Bangkok has grown to become one of Asia's premier stops for shopping. Prices are affordably low and the variety is startling. Best of all, bargaining is de rigueur at most places. Thai silks, gemstones, cheap clothing and traditional handicrafts are all highlights of shopping in Bangkok.
Thai silks, gemstones, cheap clothing and traditional handicrafts are all highlights of shopping in Bangkok. Everywhere you turn, you will encounter a myriad of malls, markets, complexes and stores, all of them seeking to entice you to part with that tourist dollar.
Shops generally open from 10.00am to 10.00pm everyday of the week, and the night markets carry on even after store closing time. English is spoken in most places. However, learning some basic Thai could come in handy when negotiating a better deal.
At the top of my list is a well-kept secret of Bangkok's fashionistas. Trendy Soi Thong Lo is fast becoming one of the hippest and most interesting shopping districts in Bangkok.
High-rise condos, quaint restaurants, stylish stores and eclectic art galleries litter the whole stretch.
This once dead street now draws a young and fashionable crowd, and is also home to the unique Playground and H1 complexes.
So quickly head down to Thong Lo to discover its many hidden wonders before it becomes swamped with curious tourists.
The gem of Thong Lo has got to be the recently opened Playground complex. Situated in the middle of Soi Thong Lo, this three storey black monolith-like centre is a shopping experience not to be missed. The place is literally so über cool, it hurts.
The first floor houses the most extensive range of international magazine titles that I have ever come across. There are also two cafes and a small music section. The second floor is filled with young Thai designer fashions, art/ design books, toys and stationary. An exhibition space and a restaurant occupies the third floor, which is also filled with wacky home decoration and furniture pieces.
H1 Urban Complex
H1 is a cluster of small and stark white buildings, surrounded by lush green scrubs and trees.
Located near the end of the Soi Thong Lo stretch, H1 is the epitome of trendy lifestyle in Bangkok and is supposedly owned by several Thai celebrities.
This ultra modern and hip complex includes an Italian import furniture store, a Mediterranean restaurant, an ice cream parlour, a novelty gift shop, an art / design book store and two lounge clubs. If you despise crowded joints, you would be delighted to know that H1 is very quiet and cozy, even in the evenings.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Chatuchak Weekend Market is the undisputed world's largest weekend market.
It is a sprawling crowded mess covering a vast area of 35 acres. Chatuchak is only opens during the weekends and boasts more than 15,000 stalls that sell virtually everything under the sun.
From antiques to exotic pets and everything else in between, there is absolutely nothing that you cannot find here. The range of products on sale is extensive and startling, but it sort of repeats itself from store to store.
Over 200, 000 tourists and locals visit Chatuchak in a single day, and they spend an estimated total amount of 30 million baht (approx. US$750, 000). Intense competition keeps the prices extremely low. Bargaining is mandatory at Chatuchak and the prices are substantially cheaper than what is being offered at the major shopping centres and street stalls found along Sukhumvit and Silom.
Chatuchak is deliberately segregated into specific areas and sections depending on the type of goods sold. Unfortunately, it still feels like a disorientating jam-packed maze of hot, dirty and narrow alleys. Not exactly the most comfortable shopping experience. Be cautious of pickpockets.
Many of them abound and are waiting for that perfect opportunity to make themselves richer at your expense. I know about this for a fact, as I have been an unfortunate victim myself. So beware!
MBK Centre (Pictured, left and top)
Mah Boon Krong or MBK centre is the most visited mall in the whole of Thailand. At 8-story high and 330 meters long, it is one of the largest shopping centres in Asia.
Everyday, an estimated 105,000 customers go to this one-stop mega mall to do their shopping. Most of the items sold here are value-for-money and are of a reasonably good quality. You can find products and services to satisfy all your daily needs. Local Thais come here to shop for their clothing, cosmetics, jewellry, electronics, furniture, etc.
The complex boasts cinemas, karaoke lounges, amusement centres, numerous restaurants and a Tokyu departmental store. There is also a very popular food court on the top floor. Check out the many tidbit and snack shops that specialise in dried sundries and other Thai foodstuffs, which you could buy back home. MBK centre is also famous for having many good stores that cater to selling imitation designer jeans. www.mbk-centre.com/en
Located just beside the Siam BTS interchange station, trendy Siam Square is a haven for teenagers and yuppies alike.
Here you will find funky youth culture, vintage fashions, high quality imitation goods, cinemas and a host of reasonably priced eateries.
Every weekend, indie rock bands and break dancers take turns to perform at the outdoor amphitheatre in the middle of Siam Square. Shops and goods found at Siam Square have a tendency to look very "kawaii" or "pop".
This hangout for students and youths is littered with small little interesting shops that offer mainly locally designed fashion. For ethnically inspired men's wear, check out Thai label "Issue". Also try not to miss the eclectic "It's Happened to be a Closet" and the award winning desert shop "Mango Tango". You can also get a foot or authentic Thai massage at Siam Square when your body starts to ache from all that shopping.