Muang Mai Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand may be the greatest fruit
market in the world.
I haven't been everywhere, of course, but I have spent the last six
months meandering around Thailand, Laos, and Bali, places lauded for
their fruit, and I've yet to encounter a location that bested Muang Mai
Market's high-quality produce, vast selection, and rock-bottom
a lot of reasons: you can trip over fruit vendors
walking down an average street, there's lots of classes and excursions
to take part in, the vibe is laid back and happy, and there are plenty
of interesting visitors and expats from all over the world to talk
to. It even surprised me by having a good raw food restaurant.
Yet if I could only pack up one part of this city and take it with me
Mai Market would be my choice.
Walk around its bustling streets long enough and you'll probably
a visiting raw foodist. Talking to many of them over the last few
months, most have said Muang Mai is the best fruit
they've visited on their travels, although some have mentioned that
Costa Rica's San Isidro Market, the Panama City farmer's market, Siem
Reap's market in Cambodia, and Bukkitingi's produce markets on the
Indonesian Island of Sumatera are all in the running.
Regardless, I feel confident enough to say that Muang Mai is definitely
at the top of the contender list.
Muang Mai Market: What Is It?
When I say fruit market, don't imagine a few stalls clustered together
some side street. Muang Mai Market is a huge, rambling collection of
about a dozen
large wholesale operations clustered in big buildings and probably more
than 50 smaller vendors selling produce at or near wholesale
prices from their carts, stores, and stalls.
There are almost a dozen produce markets in Chiang Mai, but these are
filled with resellers. Muang Mai is a wholesale market, where the
city's restaurants, cart vendors, and the resellers that work at other
markets come to pick up their produce.
The produce prices are the lowest I've seen anywhere.
Example Muang Mai Produce Prices
(prices vary by season).
30.1 Bhat = $1 as of April 18 2011
1 kilo = 2.2 pounds
Large 3 to 4 pound Papayas: 30 bhat
each, or as low as 20 bhat for two to four very ripe/2nd grade papayas. Lady Finger,
Cavendish, Burro, Golden, Egg (kluay-khai), "100 bunches" (roy wee),
and Sandalwood" (jun), Bananas: 10 to 60 bhat per bunch
or much cheaper when you buy them overripe. Most common varieties
of bananas are cheap and ubiquitous. Durian: 90
Bhat for a medium-sized fruit. Nam Dok Mai Mangoes:
Best mangoes I've ever tasted. You can buy
low-grade ones beginning around 25 bhat per kilo, but it's worth paying
50 bhat per kilo for good quality fruit. Pineapples:
30 bhat for a medium-sized fruit. Jackfruit:
These can be quite messy to open and take apart yourself, so I often
buy them freshly precut from one of the vendors for aprox 40 bhat per
kilo. Personal-sized 4 to
6 pound Watermelons: From 15 to 35 bhat, depending on quality. Tangerines:
40 to 80 bhat per kilo, depending on quality. Tomatoes: 30
to 50 bhat for a huge bag.
Muang Mai Market: The
I usually ride my bike over to
Muang Mai Market every morning to stock up on fruit, and I usually find
the experience enjoyable.
Its bustling streets and alleys are crammed with motorbikes, bicycles,
trucks, human-powered hand carts, and an endless supply of shoppers
going about their daily tasks.
The market is big enough that it took me more than a week just to visit
every part of it, and much longer to find the best vendors.
Although I speak very little Thai, many of the vendors speak some
English and I've become friendly with a number of them. After visiting
regularly for several months they've come to think of me as a
friendly but oddly fruit-obsessed farang (they seem to have no concept
of a raw
food diet), and always assume I'm a fruit seller because I buy so
I enjoy browsing around the stalls and looking at the fruit. If you
look around you can spot when some of the rarer fruits appear in small
numbers, often inhabiting some bin at the back of a stall. Sometimes
the vendors tell me if they get something unusual because they know I'm
on the look out for unique fruits.
One downside is the smell in some areas. Muang Mai has several "streets
of flesh," as I like to call them, bloody fish and meat sale areas
filled with the stench of rotting animals. Do you best to avoid these
streets because the smell is almost overwhelming at certain times of
the day. My sense of smell has improved considerably on a raw food
diet, but this is one downside I can't ignore.
One thing Muang Mai market lacks is organic greens. Although several
vendors claim they don't use pesticides and fertilizers, I'm not sure
if I trust them. I try to avoid conventional greens for
quite a few reasons, but especially in Asia where many pesticides
and fertilizers banned in the US are legal. Luckily, there are a number
of health food stores and super markets that sell organic greens in
Chiang Mai, so
it's not a problem.
Muang Mai Market: Video Tour
Check out what the market looks like.
Muang Mai Market: Location And Hours
Muang Mai Market can be reached on foot in a few minutes when leaving
from the northeastern corner of the old city. One edge sits on the
western shore of the Ping River, a bit north of the American consulate.
Some portion of the market is running at just about any time, day or
night. Most of the large-scale wholesalers open up at 2 or 3 a.m., with
most of the smaller shops opening between 5 and 8 a.m. The market is
generally winding down around 6 p.m.
You can get directions to the market using the google maps link below.