Bangkok is the commercial centre of Thailand and so has by far the greatest range of shopping options anywhere in the country. Whether it’s souvenirs or handicrafts that you’re looking for, some fine Thai silk, a perfectly tailored suit or some of Asia’s best quality gems and jewellery, they can all be found in abundance in Bangkok.
But Bangkok isn’t all about shopping for the premium goods only as there are many markets and street stalls selling imitation designer goods and DVDs at knock down prices. These bustling places also have many great products of a more legitimate variety and can be fantastic places to hone your haggling skills to acquire some real bargains.
You can shop almost 24 hours a day in Bangkok, as there are numerous night markets throughout the city. Most of the markets are located near popular bars and restaurants so you can even fit in a cheeky bit of post-dinner shopping before you move on to Bangkok’s evening entertainment establishments.
So, to help you pick you way through the seemingly endless array of options, here’s a glossary of shopping destinations in Bangkok and where to find everything and anything…
Antiques Thai antiques are steeped in colourful and interesting history, and as well as being beautiful to look at, it is also very valuable. To pick up some of these treasures, head for the River City Complex or to Gaysorn. Most of the items here are Buddhist art and most of what you see is reproductions. They look like the real one but much more affordable.
Books There are bookshops all over Bangkok but most of them only sell Thai publications. If you need to find English language books or magazines, you may proceed to Siam Discovery Center or Siam Paragon, both nearby the Siam BTS station, where branches of Asia Books can be found. Another branch of Asia Books can be found in the Emporium Centre on Sukhumwit road.
There are also a few of second-hand bookshops in most tourist areas especially along Khao San Road. You can trade in your old books as well but don’t expect to get much cash from them!
Camera equipment If you’re looking to stock up on films, memory cards or batteries, there are many convenience stores which are selling these kinds of items everywhere in Bangkok. But if you want to get some more serious kit, the best place to shop is at Pantip Plaza or Fortune Town and MBK Mall at Siam Square where you’ll be spoilt for choice. There are also many specialist camera shops.
Clothing is the dominant product among street vendors and night markets, including the popular Chatichak Weekend market and this includes brand knock offs and casual wear at cheap prices. In Bangkok, you will become very familiar with many slogan t-shirts that seem to be vogue among tourists in Bangkok, often bearing an amusing phrase or a company logo, either in Thai writing or doctored to make a statement of some kind. These can be found everywhere, along with football shirts and other cheap souvenir-type clothing items. The designer clothes can also be found as well as other more practical items, such as bikinis, shoes, shorts or swimming clothes.
Handicrafts There are many attractive, yet affordable handicraft items that can be found in Chatuchak Weekend Market (open on Saturday & Sunday only) at very good prices. A few numbers of small shops are scattered around Sukhumvit Road, Silom Road and Khao San Road and you need to be a good bargainer to get a good price. The Suan Lum Night Bazaar by Lumpini Park is one of the better places to shop with its attached beer gardens and food courts.
Novelty Items If you’re looking for something a bit unusual or rare to take home as a souvenir, then head for some of the ‘funky’ stalls in Chatuchak weekend market where all kinds of fun and novelty items can be purchased including dancing flowers, ‘splattering’ rubber tomatoes, slithering snakes and many more strange and weird objects.
Silk It would be a great shame to leave Thailand without some of its most famous product, Thai silk. Silk is widely sold by street vendors and you can easily get it with some bargaining skill, of course.
Toys Since toys are so cheap in Thailand, it is a must to have if you have a family with young children. Most are made in China and are considerably cheaper than back home. The big department stores and other malls have a dizzy selection that will send the kids wild with excitement. Cheaper but lower quality items are sold at Chatuchak market and by vendors at street side stalls.
Watches At some time during your stay in Bangkok you will probably be approached by a street hawker shoving handfuls of watches into your face, encouraging you to buy these cheap goods. For the real thing, high quality designer watches can be found at outlets in Gaysorn or the complexes.
Wines and spirits Thai wine is still in its infancy and there aren’t many that can compete on a worldwide scale. But you still can buy a decent bottle and make as a nice souvenir for friends.