The Night Bazaar is not like anywhere in a 1st world country, but it is like every tourist market in any 3rd world tourist profiting country. It is hot, loud and packed, but really a good time. You are almost guaranteed to find something that you need whether or not you realize it. When people say you can buy anything at the night bazaar, they mean anything. Do you want a boomerang with knife edges shaped like the batman logo? Go to the Night Bazaar. Do you want handpicked saffron for fancy cooking? Night Bazaar. Do you want to watch a bunch of ladyboys do a cabaret show? Night Bazaar. If you didn’t know anything in Chiang Mai but the Night Bazaar, you could do pretty decently. It is a great place to pick up knick knacks, clothes and has some pretty decent bars and spectacles.
Personally, I think that brand names are dumb. And it is very heavily because of the night bazaar. I could walk home in a carbon copy of Yeezy’s that, were they legitimate, would be worth about 20,000 baht. At the night bazaar though, you could pick these up for 200. No one will ever know I’m not wearing Yeezy’s if I don’t tell them. Do you want a Dolce and Gabbana purse but only want to spend about 15 dollars? Do you want a mechanical Rolex that works perfectly for just 20 dollars? Do you want Gucci sunglasses for just 10 dollars? Of course, you do. Go to the night bazaar with 1000 baht and you can go back home looking like you spent a million. No one will ever have any clue. Like I said, these things are all made of pretty decent quality and look totally legit, the only thing of value is in the name, so once someone in China decided to blow off copyright laws, that value is gone, and the foundation of capitalism and branding has fallen.
Beyond making sure you go home looking like Pablo Escobar’s spoiled mistress, the night bazaar also has some great food, music and bars if you look around. It is on Chang Khlan road, a one way going away from Thapae. There are stalls and vendors selling literally everything all up both sides of the road for just about the entire length of Chang Khlan. The first place I would recommend is on the right, between the two Pink Pvssies (yes I know), there is a little walk way to a food court called Pleun Roodee (Straw bale market). This is some seriously delicious food of every kind. You can get vegan burritos, a really delicious chicken burger for under 100 baht, insane milkshakes with rum in them. Seriously, this is the place to be if you are with a group of picky eaters, or if you just want a lot of options to try some really good food. It also generally has a live band. The bands vary in quality, sometimes it is the best music in town, sometimes it’s run-of-the-mill mispronounced, Bob Dylan covers. But the food is great.
Next stop is on the left going into an area of the market called Kalare. This is a decent Thai food court, but in here you have the Boy Blues bar. This will probably be in other blogs, because this is a reliable great music spot every night. Cheap beer, an amazing location, and a charismatic incredible blues guitarist simply named “Boy” make this a regular dive for a lot of Chiang Mai locals. This isn’t a get up, dance and get wasted kind of bar, but if you are looking for a place to throw back a few beers and watch a great show, hit up Boy Blues Bar.
Keep going down the road and you will pass a few generic western restaurant chains, and Duke’s which is some pretty great American food. Along with about a billion more vendors, selling more of the same everything.
Carry on until towards the end of the night bazaar there will be a road to the left to walk down into an area called Anusarn. Anusarn is packed full of people. Upon entry you will be greeted by a group of tall, gorgeous women who are not actually women. They want to take pictures with you and rope you into going to their cabaret show which is a pretty fascinating spectacle. I recommend doing it at least once, but if you are a white dude, they will shove your face in their boobs, and if you end up on stage, you are in for some real interesting stuff...
The rest of Anusarn is a bustling little market. It is a lot easier to maneuver than the rest of the night bazaar, and things are displayed better. It is the easiest place to find something specific that you are after in the Night Bazaar. The edges of Anusarn are all bars and restaurants, several of which are pretty decent, but there are so many that I will leave finding your favorites to you.
My biggest tip with the Night Bazaar is that nothing there is set at a fixed price. Bargain on everything except food and drinks. You can usually get vendors to drop prices by over 50% just with a few basic Thai words. Know how to say “How much?”, and “That is too expensive” in Thai, and then name a price about 1/3rd of what they initially said. Then climb until you meet in the middle somewhere.
The night bazaar is an awesome part of town and there is so much to discover there. You will never run out of new corners, stalls and bars to keep your attention. It is a standard for a reason and no one visits Chiang Mai without going to the Night Bazaar at least a few times.