A Return to Talad Rot Fai, Bangkok’s (Still) Crazy-Cool Vintage Market

Talad Rot Fai Bangkok

Just over a year ago I briefly noted the unfortunate demise of Talad Rot Fai, the laid-back Bangkok night market where booze-addled treasure-hunting for all manners of vintage and designer goods was one of the city’s most idiosyncratic nightlife experiences. Talad Rot Fai’s landlord, the State Railway of Thailand, kicked ’em out just as its tenants were comfortably settling in and establishing some permanence to the place, leaving the market to scramble for a new home eventually found on Srinakarin Road, near Seacon Square, not too far from Suvarnabhumi Airport.

In other words, the market was fated to move into the middle of nowhere, at least compared to the fairly convenient location just down the road from Chatuchak Market. I wasn’t optimistic about the new digs, writing that “I haven’t seen the new lot yet, but it’s hard to imagine it having the same easy-cool ambience.”

I’m here today to tell you I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

Last weekend I returned to Talad Rot Fai for the first time since the big move. Its new location is indeed a bit of a haul from central Bangkok (expect a metered taxi fare to run around 150 baht each way), but I was pleasantly surprised by how well the market planners have not only successfully channeled the good vibes and energy of the first iteration, but also designed the massive new space in such a logical, easyish-to-navigate way.

Talad Rot Fai Bangkok

Talad Rot Fai Bangkok

Now, when I say Talad Rot Fai 2.0 is “massive,” what I really mean is “super fucking gargantuan holy shit this is big.” It’s a good 10- to 15-minute walk from the main road, through a covered corridor lined with bars, restaurants, and shops, just to get to the front plaza area; from there, the market area sprawls across an enormous chunk of land packed tightly with pop-up stalls, cavernous warehouses, and proper brick-and-mortar stores and F&B outlets.

The original Talad Rot Fai was of a considerable size and still growing when it was shut down, but the scope of the new operation is something else entirely. It’s incredible how many vendors are here already (and that there is still ample room to accommodate more of them); one could spend hours browsing and boozing freely on multiple visits, and still not see the whole thing.

Another change is the slightly more orderly layout. Where in the past many vendors just sort of set up their booth in any which way they pleased, now there seems to be some greater degree of uniformity to the displays. I’m not sure whether this is intentional/required or not, but it felt like there were fewer items laid out on blankets, propped up in a rusty old truck bed, etc. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing–just a thing. It does seem like vendors still have ample leeway to be creative with their presentation.

Talad Rot Fai Bangkok

Talad Rot Fai Bangkok

Talad Rot Fai Bangkok

There are also more bars, clubs, and food. So. Much. More. Food. Unfortunately we arrived fresh from stuffing ourselves silly at dinner with friends before visiting, so as much I wanted to I couldn’t bring myself to snack. I won’t make the same mistake next time, though. You won’t have to go far to find something to eat or drink no matter where you are, but the most densely packed food vendor area is towards the far side of the central market area, not from Craft Beer Depot. (Yes, TRF even has a decent choice of bottled American craft brews.)

Talad Rot Fai Bangkok

Talad Rot Fai Bangkok

Talad Rot Fai Bangkok

Finally, hours of operation have been expanded. Where in the past Talad Rot Fai was only a Saturday and Sunday affair, the market’s plaza area is now open Tuesday to Sunday, with the aforementioned food stall market open on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The best time to go is still weekend nights.

For much more on the new Talad Rot Fai, including tons of fantastic photos, next read “Train Dreams,” an in-depth feature story in the January 2015 edition of Bangkok Airways’ (excellent) in-flight magazine Fah Thai.

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