Shopping safely at Chatuchak
Chatuchak Market is one of the most popular shopping destinations in Bangkok for locals and visitors alike. But when COVID-19 hit Thailand early this year, the market was forced to close down as a means of preventing further infections.
After a two month hiatus, Bangkok’s most iconic market is back, albeit with restrictions in place. It was the first type of business to reopen after the government decided to ease restrictions after the situation in Thailand started to improve.
We reckon many of our shopaholic readers might have some questions about the reopening, like how much have things changed or is it really safe to visit. So, here is everything you need to know about the newly reopened Chatuchak Weekend Market.
We arrived at the market on Saturday morning, and not many visitors were there. A number of shops remained closed as well. It was a far cry from the vibrant weekend market that I was accustomed to.
After a few hours, however, the crowds started to get bigger. One of the sellers told us that people usually come in the late afternoon when it’s not too hot
From what we saw, most shoppers there were local, which makes sense since international flights are still banned.
As for the new COVID-19 measures in place, we are glad to update that everyone took it seriously. All shoppers and sellers had either face masks or face shields on.
The ‘new-normal’ regulations
Less entrances and exits
Usually, more people would be walking down these steps
Before the pandemic, Chatuchak had a total of 30 entrances. Now it has only 6 left. By limiting the number of entrances, the market’s staff are now able to screen visitors more thoroughly and effectively.
The opening entrances are:
- Gate 1 (near Kamphaeng Phet 2 road)
- Gate 2 (near Kamphaeng Phet 3 road)
- Gate 3 (near Phahon Yothin road)
- MRT entrance
- Mixt Chatuchak entrance
- JJ Mall entrance
Good news is the reduced number of entrances didn’t lead to long queues at the gates and we didn’t have to wait long to get in. With that said, we believe it had a lot to do with timing. So, you might end up waiting a bit longer if you decide to go there during peak hours (late afternoon).
Everyone must get their temperature checked
All shoppers will be asked to get in line to get their temperature scanned to make sure they are not running a temperature. If your body temperature turns out alright, you’ll get a mini sticker so others will know you’ve been screened
Protective gears are mandatory
Everyone who enters the market area is required to wear protective gears, such as face masks at all times. Folks who fail to comply will be denied entry. The vendors themselves had either face masks or face shields on.
All shops and restaurants provide hand sanitiser
Forget to put your favourite Bath & Body hand sanitiser in your bag? Don’t panic. Most shops provide at least 1 family-size bottle of hand sanitiser for customers to use.
In fact, when we were browsing the market, we met with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) officers who were giving out boxes of hand sanitiser to the sellers.
Dine-in allowed with proper social distancing
You can now sit and eat at a restaurant again, but not quite like how we used to. All diners must maintain a safe distance, aka social distancing, between each other and staff members.
Most restaurants allowed 1 diner per 1 table. Even if you come in as a group or as a couple, you’d be asked to sit separately. Some restaurants, however, will let 2 people share a table with a plastic partition between them.
Day-time market only
We’re sorry to say that the weekend night market has been cancelled in accordance with the national curfew. The new opening hour for the weekend market is 8am to 6pm.
But if you ask us, we don’t think the cancellation is permanent. Everything will likely go back to normal when the curfew is lifted, hopefully.
What to expect
Social distance is almost impossible
Let’s be real here, it’s almost impossible to always keep a safe distance between yourself and strangers, especially when you’re browsing shops in narrow alleys. So, don’t expect much social distancing at the more congested parts of the market.
Wearing face masks can be unbearable
Yep, I wore a fabric face mask
If you’ve ever been to Chatuchak, you’d know how hot the weather can get during the day. In our case, the heat definitely gave us some discomfort as our face was masked up at all times.
Image credit: ABC
With that in mind, we strongly recommend you bring along a comfortable mask. In this case, a typical surgical mask would do because they are super breathable, and often coated with waterproof solutions.
Avoid fabric masks at all cost, especially if you’re sweating a lot, because they can easily absorb sweat. And when wet, the fabric can seriously hinder your breathing. It happened to me once and I felt like I was being waterboarded.
Prepare to use cashless payment
Before COVID-19, cashless payment was often overlooked by many Thais who prefer using good’ol cash. Now, store QR codes are everywhere in Chatuchak, even snack carts.
With that said, it is advisable for everyone to learn how to pay bills with this method because this will likely become the new normal soon.
Lively as before
Chatuchak hasn’t really changed much in our opinion. The market is just as vibrant and fun as we remembered it to be, and now it’s opening its door for everyone to revisit once again. So, enjoy shopping and stay safe!