Will going cashless strip Chatuchak Market of its soul?
Bangkok as we know it has been changing in recent time. Last year, street food vendors of Bangkok lost its footing. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) made a controversial change in policy to eliminate street food vendors completely. Luckily, we didn’t see a full roll-out and can still experience Bangkok street food, but it has become more scarce in key tourist areas. After this happened, local police chiefs also sought to enforce a 2004 regulation to shut down night clubs on Khao San Road by midnight.
That brings us to June 2018, where the Chatuchak Market haggling and bargaining experience will be put to an end. In an effort to get with the times, Chatuchak Market going cashless will essentially change the experience altogether. Some night markets in Bangkok are already firm with their pricing, with souvenirs and local goods at below average market prices. The idea is that vendors will always charge a fair price for their goods, preventing the unfortunate experience some tourists go through when they realize they’ve overpaid. While I’m typically a huge supporter of embracing technology, I can’t say I’m sure this is a good play.
The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has a hopeful vision of uniting the heritage of the market with modern payment systems. Siripong Preutthipan, SRT’s Director for Land Development has stated that the cashless system will make use of Quick Response (QR) codes and a top-up card. It’s still unknown how the QR code system will work or what currencies will be used, but the top-up card will be something similar to Rabbit card, used for the Bangkok BTS.
On top of Chatuchak Market going cashless, there have been a couple other modernization announcements made. After the cashless system is implemented in June, we’re getting automated parking lots and air-conditioned toilets. While these changes sound great, many tourists are worried that the allure of the massive open-air market will lose its appeal. Many have voiced concerns of the market losing its bazaar, vintage environment in these changes.
Visit Chatuchak Market Before They Go Cashless!
Our take? Go to Chatuchak Weekend Market before June if possible. Time is of the essence and if you wait, you might miss out on experiencing the world’s largest market the way in its prime. We can’t say for sure if Chatuchak will be ruined, but there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy skepticism. Regardless of what happens, I’m going to grab some coconut ice cream and haggle down a couple pairs of shades before June. Cheers! ????