One of the best parts about visiting Thailand is that you rarely need to step indoors. I mean, sure, you go into your hotel room at night, and hopefully that has four walls and a roof, and it’s preferable when your bathroom has the same, but other than that, you can literally spend all days in the open air and not miss a thing.
That’s because most establishments are set up with aroof to keep the sun and rain away, but with at least a couple and sometimes all walls missing – leaving it open to the outdoors. From restaurants to cafes, gyms and shops and even bars (ok, especially bars!) there aren’t many venues in Thailand where you can’t enjoy some fresh air and people watching on the street or beach around you.
The Jomtien Night Market Experience
Even with all of that open sky, the night markets stand out, and they are also everywhere. But the Jomtien night market (in the seaside suburb of wild Pattaya) is probably my favorite.
It’s set in a big complex right off a main road, so it’s easy to get to. You’ll notice the layout of shops and stores lining the outside like a big horseshoe but going about ¼ mile back. But inside this “horseshoe” is a maze of probably 25 interconnected beer bars, all open-air with only one wall at most, and each with a pool table, music playing, and seating for customers.
In front of all of that, by the street, is the actual night market, which pops up like out of nowhere every late afternoon on an otherwise empty parking lot. There are probably 50 or so kiosks and carts that are all individually run, with a huge assortment of food and drink. You’ll find plenty of traditional Thai dishes, and although many of them supply the same things, you’ll also notice that each of them specialize in something.
You’ll find roasted chicken and ribs that are cooked in front of you in a huge clay fire barrel, spicy papaya and seafood salads made to order in front of you, other vegetable salads, soups, noodle dishes, Pad Thai, and just about everything else to eat you could imagine. Also, most vendors sell bottled waters (needed since the food is spicy!) and dirt-cheap local beers (even more needed!), and also a ton of vendors sell healthy fruit smoothies they make with you hand picked fresh fruit right on the spot.
In the middle of these rows of cooking carts are simple plastic tables and chairs so you can hang out and eat your treasures. A couple of tips – be careful about ordering something like the spicy papaya salads. They make it in a big clay bowl and the ingredients are plenty clean, but they use the same bowl for every order, and some of the dishes have raw seafood. So you might get those remnants – not good for a foreign stomach! Also, you can ask for just about everything these to be packed up and taken to go, and there’s even a huge fruit and vegetable market in a hangar-like building next door.
Enjoy the night market and have fun!