From Bangkok, there are only a few beach options within driving distance — namely, Pattaya and Hua Hin. While Pattaya tends to be favored by sexpats and groups of gawking Chinese tourists, Hua Hin is usually the place chosen by Thai and expat couples.
The nearby province of Prachuap Khiri Khan has secluded resorts and a gorgeous coastline, to be sure. The one issue with that locale is that there is little in the way of nightlife.
That’s fine if you came to quietly romance your partner at a swanky resort, but when you want to get out in the evening, you’ll find little beyond the trashy pleasures of imbibing at the night market, guzzling convenience store beer while eating street food, or visiting the tourist bars along the periphery of the tourist route.
Venture a bit further out of town, though, and there’s the Cicada Market, which offers a cooler, artsier, more diverse experience. It’s open Fridays through Sundays from 4pm until 11pm, and any tuk-tuk driver will be able to deliver you to the market entrance. Once there, you’ll be greeted by a large neon sign letting you know you’re in the right place.
After walking under the lantern-lit entrance arch, it’s chill vibes all around. Most of the goods for sale are made by the smiling vendors and artists who are there to ply them. We pored over handmade soaps and candles, trays of crystals, blown glass, crafty tie-dye, and endless landscape paintings that tourists can (and do) roll up to take home.
But shopping is only the tip of what this market offers. It also has two amphitheaters at opposite ends. At one, a free play was happening on the night we visited. Apparently this stage hosts everything from children’s shows and breakdancing, to traditional Thai music and dance.
At the other end, inside a gated garden, and for an entry fee of THB200 (US$6), was a show that involved segments of stand-up comedy and live acoustic music. At this stage, you could grab a table and order bottles of beer and wine.
There are two old white Thai houses in the middle of the market that serve as art galleries for up-and-coming creators to showcase their work. In addition, there are independent painters and other visual artists showing their work throughout Cicada.
If you’re the type that would rather make art than buy it, then you’ve got options there, too. We saw visitors painting under the instruction of artists, a place to make sand art, and even short instructional classes on Thai indigo dyeing, which were free as long as you bought a kerchief (THB200/US$6) or t-shirt (THB350/US$11) to dye from the merchant. Indigo dyeing is a traditional Thai handicraft from Phrae, a Northern province, where artisans mix native indigo plants with tamarind and wood ash to create the signature faded blue hues.
I’ve always wanted to try this — but, alas, we arrived at the market at 9:30pm, which was too late, since dyed creations need to hang for two hours before they can be taken home.
As you wander, you’ll encounter street performers of all kinds. We saw people playing Thai country instruments like the phin and kaen, b-boys rapping and dancing, a boy that could stack endless glass bottles on top of each other, and that guy who paints himself silver all over and stands there, completely still, like a metal statue.
The eating possibilities are also nearly limitless. An al fresco food court sits near the market entrance and serves Thai food from all regions: curry, somtam, fresh seafood, sweets, grilled meats, noodles, sun dried pork, smoothies, and juices. Most can be had for THB100 (US$3) or less. There are other cuisines on offer too. We saw burgers, pizza, and sketchy sushi sitting out in the heat (we passed right by that, thanks very much).
If you want to catch a buzz, bar carts are scattered throughout the market. You can take a beer or fruity cocktail with you to drink as you stroll or pull up a stool and hang out while watching passersby. It’s a wonderful way to see the city at night.
The feeling of this market is unlike the majority of night market experiences throughout Thailand, perhaps because it’s a vacation town with little else going on. It’s slower, nicer, the vendors are smiling, music is playing, and people are relaxing.
If you go, we recommend arriving early and spending the entire evening there.
Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan
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