Of all the thrilling experiences to be had in The Land of Smiles, Bangkok shopping is the one where you’ll get the most value for money. No matter what it is you are looking for, Bangkok markets and malls are sure to have it in abundance and at a fantastic low price too.
From the towering size and gleaming chrome of its ultra modern, shiny and swanky air conditioned malls to the buzzing hive of activity at the swarming outdoor market of Chatuchak, Bangkok is the best place to blow your holiday budget. No matter where you end up in the city, you’ll find a huge variety of souvenirs, gifts, antiques, electrical goods, clothes, jewelry and more. Bangkok shopping is an experience like no other, and with such an exhaustive range of goods on offer you’ll need to leave plenty of room in your suitcase!
Where to go
There’s literally no end to of places to go and splash the cash in Bangkok, as the city is awash with glitzy shopping malls, bustling markets and screaming vendors coming at you from all angles. For the latest in designer goods, inexpensive jewelry, cheap clothes, books and high quality electrical items get yourself down to one of Bangkok’s numerous shopping malls. Meanwhile if you’re on a tight budget or if you just want to practice your skills in the finer arts of bargaining for a price, check out some of the exciting outdoor Bangkok markets, where you can find a mountain of cheap clothes, handicrafts, CD’s, DVD’s, bags, travel gear and even animals!
Bangkok is renowned for its cheap prices for certain kinds of products, and it’s also known as a place to pick up pirated goods of every kind. Much of the fun of Bangkok shopping is to be had in the walking around, discovering things and trying to negotiate a bargain price, but in order to do this well it’s best to arm yourself with a little background knowledge before you go.
Cheap clothing abounds in the Bangkok markets, and while the quality of some items can be poor, in most cases it is good enough and cheap enough to be worthwhile. Destinations such as the market at Pratunam, or the MBK and Platinum shopping malls are the best places to find cheap clothes. At these places you’ll be able to pick up decent quality T-shirts for 100-200 baht, a pair of jeans for 500-1000 baht, women’s shoes for 200-300 baht. Meanwhile, accessories such as hand bags are plentiful, and often some good quality copies of brand names can be found for less than 500 baht.
If you’re more interested in local handiworks and crafts, then the huge outdoor market at Chatuchak is the place for you. You can buy fine Thai silks (500 baht or less), lacquerware baskets (under 1000 baht, depending on the size) or cheap pottery (under 500 baht), all of which make great souvenirs.
Pirated DVD’s and CD’s are famous in Bangkok, indeed you’ll probably have quite a bit of trouble in finding some that are not copied! Expect to pay 80 – 100 baht each, though some merchants may offer discounts if you buy more.
Bargaining for goods
Bargaining in Asia is the normal practice outside of big shopping malls, and it’s no different with Bangkok shopping, where it’s a very subtle art. It will undoubtedly require a degree of skill in order for you to master it and get yourself the best possible prices. Anytime you visit a Bangkok market, such as the enormous outdoor one at Chatuchak, pay attention to some of the following tips that will help you save yourself a packet:
- Never name a price, always insist that the seller names the first price
- Whatever they say, don’t accept it!
- Judge for yourself the true value of whatever it is you are buying, and never pay more than you are comfortable with
- Remember to be friendly and smile! Don’t forget this is just a friendly negotiation after all, it pays to be diplomatic, so be patient
- Last off all, don’t be too mean. While it’s certainly reasonable to try and save yourself a few hundred baht, arguing the toss over 10 Baht is probably going a little too far.
Bangkok shopping malls are big enough and plentiful enough to compare with any self-respecting American or European city, and you’ll be able to find a wide selection of luxury goods, brand names and international restaurants.
Siam Paragon – Prepare for the ultimate in high class shopping at the glamorous, luxury Siam Paragon shopping mall, the number one spot for Bangkok’s rich elite. Beware though, for it comes with big prices to match its status! Packed full of designer label boutiques, including the likes of Versace, Gucci and Chanel, with gourmet food restaurants and dozens of cinema screens, bowling alleys and more, Siam Paragon really does have it all, but only if you can afford it!
Where: Rama I Road, Pathumwan
Best Buys: Gold, jewelry, designer label clothes
MBK – The favorite downtown Bangkok shopping destination for multitudes of bargain-hunting tourists and Thais alike, MBK can almost be considered an air conditioned Bangkok market! Shiny and spotless like its Siam Paragon neighbor across the street, that’s where the similarities end for you won’t see a single designer label anywhere here. MBK is home to literally hundreds of small boutiques, emporiums and stalls, with the widest range of goods you’ll find anywhere in town. As well as the seemingly limitless amounts of clothes, jewelry and souvenirs on offer, MBK is perhaps most well known for its electrical goods, with one whole floor dedicated to the sale of laptops, mobile phones, CD’s, MP3’s and a whole lot more.
Where: Rama I Road, Pathumwan
Best Buys: Computer accessories, mobile phones, tailor made clothes
Platinum Mall – For clothes shopping there’s no better place than the Platinum Mall in the Pratunam district. Featuring six sprawling floors of small boutiques and privately owned stores, this new shopping complex is great for bargains on all kinds of clothing, including jeans, t-shirts, shorts, hats, shoes, bags, jewelry, swimwear and accessories of every kind!
Where: Phetchaburi Road, Ratchathewi
Best Buys: Clothing, hats, shoes, bags, fashion accessories
The biggest difference between Bangkok shopping markets and the markets you are used to back at home is in the price, and we don’t just mean because it’s cheaper! One of the most fun aspects of shopping at Bangkok markets is that you have to bargain the price down for everything you buy, so never accept the first price you are quoted!
Chatuchak Market (Weekend Market) – Only open on Saturday’s and Sunday’s, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is easily one of the biggest outdoor markets in South East Asia, resembling a labyrinth with its network of narrow alleyways and side streets that are just choc-a-block with shoppers. Chatuchak is a must-visit destination in the Bangkok shopping program for all you shop-a-holics out there, with all manner of Thai crafts and silks available, as well as ceramics, furniture, ornaments, clothes and there’s even a huge section dedicated to live animals, including lizards, tarantulas and snakes to name just a few! Just remember that Chatuchak market can get very hot and very, very busy, so you might want to bring a fan with you, and don’t forget to dress light.
Where: Pahonyothin Road, Chatuchak
Best Buys: Local handicrafts, glassware, art & craft, clothes
Lumpini Night Bazaar – Another fantastic spot to shop till you drop is at the Lumpini Night Bazaar, the first ever open air market in Bangkok. Only open in the evenings (hence the name), this market is one of the most vibrant and diverse that the city has to offer, with well lit shops trading everything from furniture and home accessories to great value silver jewelry and pets, while of course there is a bundle of cheap clothing to choose from as well. After you’re done shopping, make your way to the huge outdoor beer garden to enjoy refreshing drinks and the hilarious nightly cabaret show.
Where: Wireless Road, Samsen Nai
Best Buys: Handicrafts, gold, silver
Khao San Road – The backpacker’s Mecca of Khao San Road, home to hordes of hairy travelers, cheap guesthouse, restaurants and pubs is also the stage for one of the most thriving markets in the city. Everything from arts, crafts, and jewelry to clothes, books and DVD’s can be had here, while the ever-present carnival atmosphere means that Bangkok shopping is not the only entertainment you’ll find here. It’s even possible to get your portrait done here, you’re hair braided, or go and get that tattoo that you’ve always craved.
Where: Khao San Road, Banglamphu
Best Buys: Travel accessories (suitcases, bags, maps), souvenirs, books
Pratunam Market – The market at Pratunam, set in the shadows of the Baiyoke Tower (Thailand’s tallest building), is the one of the biggest of its kind in Bangkok. One of the most chaotic and colorful areas of Bangkok, the focus at Pratunam is mostly on clothes, although it’s also a good place to pick up fabrics and textiles, cheap watches, CD’s and DVD’s.
Where: Phaya Thai Road, Rathchathewi
Best Buys: Clothes, fabrics, textiles