Samui Wining & Dining
On the hoof at Samui’s walking streets.


Despite the bizarre name, it’s the people who do the walking, while the streets stay where they are! Walking streets are markets that pop up every week in the same place, get going round 5:00 pm and finally close at 11:00 pm. They’re enormously popular, whether you’re a holidaymaker or island resident. The name has its origins in the fact that these night markets are situated on streets that need to be closed off to traffic – no driving of cars or motorbikes is allowed, only walking. The idea of walking streets came about when a previous mayor of Bangkok was looking for ways for local people to promote their goods and services. The idea was a simple one: you could rent out a small area of a street for the night at a conveniently low price, then set up your stall and make some money selling food, clothing, artworks or anything that took your fancy.


On Samui, walking streets have become part of the local scene. In high season they may be so packed that it’s hard to make your way down the street. Always fun events, walking streets give you the chance to experience a mix of activities that combine an evening stroll with eating and drinking and, of course, shopping.


How does it all work? Each walking street takes place the same day of the week. In the afternoon lots of pick-up trucks converge on the street and disgorge tables, chairs, awnings and, of course, the goods to be sold. The vehicles drive off to park elsewhere and the stalls are put up in the small space allotted to them. Since there may be a hundred or more of them in the street, this sounds like a recipe for utter mayhem. But it isn’t. It’s done with almost military precision. But the strange thing about it is that no-one directs or oversees the proceedings – everything goes up really quickly, simultaneously and with the minimum amount of fuss. Everyone seems to sort themselves out without impinging on their neighbours. The same thing happens when the evening is over and it’s time to go. Within a couple of hours the street is completely deserted and the only evidence that hundreds of people have been here for an evening are the neatly-tied garbage bags along the street, soon to be collected by the municipal waste collectors.


Most of the stalls are run by walking street professionals; you’ll see the same stalls at different venues during the week. Some people who have shops on the walking streets themselves also sell goods outside their premises. So you might find, say, an Italian restaurant that sells pizzas fresh from an oven on the street, but only on that night.


The best way to get started with walking streets is just turn up at one and go with the flow. You’ll see the lines of stalls on both sides of the street and all you have to do is just stroll along and stop and browse whatever catches your eye. And plenty will. The stalls are lit up for the night and their wares will be stacked up ready for you.On the hoof at Samui’s walking streets.The vendors will readily engage you in conversation and are always friendly. It’s hard to imagine that many of the people you see selling depend on walking streets for their incomes, especially as the prices are usually on the cheap side.


Food comprises much of the trade at walking streets. Some of it may be prepared at home, while deep-frying and nifty work with the wok are the two main ways of cooking. You can try most Thai foods at walking streets, but you tend not to find any curried soups – simply because they’re hard to carry while you’re walking. Most of the food is of the type that means you can eat it while moving. It’s finger-food central, with the idea being that you almost literally graze your way down the street. Most of it is Thai, though increasingly you’ll find international foods represented, such as pizza, bratwurst and kebabs.


But if you’re into Thai fish cakes, fermented sausages or spring rolls, you’ll find them aplenty. Just grab whatever takes your fancy. You’ll usually find a place to sit down and have a drink, probably at a bar along the walking street.You’ll also find cocktail stands selling cut-price cocktails, which will be handed to you in a plastic beaker.On the hoof at Samui’s walking streets.


Aside from food and drink, walking streets also specialize in clothes and local products. Clothes can usually be bargained for, but it can be hard to try them on as there are no fitting rooms. You can in some instances try on clothes behind the stall, though that’s hardly private. T-shirts, children’s clothing, jeans are easily found, as are accessories such as bags, belts and jewellery.


If you’re looking for a souvenir to take home, you’re bound to find a range at any walking street. From notebooks where you can have a name stamped on the front, to items made out of coconuts, carved soap, paintings by local artists, to carved leather and toys, you may find yourself buying more than you intended to.


For a round-up of the most popular, the walking street at Fisherman’s Village is one of the best simply because it takes place not once a week but three times: on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And if you arrive early, you can park at The Wharf. Fridays is the big night, however, with the other two days being very much smaller affairs. Wednesday nights, check out the walking street at Central Festival. It spills over to Chaweng Lake and once you have finished you can relax at Central Festival itself. If you’re in Choeng Mon, on the main road close to Royal Muang Samui Villas, there’s also a small market there with a good representation of different Thai foods.


Maenam’s walking street takes place on Thursdays, and occupies the two streets that run down to the sea at Chinatown. Parking can be a problem, but you’ll be able to park at Wat Phu Khao Thong then walk down. Check out the Chinese temple while you browse the stalls.


On Saturdays, head for sleepy Bang Kao, right down in the south of Samui for a very laid-back market scene, close to the sea. The village is located in one of the most traditional parts of the island, and the pace of life here has remained pretty much unchanged over the decades. Alternatively, head for Chaweng Lake and right opposite Central Festival you’ll find a very large, buzzy night market, with people shopping here for food and souvenirs and combining their visit with time spent at the mall over the road.


Lamai has a walking street on Sundays which stretches from the bridge along the beach road. It’s quite comprehensive and you’ll find a big range of foods, goods and clothing here.


Walking streets are definitely a must when it comes to the big question, what to do in the evening. Chances are that there will be one near you and if you take the time to go and immerse yourself in the heady atmosphere, you’ll find plenty of interest. A fun evening out and certainly one that doesn’t break the bank!




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