The Walai Road market, also known as Saturday Market, or Saturday walking street, is a popular Chiang Mai shopping street where tons of people, tourists and locals, mingle to enjoy a few hours of shopping, eating and entertainment.
Opening every Saturday at 4pm and buzzing on until midnight, though really coming alive from dusk when all lights turn on, the Walai Road market extends for roughly 1km all the way down the length of Walai Road, closed to all vehicular traffic for the occasion.
Historically, the Walai Road area has long been famous in silver handicrafts especially silver accessories and silverware, hence the road is still full of Silversmith shops to visit and there are plenty of silverware and aluminium sculptures on display.
Walai Road market is indeed less tourist than the Sunday Chiang Mai market or the Night Bazaar, though the variety of goods on display easily match that of its counterparts.
I have visited Walai Road market a number of times and have always enjoyed wandering around freely and browsing all the array of goods on display by merchants who line both sides of the street. I usually make sure I do not miss any stall, especially the ones on the side alleys: despite finding lots of repeated mass-made items you have surely seen elsewhere in Thailand, you can also get original products and the best deals on hand-crafted items such as silverware, brass jewelry, hill tribe products and beautiful Thai silk scarves.
Besides, there are lots of interesting shopping products to be found: ornaments, candles, housewares, bags, clothing, perfume, shoes, belts, lanterns, wood carvings, lacquer ware, cotton and silk cloths, t-shirts. There are cool crafts, lots of souvenirs and some nice art stalls too, and you can buy just about everything, but don’t be afraid to barter and haggle a bit: Thai people expect you to, and it adds to the whole experience.
All this wandering and shopping will turn you hungry, so do not hesitate to try some of the amazing street food available from the array of stalls with a variety of food and drinks that includes fried goyza, pad thai, pancakes, BBQ chicken and squid, Thai spicy salads, satay, waffles, warm local teas and herbal teas, coffee and fresh fruit shakes and smoothies. If your taste buds allows it, give a try to fried insects!
Entertainment is available in the form of street artists and performers, blind musicians, puppeteers, sketch artists and more. Lots of performances right in the middle of the street that add to the great atmosphere. There are also a couple of lit up temples on the side streets that are worth visiting, the best of which is Wat Sri Suphan, or the silver temple. And if you are after a treat after so much walking around, try a foot massage at the various roadside stalls, a great way to say thanks to your hard-working feet.
Walai Road market gets extremely busy and crowded after 8pm, with visitors plodding like cattle, and it can get pretty packed to the point that it is hard to move. The advise is to get there early in order to avoid the crowd, especially if you have kids, in which case you should hold of their hand all the time. It is also true that the crowd adds to the atmosphere and to the festive nature, and I personally enjoy it more after 8pm.
Once you have had enough, you can walk back to the top of the street, cross over the moat ring road and get some food or drinks at the extremely good food carts that station there nightly.
If you have an easy-going attitude, come with lots of patience, at least 2 hours time and some cash, Walai Road market is a great way to spend a fun Saturday night in Chiang Mai. I would say an absolute must of a visit to town.
Walai Road market is located to the south-west of the old walled town, opposite the Chiang Mai Gate.