Shopping in Bangkok
Regular visitors to Asia know that, in many ways, Bangkok beats Hong Kong and Singapore for good deals on handicrafts, taxtiles, gems, jewellery, art and antiques – nowhere else will you find the same quality, prices and selection. The difficulty is finding the good spots, as the city's intense urban tangle makes orientation sometimes difficult. Phenomenal bargains can be found at the city's endless variety of markets. Most are an odd assortment of plastic toys, household goods and polyester clothes in Asian sizes mixed with knock-off designer watches and bags. Even more interesting are the food markets, where food-savvy Thais forage for brightly colored tapioca desserts, spicy curries and fruit that look like medieval torture devices.
Also known as Chatuchak Market (Talat Nat jatujak; open 8am-6pm Saturday- Sunday) this is the behemoth of Thai markets. On weekends 15,000 stalls cater to en estimated 200,000 visitors a day. Everything is sold here, from live chickens and snakes to opium pipes and herbal remedies. Thai clothing such as sarongs for men (phaa-khaw-maa) and women (phaa-sin), Chinese pants (kaang-keng-jiin) and blue, cotton farmer's shirts (seua-mor-hawm) are good buys. You'll also find musical instruments, hill-tribe crafts, religious amulets, antiques, flowers, clothes imported from India and Nepal, camping gear and military surplus. The best bargains are household goods such as spots and pans, dishes and drinking glasses. If you're moving to Thailand for an extended period, pick up stuff here for your kitchen. Don't forget to try out your bargaining skills.
There is an information centre, a couple of banks with ATMs and foreign-exchange booths at the Chatuchak Park offices, near the northern end of the market's Soi 1, Soi 2 and Soi 3. Schematic maps and toilets are conveniently located throughout the market. Plan to spend a full day, as there's plenty to see, so and buy. The main part of the Weekend Market is open from around 8am to 6pm on weekends, although some places may stay open as late as 8pm. There are a few vendors out on weekday mornings and a daily vegetable, plant and flower market opposite the market's southern side. One section of the latter, known as the Aw Tor Kor Market, sells organically grown fruit and vegetables. The Weekend Market is in the northern part of the city, next to Chatuchak Park, and near the Northern bus terminal. Air-con bus No. 502, 503, 509, 510, 512 and 513, and ordinary bus No. 77 and a dozen others stop at the market. The Skytrain runs direct to Moh Chit station, which stands almost in front of the market.
Operated by the Asoke Foundation, the vegetarian restaurant near the Weekend Market is one of Bangkok's oldest. It's open only on weekends from 8am to noon and is an adventure to find. If you're successful, then this is a real treasure. Take a footbridge across Thanon Kamphaeng Phet, away from the market, and towards the southern end of Thanon Phahonyothin. Take the first right onto a through street, and walk past nightclubs and bars into what looks like a car park. Head to your right, and you'll see a new block of buildings selling bulk food stuff; you're getting closer because these are organic wholesalers. The restaurant is at the end of this strip. Prices are ridiculously low (around 15-20 Baht per dish) and you buy tickets at the front desk. There is plenty of interesting and tasty food for sale within the market, if you're too tired to hunt for the restaurant and there is live music in the early evening.
The Phahurat and Chinatown districts have interconnected markets selling tonnes of fabric, clothing and home wares, as well as a few places selling gems and jewelery. Famous Sampeng Lane (Soi Wanit 1) runs roughly parallel to Thanon Yaowarat, bisecting the two districts. Fabric shops – many operated by Indian (mostly Sikh) as the western edge of Chinatown approaches the Indian district of Phahurat. In the vicinity of Thanon Chakrawat in this area, Sampeng Lane favours gem and jewelery shops. If you follow Thanon Chakrawat north from Soi Wanit, you can have a look around the Chinese-Thai antique shops of Nakhon Kasem, also known as the Thieves Market (at one time stolen goods were commonly sold here).
The Saphan Han market area, named after a short bridge over khlong Ong Ang, supports a bevy of vendors selling noodles and snacks. Stretching westward from Thanon Chakraphet to Thanon Triphet is the Phahurat Market, devoted almost exclusively to textiles and clothing. Thanon Phahurat itself runs parallel to, and just north of the market. If you're ready to escape the market hustle and bustle, you can catch city buses on Thanon Chakraphet (heading north and then east to the Siam Square and Pratunam areas) or along Thanon Phahurat (heading west and then north along Thanon Tri Thong to the Banglamphu district). Or walk to the river and catch a Chao Phraya River Express boat from Tha Saphan Phut, which is just to the northwest of Phra Phuttha Yot fa (Memorial) Bridge.
The Nailert Market, (Thanon Phetburi, Pratunam, open 8am-6pm daily) is opposite the Amari Watergate Hotel. It was opened as a central alternative to Chatuchak Market. The array of goods is similar. Nearby Pratunam Market (Thanon Phetburi & Thanon Ratchaprarop; open 8am-6pm daily) gets very crowded. You won't see it from the street – look for one of unmarked entrances that lead behind the main shop fronts. Under the expressway in the Khlong Toey district is the Khlong Toey Market (Thanon Phra Ram IV & Thanon Narong), possibly the cheapest all-purpose market in Bangkok (it's best on Wednesday). South of the Khlong Toey Market, closer to the port, is the similar Penang Market, so called because a lot of the goods 'drop off' cargo boats from Penang (and Singapore, Hong Kong etc).
The huge Banglamphu Market spreads several blocks over Thanon Chakraphong, Thanon Phra Sumen, Thanon Tanao and Thanon Rambutri, a short walk from the guest house area of Thanon Khao San. The Banglamphu Market area is probably the most comprehensive shopping district in the city as it encompasses everything from street vendors to upmarket department stores. Soi Lalaisap (Soi 5, Thanon Silom; open 8am-6pm daily), also known as the 'money melting street', has a number of vendors selling all sorts of cheap clothing, watches and home wears during the day. The Wong Wian Yai Market in Thonburi, next to the large roundabout directly southwest of Saphan Phra Phuttha Yot Fa, is another all-purpose market.
Flower Markets the city's largest wholesale flower source is Pak Khlong (Ko Rattanakosin; open 8am-6pm daily), near the river and the mouth of Khlong Lawt, between Thanon Atsadang and Saphan Phra Phuttha Yot Fa. The colorful displays of baby roses, delicate orchids and button carnations are endless and so inexpensive that even a cement-cell dweller on Thanon Khao San could afford a bouquet. Pak Khlong is also a big market for vegetables. You'll find a good selection of tropical flowers and plants is available at the Thewet Market (Thanon Krung Kasem; open 8am-6pm daily), which is northwest of Banglamphu near Tha Thewet. Talat Phahonyothin (Phahonyothin Market; open 8am-6pm daily) is the newest and largest plant market, and is opposite the southern side of Chatuchak Market, near the Nothern bus terminal off Thanon Phahonyothin.
Tourist Markets the main guest house strip in Banglamphu, Thanon Khao San, has itself become a shopping bazaar offering cheap audio tapes, used books, jewellery, beads, clothing, Thai 'axe pillows', T-shirts, tattoos, body piercing and just about any other product or service. At night Patpong Soi 1 and Soi 2 fill up with vendors selling cheap tourist junk, inexpensive clothing, fake watches – you name it. Along both sides of Thanon Sukhumvit between Soi 1 and Soi 5, there are also lots of street vendors selling similar items.
Department Stores & Shopping Centres
Bangkok may be crowded and polluted, but its department stores are modern oases of order. By no accident, the Skytrain stations often have shaded walkways delivering passengers directly in to nearby stores, never having to set foot on ground level. Central Department Store is generally regarded as the all-round best for quality and selection, with 13 branches in Bangkok, including the flagship store on Thanon Ploenchit, near Chit Lom Skytrain station. In addition to designer clothes, Western cosmetics, fabrics, furniture, handicrafts and an attached supermarket, the store offers free alterations to all clothing purchases and free delivery to Bangkok hotels.
Peninsula Plaza (Thanon Ratchadamri) has a more exclusive selection of shops – many of which also have branches at River City and Oriental Plaza – and a good-sized branch of Asia Books.
Siam Paragon is a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand. It is one of the biggest shopping centers in Asia. Opened on December 9, 2005, it includes a wide range of specialty stores and restaurants as well as a multiplex movie theater (consisted of 15 large size theaters with one of the them having the biggest screen and seating capacity in Asia) and the Siam Ocean World (Underwater world) aquarium (the largest aquarium in South East Asia) and an exhibition hall and the Thai Art Gallery and also an opera concert hall. It also has a large bowling alley and karaoke center. It is a joint venture by Siam Piwat, the company that owns the adjacent Siam Center/Siam Discovery shopping malls, and The Mall Group, which also owns The Emporium. Siam Paragon has attracted large crowds since it opened, but financial results aren't reported by the privately held Siam Paragon Development.
Located is on Rama I Road in Pathum Wan district, and is adjacent to other shopping areas. It is next door to Siam Center and Siam Discovery Center and opposite Siam Square. MBK Center is also nearby. An elevated walkway beneath the BTS Skytrain tracks links Siam Paragon to the Ratchaprasong intersection, where Central World, Gaysorn and several other shopping malls and hotels are located.
Gourmet Market and food halls, the Gourmet Market is an 8,000 square meter internationally oriented grocery store on the ground level of the shopping center, it carries a vast selection of top imported competing brands and foodstuff items from various nations in Europe, Japan, Korea, and Malaysia, as well as quality exotic brands such as those from Sri Lanka. Domestic Thailand produced items carried often have different flavours or are speciality brands which are not usually stocked elsewhere in Thailand. The sheer number of unique items here is among the most diverse in Thailand, with many expatriate chefs creating their own local brands. The front half of the store is oriented to trial tasting of wide variety of items, and a fresh market with freshness and presentation not typical of Thai supermarkets. It is adjacent to a food court and bread shops area that has a wide range of restaurants and food stalls.
Foreign and foreign oriented restaurants, Siam Paragon has several restaurants and food outlets from other countries, including Tony Roma's, McDonald's, KFC, Häagen-Dazs, Swensen's Ice Cream, LeNotre, MOS Burger, Saint Etoile Bakery, Orvin and many others. Popular domestically run foreign oriented restaurants include Fuji Japanese, Kabuki Japanese Restaurant. Expatriate chef run and operated food outlets add an artistic and creative streak to the otherwise chain dominated scene of Thai malls outside of the Siam Station area.
Siam Ocean World, inside Siam Paragon is "Siam Ocean World", the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia where featuring marine animals which include; Penguins, Grey Nurse Sharks and Giant Spider Crabs etc. The aquarium also offers a "Dive with the Sharks program" for about 6000 baht where visitors can scuba dive in the Open Ocean side by side with the sharks and rays. The aquarium also features "Sanyo 4D X-venture" a state of the art 4D Theater. Siam Paragon, an Australian company, uses a two tier pricing system. Thai looking customers are charged 380 baht for adults and 280 baht for children, others are charged 900 baht and 650 baht respectively.
Transportation, BTS Skytrain Sukhumvit Line and Silom Line – Siam station has a skybridge linked to Siam Paragon's M floor. Parking – 100,000 squares meters with spaces to accommodate 4,000 cars.
Siam Square (Thanon Phra Ram I), near Thanon Phayathai, is a network of some 12 lanes lined with shop selling mid-price designer clothes, books, sporting goods and antiques. On the opposite side of Thanon Phra Ram I, the four-story Siam Center was Thailand's first shopping centre (built in 1976). It features designer and brand-label clothing shops – Benetton, Quicksilver, Chaps, Esprit, and Lacoste to name a few, as well as coffee shops, travel agencies, banks and airline offices. Next door, and connected by an enclosed pedestrian yet more designer stores, plus a branch of Asia Books, stylish home ware shops and several large restaurants.
Anchored by Central Department Store, the six-story Silom Complex (Thanon Silom; Sala Daeng Skytrain station) remains one of the city's busiest shopping centres. Also on the same street is the upscale Thaniya Plaza, with good quality clothing boutiques, bookshops, jewellery shops and more.
Old Siam Plaza, bounded by Thanon Charoen Krung, Thanon Burapha, Thanon Phahurat and Thanon Tripet, is the most significant development ever in this area. A long with the renovation and reopening of the adjacent Chalermkrung Royal Theater, this old Bangkok style shopping centre represents a minor renaissance for an otherwise shabby and congested district. Most of the shops purvey Thai-style goods and services; one whole side is devoted to gun dealers, another to gem and jewellery shops, the rest to Thai handicrafts, furniture, restaurants and coffee shops.
Mahboonkrong (MBK; Siam Square) shopping centre is loved by teenagers; it has many small, inexpensive stalls and shops selling cell-phone accessories, cheap T-shirts, wallets, handbags, in addition to Diesel shoes, Paul Frank accessories and the middle-class Tokyu department store. The travel Mart on the 3rd floor stocks a reasonable supply of travel gear and camping equipment – not the highest quality but useful in pinch. North of Siam Square, Pantip Plaza (Thanon Phetburi) specialises in computer equipment and software.
Gaysorn Plaza (Thanon Ploenchit) has been transformed into a haute couture catwalk, with spiraling staircases and all white halls. In addition to top-name designers, there are several shops on the top floor specialising in furniture and home furnishing, both antique and contemporary Thai.
Emporium (between Soi 22 & Soi 24, Thanon Sukhumvit) has six floors of what's-hot as well as popular eateries and escalators full of stylish shoppers. Prada, Miu Miu and Chanel even share space with a bookstore Kinokuniya. It is also so conveniently located that you can do a shot of retail therapy before the Sunday afternoon meditation sessions at nearby World Fellowship of Buddhists.
Sogo (494 Thanon Ploenchit), a Japanese department store, is the proud host of the Thai Craft Museum Shop, formerly located in Gaysorn Plaza. In addition to its clothing stores, the supermarket gets rave reviews for interesting Japanese imports.