One of the better preserved traditional markets in Thailand can be found in Suphanburi Province. It is called Sam Chuk 100 Year Market and it still has its original wooden shophouses that date back to the reign of King Rama V. In those days it was a bustling market alongside the Tha Chin River. This was a main thoroughfare between the north and Bangkok. However, with the building of roads both the importance of the market and the number of customers dwindled. It got to the point that the local authority were contemplating on pulling down the old houses to build condominiums.
Fortunately, the local people decided to work together to revive the market. They have done such an outstanding job that this year UNESCO gave them an Award of Merit in recognition of their achievement. It is certainly one of the better old market that I have visited. These days, markets in Thailand seemed to all sell the same thing with clothes and tacky objects for the home and kitchen. Markets open for tourists also tend to have the same cheap souvenirs. However, Sam Chuk Market is more of a living museum where they have carefully blended the past and present.
The highlight of any market for me is of course the food. Sam Chuk certainly doesn’t disappoint you in this department. In fact, some people drive up all the way from Bangkok just to eat at the market and to enjoy the authentic surroundings. As well as noodles and roast duck, there are also many famous Thai desserts. Some of the more popular restaurants are very crowded at the weekend and you might need to wait for a seat. After a meal, you could visit a coffee shop to try a drink made the traditional way.
One of the things that I liked about the market is that it is spread out. There are about 300 houses in the market on the four main lanes. This gives you a chance to get away from the crowds and do a bit of exploring. Some of the smaller shops out of the way are just as interesting. As well as the food shops and coffee houses, there are kitchenware shops, photo studios, clothing shops, beauty parlours, traditional medicine shops, antique shops, blacksmiths and a lot more. There are also some shops selling good quality souvenirs.
This old photo studio is a good example of a shop from days gone by still being used successfully today. In one of the three storey wooden shophouses they have put together an interesting community museum. There is a scale model of the market as well as pictures of days gone by. Sam Chuk is a good example of how the local people can work together to produce a successful tourist attraction and thriving market even in the middle of a recession. I have only been there once but I will certainly go again to explore more.
Sam Chuk community market is accessible through Highway 340, from Bangkok via Bang Bua Thong district in Nonthaburi to Suphan Buri. It is located on the riverside and adjacent to the Sam Chuk District Office. You can catch a bus heading north from Suphanburi. Many thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for taking us to this market and for looking after us so well. You can view more of our pictures as well as a video over at the Paknam Web Forums.