Rod Fai Market 2: hipster heaven in Bangkok’s steamy suburbs

If you’re a fan of Bangkok’s numerous bustling markets, you’ll no doubt know that Rod Fai Market has spawned a sibling. The original (and much larger) Rod Fai at Srinakarin is still in action, but for those who don’t want to make the trek, the much more accessible Rod Fai 2 is in full swing every weekend, a couple of minutes walk from the Cultural Centre MRT stop.

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Despite being easy to access however, I wouldn’t necessarily say the market is easy to find. As with all things in Bangkok, nothing is as simple as it could (or should) be. Most guides to the market helpfully say it is ‘behind the MRT station’, but anyone who has ever tried to negotiate the disorientating number of exits from an MRT station may raise an eyebrow at this. I took a load of directions and a map, and we still got lost.

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The trick is to take Exit 3 from the Cultural Centre MRT and walk through the Esplanade Shopping Mall. There will probably be a stream of youngsters heading that way too. I thought they were just going to hang out in the mall (and that, as a result, we were waaay out of touch with the ‘cool things’ to do in this area on a Thursday night) but these kids knew what they were doing. When you enter the ground floor of the Esplanade, keep going towards the back of the mall and there is an exit which takes you to the market. (There may be stalls in the middle of the shopping centre confusing things further – if so, just skirt around them and a rear exit will materialise, I promise).

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When you do eventually find the market – and it really shouldn’t be as hard as I’ve made it sound – you’ll find a mixture of more traditional small market stalls under square canvases, and some more quirky creations around the market’s perimeters. As Rod Fai 2 is much more contained and manageable than its predecessor, it’s worth doing a quick scout round first to get a sense of what is on offer. Or, for a real bird’s eye view, stop for a drink at one of the two-tier bars like the one below, offering a rooftop view over the market.

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Many of the stalls and shops around the edges of the market seemed, to me, to offer slightly more interesting items (and many of the proper small shops have ice cold air-con, an absolute gift when it’s a sweaty, humid evening). We browsed through some super slick clothes shops, rooted through records and vintage t-shirts and watched the local Thai lads getting their locks trimmed at some very hipster barbershops.

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Whilst the more established shopfronts round the outside offered slightly more intriguing shopping options than the market stalls, the latter is where to head for the best food choices. There is plenty of streetfood-style cooking going on, with hot black woks sizzling and meat glistening under the bright lights. Many of the stalls are busy, but we didn’t find it a problem to get a table to sit down at on a Thursday night.

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As well as seating options at some of the stalls, there’s a much larger area to sit at Rod’s Bar – you’ll have to buy a drink for the pleasure, but you can bring any food purchased elsewhere with you, and there’s usually a live band on to keep you entertained as well. You’ll also have a bit more elbow room compared to sitting at the food stalls in the market area, and it feels a little more laid back. We happily spent an hour or so here, listening to the (rather good) band and munching on spicy fried pork and noodles.

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Rod Fai Market 2, Ratchada
17:00-24:00 (Thursday – Sunday)
MRT: National Cultural Centre

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