Ta Tian Market is an immense fresh market place located by the riverside, opposite the white walls of Wat Pho. The market itself is easily missed by most visitors who often take a break at one of the charming little cafes under the arches of the Sino-Portuguese façades, and not many actually spot the small entrance right in the middle of this U-shaped heritage style building. This discreet door opens onto a short tunnel and beyond it, only the curious traveller would discover a gigantic and busy market sheltered under a very high ceiling. The place is more of a basic warehouse than a market, selling a huge array of dried sea products displayed in large sacks, wholesale cooking ingredients and all kinds of fresh products ranging from well known veggies to totally alien looking ingredients.
This is what makes markets so interesting; such trading places are fascinating timeless windows on a country's daily life, especially for travellers interested in cooking… or photography. Very little has actually changed in the way goods are displayed or shops built. The market is made of a very basic wood structure and shops are at best assembled with planks or at worst consist of tables folded every night. Lighting comes from bare bulbs hanging from some rough electric wires and the only visible modern facilities are fridges and like in any place involving long waits: mini TV sets. The only sign of modern world intrusion is the fact that everybody seems to be very busy with their smartphones, tablets or laptops.
Walking through the maze of Ta Tian market is fun and desorienting… if this is your first time in Thailand, 80% of the items on display will look mysterious. Dry fish come in all sizes, shapes and smells while huge bags of colourful dry shrimps make a great photo opportunity. The atmosphere is frantic with workers pushing goods on trolleys or carrying them over their shoulder, and considering how narrow the alleys are, it's better keep your eyes open when visiting. The market even has its own small Chinese shrine full of offerings, playing Chinese music all day to add to the exotic atmosphere of this place.
Being part of the old city and built in an old Sino Portuguese shophouse style it's no surprise that the market was going to become part of Bangkok heritage, and after being neglected for decades, the renovation process has finally started.