Phuket has countless markets, ranging from the daily central 'talad yai' (big market) on Ranong Road in the provincial capital, to twice-weekly ambulatory 'talad nat' markets all over the island. There’s also another category of market known as a 'talad sot' (‘sot’ means ‘fresh’ in Thai.) These are ‘wet’ markets operating at the same location several times a week. No matter – they’re all attractive and captivating places to visit.
Naka Market is the Big Daddy of them all: it was first called the 'talad tai rot' (car boot market) and its original moniker more than adequately indicates its origins. Situated on Chao Fa West Road just south of Central Festival Phuket shopping mall, it’s often compared to Bangkok’s enormous Chatuchak Market, even though it’s nowhere near the size. Naka Market’s 1,000 stalls sell about everything you could possibly imagine but, unlike talad nats, Naka majors on clothing; fashion accessories; electronics; wood-carved souvenirs, and household goods rather than fresh food. Operating from 16:00 – 21:00 on Saturdays and Sundays, it’s a buzzing hive of activity and can get pretty frenetic past six o’clock. It’s best to get there at around four in the afternoon to escape the later crowds.
Talad sot and talad nat markets
These markets operate twice-weekly in locations all over the island. Generally selling curry pastes (take some home – they’re delicious), pyramids of vividly-hued and sometimes startling-looking fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood, chicken and red meat, along with an odd assortment of kitchen sinks, Toyota transmissions, and the odd stormtrooper helmet, not to mention lingerie. Okay, maybe the latter few are an exaggeration but only just… Muck in and enjoy the experience. And believe it or not you can sometimes score a cocktail or a frosty beer for a song here: all-in-all, an unforgettable yet pungent experience.
Best markets in Phuket
Banzaan Market, directly behind the island’s largest shopping mall, Jungceylon, is also quite a sensory overload. Along with juicy fresh fruit, handicrafts and souvenirs upstairs you can also get a reasonably priced meal. Phuket Town’s trendy Indy Market takes place every Thursday and Friday on Dibuk Road from 16:00-22:00 and is a must for those who enjoy live music, art and creatively produced handicrafts.
Lard Yai (meaning ‘big market’) also operates nearby and is open on Sundays with the same running hours as the Indy Market. It also offers inventive handicrafts and a carefree atmosphere, largely because its vendors are the same gang as at Indy.
In the south of Phuket, the Monday-and-Thursday market along Wichit Road near the Seashell Museum operates from 16:00-21:00 selling a head-spinning mishmash of jeans, mangoes, bananas, eggplants and iPhones. Kata Beach has several options. The market by the Chaba Resort in central Kata can seem overpriced when it comes to food, but its fresh products are on par with island-wide prices. In Cherng Talay (near the Laguna Complex) the large open-air market diagonally opposite the police station operates Wednesday and Sunday from 13:00-20:00. Karon Temple Market (Tuesday and Saturday 16:00-22:00) sells the usual fruit and vegetables and quirky souvenirs, all with a tangible welcoming atmosphere; probably because it’s situated in the temple grounds.
In short, there’s one near you. Bone up on Thai numbers and jump into this quintessential Thai shopping opportunity.