When I’m feeling a bit down in the mouth here in the UK, I pick myself up by thinking about some other location I’d like to be. More often than not I imagine I’m with Wonderful Wi at our village home in Udon Thani Province. The day inside my head is warm but not too hot and we’re sat at our garden table chattering the afternoon through. The thought of being with my lady sharing a glass of ice cold beer in a place I like to be is enough to lift my darkest mood. However, village felicity doesn’t hold a monopoly on erasing my dampened spirits. Sometimes I whisk the pair of us into the city.
If you ever want to sample true Thai life then Thailand’s market scene is one of the very best places to see it. Day markets have a freshness and colour about them mirroring the fruits and vegetables they stock, but for me and my dreams I love Thailand’s night markets and Udon Thani’s Centrepoint night market is my favourite one of all.
The market is in front of Udon Thani train station and if availability of car parking spaces is a judge of a locations popularity, then the Centrepoint is top drawer. At weekends finding a parking space can be hard.
Jumping into one of the city’s many samlors is a far more amiable way of getting there. Slap on your darkest sunglasses, close your eyes and let the driver take the pain because the sound of the market’s buzz and scent of freshly cooked Thai food will announce your arrival there.
The market is in truth two separate markets acting as one. Centrepoint is on one side of the road leading to the train station and the newly constructed Lum Udon market (UD Town) on the opposite side. Two entirely separate outlets but I wrongly refer to both as the Centrepoint night market. Photographs accompanying this post were taken at both sites.
The first thing to hit you about Udon Thani’s Centrepoint night market is its pure size. We’re talking big and every available outlet space on either side of the road is taken. If they could make the walk aisles any smaller I’m sure they would, but when manipulating the catwalk Thai girls need a little room.
Surveying Thai night markets is a glimpse into Thailand’s real social life. The bizarre and bazaar mingle together in a kind of polite mannerly mayhem. Couples dine, youngsters pose in fake designer clothes while others seek merit making gifts, but for most, night markets are the place to massage the mind free from the day’s hardship and hassle. Behind most Thai smiles wafer thin perplexity is hidden by a set of white enamelled gates.
Deep fried Jing Leed (crickets), Non Mai (worms) and Isaan’s speciality insect snack Maeng Da (beetles) fill the night air with their own distinctive smell as puppy dog tails wag just yards away. The pups aren’t for eating, nowadays Thais are becoming more of a dog loving nation.
A bag of succulent insects cost about 20 baht but decent bred puppies are priced around the 2,000 baht mark. I’m happy too say my purchases have only ever been expensive ones.
The Centrepoint market is a giant clothes horse under a hot tin roof and kitting yourself out in the latest fashion or heat friendly clothing isn’t expensive. Just remember not to put your portion of Maeng Da inside your Nike t-shirt plastic bag.
The market has enough restaurants and snack stalls to feed the whole of the city and every conceivable taste is covered. There are also many small bars and the Centrepoint market itself has a large seated bar area where gorgeous Thai girls keep customers happy with swift drinks service and pleasant smiles.
On most weekends live music pumps into the tepid night air and top sports action can be viewed from TV screens set amongst the restaurants and bars, failing that, you can always catch up on the latest Thai TV soaps. There’s a challenging thought, watching an whole episode of a Thai soap whilst crunching on a bag of Jing Leed.
If you ever find yourself in Udon Thani then please do check out its Centrepoint and Lum Udon night markets, I just know you’ll enjoy the experience.
My apologies for the pictures but my camera doesn’t fare too well at night. I must buy one with an insomnia mode.
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