Serious shoppers and those who believe that seeing where and how people shop reveals something about their culture should make sure to see the spectrum of shopping experiences Bangkok has to offer. Visit the mega-posh mega-malls to get a glimpse of the hi-so (high-society) life, then spend a few hours in Chinatown wandering through the warren of little stalls that make up Sampang Lane.
In fact, malls and markets make up most of the shopping in the city and you’ll find both in almost every neighborhood. The Siam Square area is the central shopping district and it’s here you’ll find the biggest malls as well as Siam Square itself, a cute shopping neighborhood just next door to Chulalongkorn University, with lots of inexpensive shops catering to students and plenty of places to snack, too. As of 2011, part of Siam Square is being upgraded and renovated, but many of the small shops will remain for the foreseeable future.
Chinatown, still a trading neighborhood, offers some of the city’s most interesting shopping experiences. Walk through the small streets just next to the river to see wholesalers offering cheap, trendy shoes by the dozen, next to merchants in ancient-looking shophouses selling jasmine rice by the kilo out of giant burlap bags. Then walk through one of the many wet markets (meat and produce markets) in the area over to Little India to see where many of the city’s tailors still buy their fabric and sewing notions.
The edge of Silom, along the river just under Chinatown, has some of the city’s best high-end antiques shopping. Charoen Krung Road is lined with antiques and silver jewelry shops and is a great place to walk and window shop, provided it isn’t too hot.
Downtown also has its share of malls where you’ll be able to get all your necessities and even pick up souvenirs, as well as some great little lunch markets for more interesting and less expensive stuff. Farther east, on Sukhumvit Road, are malls and some standalone shops hidden in the sois (side streets). As this neighborhood is more residential, it’s here you’ll find plenty of furniture and housewares.
The only neighborhood where you won’t find a variety of shopping is in the Old City, which is dominated by markets and some small shops. Shopping at one of Bangkok’s many markets is an essential part of the Bangkok shopping experience, whether you’re looking for cheap shoes and clothes or just want to people watch, so you won’t be left out if you’re staying in the Old City.
Wherever you happen to be there’s likely to be a market close by. And if you don’t want to shop during the day, there are plenty of night markets, too. If you’re here over a weekend and enjoy shopping, don’t miss Chatuchak. It’s one of the largest markets in the world, has an amazing selection and reasonable prices, and is easy to get to on public transportation.
At touristy markets, such as the Patpong or Sukhumvit Night Markets, haggling is expected. At wet markets or more local markets, the only discount you’ll get off the stated price is if you’re buying in bulk or it’s the end of the day. Remember that wherever you are shopping, return policies are either nonexistent or very stringent and once you buy something you’ll rarely be able to return or exchange it.
- Best Market for Everything: Chatuchak Weekend Market
- Best Shopping for Teenagers: Platinum Fashion Mall
- Quirkiest Night Market: Ratchada-Lad Phrao Night Market
- Best Market for People-Watching: Sampeng Lane Covered Market
- Best One-Stop Shopping: Narai Phand
- Best Places for Souvenirs: Support Foundation and Thai Home Industries
- Most Famous Designer: Issue
© Suzanne Nam from Moon Bangkok, 5th Edition