Saturday, February 8, 2014

Chongchom market on the Thailand-Cambodia border

As one approaches the border with Cambodia, more police checkpoints appear. Here, young men are required to give a urine sample presumably to be checked for drugs.
I had heard about Chongchom market, a large awning-covered bazaar in Thailand at the border of Cambodia, so I decided to take a short trip to the Isaan region of the country and make my way to the market. I was not disappointed.

Most foreigners in Thailand are familiar with Jatujak market in Bangkok, the world's largest outdoor bazaar. However, the smaller Chongchom market is somewhat out of the way, requiring a 6-7 hour bus ride to Sangkha in the province of Surin, then a 30 minute tuk tuk ride. Next to the market on the Cambodia side is a casino where many foreigners go to renew their tourist visas. Thais go as well, perhaps as an addition to the market trip. I did not go to the casino on this trip.

Although a hot day, it was relatively cool under the vast spread of awnings, and it was easy to just stroll along and take in the ambiance and shop displays. Thai, Khmer (Cambodian) and the Isaan dialect are spoken at Chongchom, as one might expect. I saw only three other westerners in the crowd that day.

Chongchom market is spread out under a vast array of awnings.

Children eyeing cotton candy, a woman begging with a sick child in her lap and a woman selling lottery tickets are common sights at markets.

These girls were playing with other children; they were speaking Khmer, but I don't know if they were Cambodian or Thai.

There were many Buddhist monks among the shoppers at Chongchom.

A blind man begs for change with a small child asleep beside him.

Many old wood carvings were for sale, as well as intricately painted ceramic items. The large ceramic urn at right had a price tag of 30,000 baht ($1,000).

I settled for this unusual bronze Chinese seated Buddha. What I thought at first was a hat, I realized as I studied it more closely is a lotus blossom. Note the lotus plants and aquatic animals under the figure. Another lotus seed pod is on his shoulder. I have never seen anything like this, so I was pleased with my acquisition. Cost after bargaining, 500 baht ($15). It was my only purchase that day, except for one ice cold can of Thai beer.

There are always colorful dried chilis for sale at any Thai market.

An assortment of tubers, and, wow--live giant water bugs. I was told that they are quite aromatic and delicious when cooked. I'll take their word for it for now.

A view of three stalls.

The lure of cotton candy.

At a smaller town market not far from Chongchom, large umbrellas shade vendors from the hot afternoon sun.

These delightful ladies teased me until I took their picture.

Across the street was a fabric shop with an eye-catching display of colorful yarn.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Chongchom market. I recommend it, despite the relatively long bus ride. It gives one an authentic look at this interesting region.