The Bangplee Nives Evening Market
By Ruth Richert, a contributing writer to Bangkok.com
When my husband and I moved to Thailand in July 2012, we thought that we would be living in Bangkok. Joke’s on us – it soon became all too apparent that our new home was located outside of Bangkok, in a south eastern suburb known as Samut Prakan. This was a rude shock, as it is far removed from the frenetic joys of downtown Bangkok. However, once we began to explore our new neighbourhood, it became clear that it has its own unique charms. One of its biggest redeeming features is the excellent local market that materializes without fail at the end of our soi every evening from 16:00. Let’s run through the highlights.
One of our favourite stalls sells barbequed fish. The vendors allow us to practice our rather tragic Thai language skills, and the fish has a charred, crispy skin hiding succulent white flesh and is scented with lemongrass. We wasted five full months before we visited the stall, worried about the origins of our would-be meal, but eventually we bit the bullet and bought a fish. The salt-rubbed skin, the tender smoked flesh, and the lemongrass stuffing all combined to create a sublime taste experience. Why did we wait so long…
The market has several produce stands that we frequent. If you’re looking for western-style salad ingredients, the stands are underwhelming, but they offer a great array of vegetables and herbs for cooking. Just be wary of any vegetable that the vendor tells you is “not beautiful.” One evening, we didn’t heed this advice, and our house took on the pleasing aroma of rotting garbage. The fruit vendors offer a good selection of local Thai fruit, and their prices are generally lower than the supermarkets. One of the vendors has shifty eyes, and we can never decide if he’s cheating us or not. His selection is the best though, so we keep going back for more.
The clothing vendors offer some fun options, some of which you may actually want to wear. My husband purchased half his wardrobe from one of the vendors, although this probably says more about his fashion sense than it does about the amazing couture for sale.
There are plenty of exotic options available for those who feel the need to really embrace the local culture. Some of these are your basic rice and seaweed combos – they may look a little odd, but they don’t contain anything too crazy. My husband cannot resist trying anything and everything that he doesn’t recognize, but even he draws the line at the frogs dredged from the khlong (canal) and the random preserved goose parts. Embracing the local culture only goes so far.
While the som tam lady is not technically part of the market, her stall is next to it, and her amazing product deserves a mention. This woman must have forearms of steel, because she pounds som tam all day, every day. She allows her customers to customize their orders, and then has an endearing habit of offering them a spoonful to taste test the mix. The unfortunate punch line to this story is that she then goes on to offer the same spoon to the next customer in line. We haven’t gotten sick yet though, so I’m calling this one a win.
Although Bangplee Nives Evening Market isn’t going to draw crowds from far and wide, it does offer the perfect mix of elements for one of those treasured holiday moments: a peek into local culture; access to some great food; and a reminder that ‘this ain’t Kansas, anymore’.
Interested in a jaunt to suburbia? The market runs every evening of the week. It begins in the late afternoon around 16:00, and starts winding down between 19:30 and 20:00. The best way to reach the market is to take a taxi from Udom Suk BTS Station (if you’re coming from downtown) and ask for Bangplee Nives (roughly pronounced “Bung-Plee Nee-WHET”). The taxi will take Bangna Trad, U-turn at Homepro, head south on King Kaew Street, and finally U-turn into the neighbourhood of Bangplee Nives. Once you drive under the arch, simply follow the road until you hit a T-junction and you’ve arrived. Bangplee Nives: a tiny gem in the middle of suburbia.