In September we had the opportunity to stop off at Rong Kluea Market in the Aranyaprathet District of Thailand’s Sa Kaeo Province. Also known as Ban Khlong Luek Border Market, it is said to be one of Thailand’s most frequented border markets. Being in the direct path of so many travelers making their way from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia, that claim is not hard to believe.
How Big is Rong Kluea Market?
Right away it was clear to us that this was one of largest markets we’ve come to encounter. To walk the entire sprawling market would set you back 5 km or just over 3 mi. If you aren’t up for such a long walk there are roaming golf carts that are just biting at the bit to give you a ride. Unlike the mostly clean and tidy markets we are used to in Chiang Mai, the streets at the Rong Kluea Market were blanketed in a layer of dust and debris.
Over 2,000 Cambodian-Chinese and Vietnamese emigrant vendors pour through the border everyday around 7:00 AM to set up shop at the border market in Aranyaprathet.
The path is well beaten here, but don’t let that stop you from an afternoon of exploring this vibrant and lively market.
Why Should I Go To Rong Kluea Market?
The Rong Kluea Market famous for its loads of cheap bulk goods and clothes, but more so for the endless amounts of secondhand items brought in through Cambodia from countries like America, Mexico, Korea, and Japan. The merchants here make livings out of cleaning, restoring, and reselling shoes, jackets, and other articles of clothing. Most of these items were once donated to the people of Cambodia who later brought them to the border to sell and trade.
It isn’t uncommon to see things like military uniforms and equipment strewn across entire alleys of small shops. Most of the sellers have their own small garages within very large hangar like buildings. There were too many of these buildings to count. In fact there are so many that it is very easy to lose track of where you are if you haven’t paid close attention to the steps you’ve taken.
What About Counterfeit or Grey Market Goods?
Yes, as you have probably heard the Rong Kluea Market is notorious for its large blue shophouses distributing cheap knockoff clothing, shoes, and everything in between. It is advised that you carefully look over any items you want to insure you aren’t buying anything that is being sold illegally. On the day we visited most of the garage doors of the iconic blue buildings were closed and locked up because inspectors were scheduled to come by and check for counterfeit activity. Seems as though someone here just might have an inside connection.
Experience the Bustling Rong Kluea Fresh Food Market
After walking for a while we reached the back of the Rong Kluea Market and discovered a fresh food market alive with people from all walks of life.
From people out picking up a few items for dinner, to street food vendors stocking up for a long night of serving delicious 30 baht ($1 USD) meals, what we saw was no less than a sea of organized chaos.
This was one of the rawest market experiences we have had in Thailand to date. The smells bombarded our noses while the sights came in quick flashes of color. It was complete sensory overload and we loved every second of it.
Rong Kluea Market had many different kinds of seafood to include shrimp, various types of fish, and crab more ways than we could count. One that really caught our eyes was mixed with whole red Thai chilies.
The shrimp here were big, colorful, and fresh. If we weren’t just passing through we would have loved to take a bag or two home with us. We are happy in Chiang Mai, but seafood of this quality is something we often miss. Seeing things like this is just a reminder that our upcoming trip to Hua Hin is right around the corner.
As with most other parts of Thailand, the fruit at Rong Kluea Market was not very hard to find.
There were hawkers at every turn chopping open fresh young coconuts and bagging up longan, mangosteen, and rambutan fruit.
We didn’t hesitate to get up close and personal with our camera. We snapped away at almost every food stand that we walked past.
We were greeted with smiles, surprised looks, and curious eyes…and sometimes, combinations of expressions.
We had a great time exploring Rong Kluea Market, and highly recommend that you stop by if you have a chance. It can be easy to simply pass through border towns while doing visa runs or heading off to your next country, but we would argue that this market is worth a closer look.
Rong Kluea Border Market Information:
- The market is open daily from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM
- 255 km east of Bangkok
- Driving time from Bangkok to Rong Kluea Market is 3 to 5 hours depending on mode of transportation
- Buses and vans can be arranged from Bangkok at the Mo Chit Terminal, Ekamai Terminal, Suvarnabhumi Airport, or the Victory monument. Prices range from 200 to 250 baht a ticket.
View Aranyaprathet District in a larger map
We’d like to thank the Tourism Authority of Thailand for a wonderful press trip that covered some amazing places we may not have seen otherwise!