Though we hear that Chiang Rai’s Night Market is a much smaller version of the famous one in Chiang Mai, we really enjoyed our visit. Night markets are one of the most popular things for Thais to do; it is so hot during the day so it is much more pleasant to do your shopping at night. Rows and rows of vendors set up selling everything from souvenirs for visiting tourists to fabrics, housewares, clothes, and everything in between for the locals. The market snakes through the streets branching out from Chiang Rai’s bus station, which the biggest concentration of vendors along the Paholyothin Road.
Just a short walk from the main market is the cavernous tin-roofed Municipal Market. We were lured by the delicious smells of Pad Thai, fried treats, and steaming hot pots. Gathering in the food court and beer garden is a social event. We were there early in the evening just as the first food was being cooked up and set out since we had a late flight to catch. I wish we’d been able to stay until the entertainment, which our taxi driver told us is typically Thai dance, had come on stage.
We definitely didn’t head to the airport hungry! Check out the various northern Thai dishes you can try at the Chiang Rai Night Market:
The tempura vegetables were one of my favorites. The mixed vegetables like onions, green beans, sweet potatoes, and eggplant were freshly fried up and delivered piping hot to our tiny table. 20 baht (about $0.60 US).
A Thai hot pot is sort of like a fondue. A steaming metal pot with a soup base is delivered to your table along with the little basket of vegetables, eggs, and meats or seafood you see above. The ingredients are then cooked in the pot right at the table. There’s no “right way” to cook everything up; we observed some groups just putting everything in at once, while others leisurely cooked up a few items at a time. 70 baht for a small hot pot (about $2 US).
You can find just about anything on a stick that is then grilled up on the barbecue. These colorful kabobs had vegetables, tomatoes, hot dog, and pineapple. 30 baht (about $0.90 US).
A variety of simple fresh fish and seafood, like these prawns and salt-encrusted fish, are also available and grilled up over hot coals. 50 – 70 baht ($1.50 – $2 US).
Or more elaborate fish dishes like this whole sea bass covered with lemongrass, chilies and peanuts are on offer. 100 baht (about $3 US).
Once a Thai snack for only low-income field workers, fried bugs can now be found all over Thailand and the Chiang Rai Night Market was no exception. Most popular are the fried grasshoppers, silk worms, and beetles. You can get them as a mixed plate. 30 baht (about $0.90).
I think one of the biggest concerns most tourists have about trying the variety of street food is getting sick from unsanitary conditions. Since 1989 the Ministry of Public Heath and the Tourism Authority of Thailand have had a project called Clean Food Good Taste to ensure the good sanitation of restaurants and street vendors. If the vendors, restaurants, and cafeterias that apply pass all points on the criteria checklist, they are awarded with the Clean Food Good Taste logo to be displayed at their business. Just be on the lookout for this logo to be assured of a good dining experience!
Know Before You Go
- The Chiang Rai Night Market is nightly from 6pm – 11pm; the Municipal Market food court is open from 7pm – 11pm
- Bring Thai baht
For more foodie travel inspiration, check out Foodie Tuesdays on Inside Journeys!