One of the most prominent tourist draws of Phuket, the Sunday Night Market in Old Phuket Town is not to be missed. Also called the Lard Yai Market, this is a relatively new addition to Phuket with the first one launching in late 2013. This weekly event draws in many locals, from gaggles of teenagers voraciously eating street food to elderly Thais enjoying the music buskers. Forget Bangla Road in Patong! On Sunday nights, Phuket’s Sunday Walking Street Market is the liveliest place on the island.
The Sunday Night Market in Phuket
The Sunday Night Market turns a busy tourist street into a completely car-free pedestrian zone for a night. The walking street spans the entirety of Thalang Road, including the section past the Phuket Road intersection and the river. Phuket Road is still a functional street even during the night market, so there will be lots of cars driving by. Don’t rush or jaywalk. Wait for the light to change like hundreds of other tourists will be doing.
The official start time of the Sunday Night Market is 4 pm. Vendors begin setting up their stalls as early as 3 pm, with a select few ready to sell simple goods shortly afterwards. The most crowded time is around 8 pm. At this point, you’ll be crammed between people and slowly shuffling along in certain choke points in the market.
In my experience, the Sunday Night Market is the kind of place where you can stroll the entirety of it multiple times. There are so many stalls that by the time you get to one the end of the market, you will have forgotten what was at the other end. Once you get here, this is a place where you could easily spend the rest of the night.
Food at the Sunday Night Market
Make sure you come hungry to the Sunday Night Market! Do not make plans to eat in a restaurant – the market food will be much more interesting. Try to check out the entire market first, both sides, before buying any food. You don’t want to gorge yourself on something meh when there was something mouthwatering a little further.
Any Thai dish you could want to eat will probably be here at the market, but there are also a few stalls selling International specialities. There’s no shortage of drink vendors, barbecue, food on sticks, bowls of noodles and sweets. The only thing you won’t find is alcohol. If you want a beer, you’ll have to go into one of the restaurants.
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Noodles & Vegetarian
Cannabis Edibles (Yes, Really!)
Where to Eat
There is no designated eating area with tables at the market. It’s so busy that sitting on the curb is not an option, but you could stand off to the side next to the shops to eat your food. There are a few benches where the various buskers are set up, but those seats will be hard to get.
Most of the food at the Sunday Night Market can easily be eaten while walking. However, there are certain things, like pad thai, where it’s more comfortable to stay stationary while eating. I recommend you take such food to where the Golden Dragon Monument is, past the river. The park there is much less crowded, and there are lots of steps that you can sit on while eating. There are even some public washrooms deeper into the park. A busker will usually be performing in front of the dragon, so you’ll even have some ambience music. All in all, this is the best place to enjoy the street food at the Sunday Night Market.
Shopping at the Sunday Night Market
The usual market goods are here: knockoff clothes, sunglasses and pet fish. However, there is a lot more variety of goods at Phuket’s Sunday Night Market. Unlike other markets (especially in Bangkok), most of the items here looked to be better quality or at least interesting. Some of the standouts were mini wind-up music boxes, watercolours of Phuket and vibrant bowls made from coconut shells.
Some of these stalls are run by the permanent shops along the sidelines. If you visit Thalang Road on another day, you’ll find the same stuff sold in some of the shops. The bowls, watercolours and elephant pants are some examples.
Entertainment at the Sunday Night Market
None of the five senses are left behind. Even your ears get a treat at the Sunday Walking Street Market! There are several performance spots along the whole market road. Smartly, the buskers are far enough away from each other so that nobody’s performance is disturbed.
I’m not sure if the same buskers come every week. They change as the night goes on, so it’s worth spending a few hours at the Sunday Night Market to see who will perform next. Some of the entertainment is not as professional, such as the group of elderly (maybe drunk) Thai women singing on a karaoke machine at one of the end of the market.
On our visit, we saw many different performers. There was a group performing music on traditional instruments, a girl and her acoustic guitar playing western hits, a violin couple, and a breakdancing troupe. All of these performers had short shows that were about an hour long. The breakdancers, in particular, only performed for five minutes.
Only one busker seemed to have a proper set. This happy, middle-aged Thai man with a keyboard, electric guitar and backup music on 3½ floppy disks was playing all night. He played mostly classic rock tunes, but there was the occasional Thai song that he played on request. He didn’t particularly sing on-key, and some of the English lyrics were gibberish because of his accent, but he was having lots of fun performing. This guy was clearly a favourite among the locals.
There are also a couple of instances of “unofficial” market entertainment. At 8 pm, the Turkish restaurant, Efe Old Town, had belly dancers on their patio. Anyone could stop and watch even if you weren’t eating there.
Keep a lookout for the best-dressed marketgoer: this hip little kitty! The owner loves to show off her cat and doesn’t mind if you want to take pictures or pet it. I overheard that she and the cat are here every week. If you’re stuck in a jam of people, there’s a good chance that it’s because everyone ahead is stopping to take photos of this cool cat.
I’ve been to a fair share of markets in Bangkok. The Phuket Sunday Night Market is better. It’s cleaner, more organized, and there’s actual variety in the stalls. There were ten different things that I wanted to eat but I only had room for a couple of them. The buyable goods are not just the same crappy knockoff t-shirts over and over again. Some of the souvenirs are very lovely and tempting to buy. The Lard Yai Market has the added benefit of the shops and cafes being right there if you ever need to escape the crowds. Additionally, the buskers give visitors things to do after they’ve finished eating. You should absolutely try to schedule your Phuket vacation to include a Sunday night so you can visit the Phuket Sunday Night Market.