Chiang Mai has many markets running throughout the day and night. You could find an open-air market crowded with people at any hour if you knew where to look. The most well-known night markets for travelers include the overbearing Night Bazaar which is open nightly and geared solely to tourists, the quieter (though still busy) Saturday Walking Street and the long Sunday Walking Street through the very center of town.
Out of these three I have a soft spot for the Saturday market found south of the city on Wualai Road (the same street as the silver temple).
This is the first market I went to in Chiang Mai after moving here, and also the one closest to my home. For several months I did the weekly walk from my home to wander the street filled with people, colors, lights, food, and interesting – sometimes questionable – items for sale.
Even though I’ve now seen the same things, the same set up, the same people again and again, I still enjoy the rhythm of the market. The soft buzz in the air as vendors are laying out their goods and the sun is going down, the people slowing rambling down the rows of tables stopping to look at something that caught their eye, the light and activity around the food centers. No one is in too much of a rush (which can be annoying when you actually know what you need and are trying to make it to the right stall) and, just in case it gets too stressful or you get tired, there are plenty of spots to stop for a foot massage ($2 for half an hour) and people-watch.
The main reason why I like this market the best out of the three main night markets is the mix of people that go to it. There are obviously many tourists but, unlike the night bazaar, it still is a local market and more manageable than the Sunday one.
While travelers may be buying hand-stitched bags and Chiang Mai t-shirts, the Thais are buying plants and loofahs as they slurp down black jelly.
I also know that I’ll always see my favorite street performer who plays an uplifting ukulele number while tapping his toe on a tambourine.