If you want to buy it, then I think it is safe to say you can get it in Bangkok. Fancy the latest Gucci handbag? Tick. An antique table? Tick. A rabbit in a tutu? Tick. See what I mean!
Shopping in Bangkok is more than just buying the essentials or whiling away a couple of hours on a Saturday; it’s a social experience, a night time activity and chance to often just enjoy some air con! As such, it’s become famous for its shopping. Having visited the city twice – and with still a lot more of it to discover – here are my top five shopping experiences so far, from markets to malls:
1. Chatuchak Weekend Market
In my opinion, there is no greater shopping experience in Bangkok than Chatuchak Weekend Market. I’ve written previously about this retail mecca of more than 15,000 stalls that’s held every Saturday and Sunday; it offers a true South-East Asian shopping experience, with Thai silk, local handiworks, flowers, even pets up for sale. If you want souvenirs to take home, then this is the place to go. There seems to be aisle after aisle of bargain goods, where bartering with a smile is expected, so get stuck in. Make sure you take water, give yourself plenty of time, check out some of the street food for sale when you need a rest and remember – you will get lost, so embrace it and buy something you like when you see it, as it’s more than likely you won’t find it again!
Address: Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok
2. MBK Center
The MBK Center is where a lot of people head when the heat and maze of Chatuchak gets to be too much. I found it to be a more restrained version of the famous weekend market, easier to navigate but with higher, yet still affordable, prices – probably to account for cost of the air-con! Alongside the typical clothing, shoes and accessories, MBK boasts an impressive electronics floor which promises to provide everything you might need in terms of computing, mobile phones and photography. Fancy some gold jewellery? Then this is your place! MBK is also home to an abundance of knock-off items, from Mulberry bags to Breitling watches, if you are after that sort of thing. Eight stories with 2,000 shops promise to keep you entertained for a while, but if you need more, there’s also a good food court, bowling, cinema and karaoke to explore.
Address: 444 Phayathai Rd, Bangkok, Pathumwan 10330
3. Asiatique The Riverfront
As the latest of Bangkok’s ‘lifestyle’ shopping destinations, this open air, refined market has a prime waterfront location, gourmet restaurants, laid back bars and glossy market stalls located in the old warehouses of the East Asiatic Company. It’s worked hard to combine a night market and shopping mall, opening from only 5pm to midnight each day. More than 1,500 shops offer a mix of authentic souvenirs, fashion and higher end consumer goods, with the place split clearly and easily into four sections to make browsing easier. Once you are shopped out, there are 40 restaurants offering a wide variety of international cuisine, so it’s the perfect place to spend an evening. For a change, arrive on their free shuttle riverboat to enjoy the view as you approach.
Address: Chareonkrung Soi 74-76, Bangkok
4. Siam Paragon
If you like your labels and have some extra cash to splash, then the Siam Paragon is for you. From Burberry through to Swarovski, it offers five floors of air-conditioned, sparklingly clean browsing in 250 stores. You can fill your bags with high-end fashion, designer technology or premium beauty products. Once you’ve had had enough of the luxury stores, then head down to the basement to discover the Siam Ocean World aquarium, one of the largest in South East Asia, or up to the top floor for an IMAX cinema. Even if you can’t afford to purchase anything, the contrast between the hot, busy streets outside makes it a welcome stop off point.
Address: Rama 1 Rd, Pathumwan, 991, Bangkok 10330
5. Khao San Road
Known as the backpacking destination of Bangkok, this offers a very specific type of shopping that I found was more of an experience than a pleasure. If you are carrying your world on your back for a couple of months, then it’s a great place to pick up some fisherman’s pants, second hand books, sunglasses, beaded jewellery or knock-off t-shirts. You can also experience that other joy of clothes shopping in South East Asia – cheap tailoring. With plenty of stores offering to create custom-made suits, shirts or dresses to fit, there is an abundance of styles and prices available. If you are around for a few days, stop by and see what they could whip up for you.
Address: Khao San Road, Khwaeng Talat Yot, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Bangkok
This is just a taste of some of the destinations for the shopaholic in Bangkok. If you’ve been, I’d love to hear your recommendations and top finds!