with dust, poorly lit and just a bit spooky, these rusting deathtraps would be sealed off to the public in most countries, yet here you can stroll through the carriages at your leisure, even kick back inside them with a cold beer or rocket soda.
Though it officially starts at 2pm, Talat Rot Fai takes a while to get going. Arrive before sundown and the place is a ghosttown. By 7pm though the VW Vans, Vespas and army utility vehicles have rocked up, the junk raided from homes and lofts across the city been splayed out under spotlights for the trendy throng’s viewing pleasure.
Backing up the carboot side of things is Rod’s: a former railway warehouse turned 20th century antiques wonderland. Classic cars, film projectors, gumball machines, Bakerlite phones, Chinese tiffin carriers, 1950s and turn-of-the century European furniture, are just a few of the legit pieces available to serious buyers.
There are also lots of snacks and drinks stalls (retro-inflected, naturally), many of them operating out of customised VW vans. Others are located in the warehouses that flank Talat Rot Fai’s second area (from the main market, take a left after passing Rod’s warehouse and reaching the junction then take the next right).
Even if you don’t want to dress like Southeast Asia’s answer to Joan Jett, or to do your pad out like the set for Happy Days, it all adds up to an enjoyable Saturday or Sunday evening out. Hop aboard, while you can.
■ GETTING THERE
Catch the subway to Kamphaeng Phet station, exit onto Kamphaeng Phet Road then walk in the opposite direction to the intersection (away from Jatujak Market) for around 400 metres. After passing plant stores and bars, you’ll find Talat Rot Fai on your right. If coming by skytrain, we recommend getting off at Saphan Khwai and catching a tuk-tuk; most drivers in the area know it (whereas many taxi drivers don’t).