Here we are at the entrance to Warorat Market district. The entrance to the Warorat Market is about ten minutes walk from the moat. Cross the corner at the moat by Loco Elvis Restaurant and head east until you reach the Warorat Gate for the wholesale market. You will find several night markets listed on the tourist maps, but this one is the wholesale market. Most shops are open from 9-5, but some open later. From the old city, head east on Ratvithi Road, cross the moat and continue on Chang Moi Road. There are several interesting shops along the way, before you get to the market. I have a couple of favorites just a couple of blocks from the main road. There are two basket shops that have every thing from woven furniture to elegant hademade purses. You will also find a couple of shops that sell high quality clothing from their own sewing shops, where you can get custom made items to fit a western body,.
Once you pass the gate, you are essentially in Chinatown. But these days you will find merchants from Thailand, China, India and Pakistan with shops here. The shops are mainly clothing and clothing manufacturing needs. This is where you will find local designers shops, retail outlets, and off price clothing. If you are a seamstress, the yardage shops are here. The first one is on the first main corner of the market on your right. It’s a big shop and has everything you need, but is always crowded. It’s packed so tight that there are always a couple of aisles that are impossible to get down. Not to mention, you’ll have to go round in circles to get around the customers blocking the aisles. It’s not the largest store, but it’s the first one you see, and the displays are very hodgepodge. They’re definitely going for the look of a bargain store. You’ll have to judge for yourself about quality. Things are not arranged in any kind of order and sales people speak only a little English. They won’t be able to tell you fiber content or quality. This is the bargain store, it’s easy to find, always busy, and every man or woman for yourself.
There are about a half dozen other fabric stores in the wholesale market and I suggest you take a look at each of them before buying. All the other fabric stores are orderly and neat and often have at least one sales person with good English. Still, it helps it you can bring someone who speaks Thai. You will be more welcome and it is easier for them to work with you. If your first concern is quality and you don’t want to waste a lot of time, my suggestion is to do a little reconnaisance. Walk by and look at the presentation, the attitude of the sales people, and look closely at the customers. Go early on a weekday morning and notice if the customers look like business people. If the customers look like serious buyers, this is where the designers and jobbers shop. They’ll have good quality because they are serving return customers. The wholesale market in Chiang Mai is not that big. It took me a whole morning to see it all the first time, but I did stop an peruse the stores that looked interesting. By American standards I would say it is about four square blocks, So it’s smaller than the average American shopping mall, but with a lot more to see. They don’t waste space on fancy window displays.
The closest fabric store to the bargain store is on the left about two doors up and it has good quality and quantity. There are also several other fabric stores on the street to the right of the big corner store some with the finest Thai silk. If you are looking for beads and accessories, there is a lot to choose from in the main wholesale building adjoining this street. Unlike some of the wholesale markets in other cities, the main building is small and a bit run down. It is good for drapery and clothing fabric. Make a round of the building just to see the variety. You may find some bargains in handbags and novelty toys, but as you go farther back you will find the really low end garment stalls. I call this the Walmart area. You will find cheap prices, but low quality. And don’t expect to find any women’s clothing larger than size 8. There are also a few jewelry shops in the market, but I found them to be over priced. There are other places to go for jewelry. Thailand is known for silver craftsmanship and I will do separate post about this, as it’s a special area.
There is one more area I would like to mention. It’s easy to miss if you don’t go all the way to Loi Kroh Road, which is the main road bordering the wholesale market on the north side. On that corner, there is another large building with about a dozen individual wholesale clothing and accessory stores. All of them are top quality and they have many of their designs in greige goods, undyed fabric. So, if you are a hand dyer, you will love the idea of making your favorite styles personalized by hand dying and decorating!
You are on Loi Kroh Road now, and this is a different shopping district for another day of shopping. If you need to take a break there are food stalls at the end of Chang Moi Road. They are cheap and about the same quality as most food stalls. For some authentic Thai food in a unique atmosphere, find the Nai 99 Shop on Khoungwan Rd. This is a clothing store, but if you go all the way to the back and take the stairs to the upper level, you’ll find the restaurant.