You’ve surely heard of Bangkok’s street markets and night markets. A staple in Thai culture, night markets originated in China before spreading throughout Asia. These large bazaars are similar to their daytime counterparts, featuring entertainment, dining, and of course, commerce. That being said, you wouldn’t find anything close to Talad Rod Fai Train Market anywhere else in Asia, let alone Thailand.
Here, the evening light sets on a retro scene. Expect all lines of vintage items both new and used, from foreign antiques to classic pop culture memorabilia, stepping into Talad Rod Fai takes you back to the 80s, or the 1800s depending on the shop you wander into. Each corner has something new to offer, but there’s still a good mix of the modern too.
This open-air market is popular with Thai youths, so you’ll likely come across trendy, as well as vintage inspired, fashions including clothing, shoes, and accessories, along with the trinkets and electronics you find at other street markets. There’s also a fair number of bars, restaurants, and street food vendors. Entertainment includes live bands and window shopping, but you’ll also get the one-off oddity like an old fashioned barber shop.
Make no mistake however, Talad Rod Fai is not your everyday tourist trap. Things are usually cheap, but you wouldn’t find novelty tourist items here. This is the destination for travelers seeking a deep dive into Bangkok’s modern retro-revival.
How It All Started?
Perhaps as interesting as Talad Rod Fai itself, is its history. Founded nearly 10 years ago by an antiques merchant, Pairod Roikaew, this night market operated in its early years on a precarious legal position. Starting off as an underground gathering on the State Railway of Thailand’s land, it soon developed into a smash hit before it was abruptly shut-down.
In fact, “rod fai” is simply the Thai word for “train”, which is why it became known as the ‘Train Market’. After its removal in 2013, Talad Rod Fai reopened on the outskirts of the city on Srinagarindra Road, where it was able to expand and remains to this day. Following the success for the second incarnation of Talad Rod Fai, two other branches were launched.
The second branch, located on Ratchadaphisek Road, is much closer to the city center and more accessible to travelers. However, the main branch remains the most popular and sought after, so that’s the one we’ll be focusing on.
How Do You Get There?
This Talad Rod Fai Market is located on Srinagarindra Road, behind the Seacon Square Shopping Mall. Although there are public transportation options available, the easiest way to access the market is by a Taxi, most drivers should be familiar with these two landmarks.
If traffic is bad however, you can opt to take the BTS Skytrain to a nearby station and then take a car. You can find the main entrance between the Seacon Square Shopping Mall and Paradise Park Mall. Although it’s open from 5 pm to 1 am, it’s probably best to reach around 7 pm, after most shops and vendors are ready for the night.
Talad Rod Fai Train Market – The Zones
Entering through the pedestrian entrance, you’ll immediately be greeted by a selection of food vendors. As you wind your way through the alleys, you’ll be tempted to stop for a beer or a few deserts, but there’s no rush and it’s recommended you resist the urge until you’ve had a chance to look around first.
There are a few things to note before going into Talad Rod Hai. Although the prices for everyday items and modest vintage items are relatively low, be careful what you touch. Some things are valuable collectables and extremely well preserved or expensive. Browsing and taking pictures are usually accepted though.
But don’t let this put you off! Most vendors are collectors and hobbyists themselves, so they’re typically happy to strike up a conversation. They aren’t tourist peddlers either, so you won’t be cornered or interrupted by a vendor trying to make a sale.
Talad Rod Fai is divided into three zones, the Warehouse, Market, and Rod’s Antiques.
This zone is a bona fide archive of vintage items, here you’ll explore everyday goods from classical times, including retro bikes, toys, cameras, and even vintage cars. Although you’ll see the highlights at Rob’s Antiques, car enthusiasts will definitely love the Chevys, Volkswagens, and other vintage cars on display here.
As you walk through these pieces of history and pop culture, you may hear an old vinyl being played in the background as hobbyists hover over the latest addition to these collections. If you’re a fan of alternative mementos, you may even consider picking up a rare Japanese anime figure or a refurbished vintage camera.
This is the zone for those who want a little insight into Bangkok’s trendiest hits, from apparel and accessories to chic glasses and original handcrafted items. By and large, they’re modern personal items or homeware vintage lovers like, so you may consider skipping some of this zone if you’ve seen similar things at other street markets.
There’s a little hidden spot at the end of Talad Rod Fai Train Market though. There you can find merchants of more specific and niche items, in a simple fashion on the ground. It’s basic, but it may be a curiosity to you, so try and look out for them.
This is the real treasure trove of Talad Rod Fai Train Market, it’s the zone of the market you simply can’t miss. The most exotic, obscure, and rare items can be found in this renovated factory building at the back end of the market. If you have even a slight interest in vintage cars, you’ll be floored by the international selection of motorbikes, hotrods, and old-timers you see here, in near mint condition.
That’s not all though, this zone is laden with antiques, including furniture, models, paintings, and other memorabilia. The best thing of all? These items are all verifiably vintage and 100% genuine. Traveling through Asia, it’s easy to come across counterfeits, but Talad Rod Fai has earned its merit. Standing in a building brimming with real antiques that have traveled countless miles, and years, to end up in this little corner of Bangkok is something special.
So, you’ve wandered through the antiques, memorabilia, and various other vintage items at Talad Rod Fai Train Market. Now you want to unwind. As you’ve walked around the market you’ve probably noticed the countless eateries scattered across the area. Two rows at the end of the market are reserved exclusively for food. If there’s any Asian delicacy or typical street food you want to try while you’re in Bangkok, you can find it here.
Don’t believe it? You will when you see the Japanese Takoyaki sitting alongside the crispy shrimp heads or Thai styled somtum papaya salad. Varity is the lifeblood here, and the choice is yours. If you’d like a recommendation, try out the seafood dishes like Goong Tung. This traditional Thai dish is a great nod to Bangkok’s seafaring roots.
As evening turns to late night, Talad Rod Fai Train Market takes on a new life. Consider a drink or two at one of the many small bars. The prices are extremely fair, and you’ll get some good deals. For inside seating there’s the restaurants that line the entrance and often feature live bands, have your pick of savory barbeques or spicy fried noodles.
The best way to take in Talad Rod Fai Train Market at night though, is through the cozier and more intimate vendors that serve their drinks from vintage campers or cocktail bar cars. Settling in for the night and having a drink with friends or the locals, immersed in the trendy retro atmosphere of the market, is a great way to top off your evening at Talad Rod Fai.