Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jatujak Market, Part 2: A Few Tips

A view down of one of a thousand narrow interior walkways at Jatujak

In addition to going early to avoid the mid-day heat at Jatujak Market there are three nuggets of advice shared with me that I’ll pass along to you here. Take them with as many grains of salt as you wish. OK, make that four tips – because taking a pinch of salt in fruit juice or by way of a salty snack is good advice for maintaining hydration in tropical heat, too – but these are the main three:

One: Hydrate your system before you go out into the market or anywhere you’ll be out for hours in the tropical heat, and take advantage frequently of the bottled water for sale throughout the market. Remember that coffee is a diuretic so it doesn’t count. Fruit is also a good source of water (and nutrients) but takes some thought in and of itself: we'll cover staying healthy overall in a post soon. There are restrooms throughout the place, so you can always find a clean place to pee – but finding a spot to lie down because you’re dizzy, weak, nauseated or otherwise incapacitated with heatstroke is a little tougher. Several enterprising folks were actually selling damp washcloths to mop yourself up with as you wandered – and doing a brisk business, I might add. Trust me, the headache (literally) isn’t worth it and can lay you low for hours, if not the rest of a day. Don’t chance wasting your time and missing something you wanted to see or do.

Two: Be aware of your valuables; mainly your wallets and pocketbooks, but cameras and things, too. I tend to carry a very small billfold when traveling (you only need three or four items besides cash) and put it in a front pocket where it's easier to keep track of. This isn’t a negative comment about the Thai people, just common sense that many tend to take leave of when on vacation. You’re in a dense, smooth-moving crowd here, and waving a digital camera that’s worth more than most of the gracious people around you earn in six months is not only vulgar, it’s asking for attention you don’t need – so tuck your gold chains inside your shirt or blouse and just use your head in general. Even if you’re alone, you most likely aren’t in danger by any stretch of the imagination, but be aware of your surroundings. To temper that point, I’d say you’re in far mare danger in a crowd at home than you are in Thailand.

Three: Travel light. If you’re lucky and your stamina holds up you’ll walk for miles, and you are going to see things you want to buy. Take a couple of sturdy plastic bags with you, they’ll take almost no space at all in your fanny pack or bag if you fold them flat. You’ll be glad you brought them. If you forget, you'll be able to buy light-weight handled shopping bags there. I have - in fact, I bought a plastic, nylon reinforced suitcase-sized bag one trip (like you'll see merchants and locals use to haul things around in) and then left it with a friend there who was glad to have it for his laundry.

No need to bring water with you, it’s available everywhere. Slather on the all-day sunscreen before you leave the hotel, to save needing to bring any with you. Dressing lightly is also a good idea.

A bonus point: bring sufficient baht in cash with you, while not forgetting point Two above. Almost none of the merchants at Chatuchak take credit cards and while there are ATMs in a few spots on the grounds (you can see some on the layout sign from Thursday's post), the chances are very good you’ll never find your way back to the stall where you saw - and perhaps already bargained for - that "perfect" celadon ceramic bowl or whatever. Just don’t carry Bt20,000 in your back pocket. All right... end of lecture. For today. Don't try to leave town.

A stall showing some of the wide variety of items for sale

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