There are numerous
good buys in Thailand, manufactured goods as well as handicrafts
and arts. There is the world famous Thai silk, almost
a must for any visitor.
the worldís leading exporter of gem stones. There are semi-precious
stones (opals, jades, topazes, turquoises, amethysts, zircons, etc.)
and genuine precious stones (sapphires, rubies, emeralds and diamonds)
worked into jewelry in traditional Thai and modern designs.
the country offers good value in gold ornaments, gleaming
silver and nielloware, bronzeware, pewterware, ceramics and specially
high-fired celadon as well as wood carvings.
In termís of
price, Bangkok is one of the most competitive cities in the region,
if not the world. If one doesnít have too much time, hotel shopping
arcades are the most convenient places for Bangkokís most popular
buys. Unlike elsewhere hotel shops in Bangkok do not necessarily
charge more than outside stores.
Those who are
content with fakes of world famous brand name articles can
find a wide selection on sidewalks in tourist areas. Fake designer
clothes and fake watches dominate this part of shopping
is possible at almost all shops except department stores, and it
is necessary to get good prices. A discount of 10 to 20 percent
on the first asked prices is almost self-understood. When shopping
for gems, antiques or handicrafts, much bigger discounts are not
unusual. The higher priced an item, the more is bargaining expected.
itís advisable to maintain a sense of humor. One sometimes
has the impression that vendors see it as kind of a game. Establishing
a friendly relationship with the vendor usually brings better result
than a more formal approach. Bargaining in Bangkok is much more
pleasant than for example in Hong Kong where storekeepers immediately
build up pressure on the potential customer to buy an item for which
the price has ben asked.
While in Hong
Kong, nasty behavior of the shopkeeper is the rule when a customer
doesnít buy even after the shop keeper has agreed to a possible
price the potential buyer has carelessly mentioned, it is accepted
in Bangkok that a client will say that he will just return and buy
the next day when a price has been agreed upon. This leaves
to the buyer the option of comparing again prices at other stores.
Itís a faulty
Western perception that bargaining is a skill in which only Asians
can reach perfection. The basis for any successful bargaining is
to know prevailing prices for the item or items one wants.
Only the buyer who knows the appropriate value of the items he wants
to buy will be able to judge whether an offer is good and appropriate
or an attempt to overcharge.
time short term visitors can spend on checking out prevailing prices
for items they like is limited. Therefore it does happen time and
again that visitors are taken advantage of and charged too high
prices. In cases of gross overcharging, the Thai Tourist Police
may be able to help.
in tourist oriented shops but also at department stores in tourist
areas usually speak enough English for normal transactions.
checks are seldom honored. Credit cards are accepted
in major hotels and in shops that have window stickers, but cash
is the more usual form of payment. For information on the risk of
using credit cards, see the chapter Finance.
in brackets refer to locations as indicated in Bangkok maps
(see Bangkok section).
the items one wants to buy, the place to go to are markets, supermarkets,
department stores or specialized shops. For fresh food, the
best food as well as the best quality is found on markets. For low-tech
household items and textiles, markets offer the best
prices while the quality may often be less convincing. For shopping
at open markets, it is advisable to wear old shoes as floors are
often dirty, wet and slippery. Open markets are sometimes crowded
and one can expect that possibly present pickpockets are
attracted by foreigners more than by Thais, especially as they expect
that foreigners watch their belongings less carefully than the locals.
are the place to go to for foods that need to be kept cool such
as diary products and processed foods. Furthermore, imported foods
are generally not available at open markets but only at supermarkets.
stores usually have the considerable advantage of shopping
comfort as they have a good in-house selection and one can move
around in their air-conditioned facilities without tiring as much
as one would outside. One pays for this amenity through prices which
are generally higher than in market areas. For imported household
items as well as for large size garments and shoes department
stores are the best places to go to.
the main tourist area as well as the preferred residential area
for foreigners, the upper and middle Sukhumvit Road area (from Soi
2 to Soi 34) is not a major shopping district. Nevertheless, especially
the stretch until Soi 13 has many sidewalk vendors for items
usually bought by tourists, such as handicrafts and fake watches,
fake designer clothes and other made in Thailand "brand name" fashion
accessories. There is a branch of the Robinsonís Department Store
chain, as well as a number of shops selling household items
usually requested by foreign residents, such as rattan furniture.
Furthermore, there are several supermarkets with especially good
selections in Euro foods. Two big hotels, the Ambassador
and the Landmark have large shopping arcades.
In spite of
its proximity to the main tourist area along Sukhumvit Road, this
shopping district around Soi 71, Sukhumvit Road still caters almost
exclusively to Thai households. There are several department
stores, ATM , Asia , a wet market and shops for all
kinds of daily needs. Prices are lower than at shopping districts
such as Ploenchit Road or Siam Square. However, the selection of
high quality products as well as garments in large sizes is limited.
Nevertheless, we recommend the area especially for electronics.
Foreign residents in the Sukhumvit Road area who try Phrakanong
once are likely to go there more often than they might at first
think. Attractive are not only the prices. The area is also easier
to reach than downtown shopping districts as traffic is lighter.
Those driving their own cars will also find parking space
easier than in the Ploenchit Road and Siam Square areas.
A modern shopping
district between Sukhumvit Road and Siam Square. The area which
is particularly easy to reach from Sukhumvit Road has a number of
department stores, among them a large Central Department Store
branch on Ploenchit Road, as well as the Rajaprasong Shopping
Center. Further department stores are under construction. Like
Siam Square itís a good area to shop for fashionable items
as well as high quality or imported household items. Nearby hotels
with shopping arcades are the President, the Regent and the New
on Rajadamri Road (and at Dindaeng near the Thai-Japanese Youth
Center) has handicraft shops, many of them joint ventures
with the Ministry of Industry. Visitors may inspect and buy handicrafts
from all parts of the country. Items available include Thai silk,
ceramics, wood carvings, lacquerware, bronze objects and Khon masks.
The stores are open daily from 10:00 until 20:00. (Tel 252-4670
near the Indra Hotel , on the corner of Petchburi Road and
Rajaprarop Road, on both sides of Rajaprarop Road, is particularly
noted for garments. Not only local users buy here but in
substantial numbers exporters and wholesalers as well.
The textile prices at Pratunam market are as low as one can get
in Bangkok. Outside the actual market area, especially around the
Indra Hotel can be found the shops and offices of many export companies,
most of them concentrating on textiles. A large number of the wholesalers
are Indians or Indian Thais.
A large modern
shopping area around the intersection of Rama I Road and Phaya Thai
Road. There are several very large department stores and
shopping arcades, as well as numerous boutiques, especially
inside the Siam Center shopping arcade. All in all, itís
one of the best areas in town to buy fashionable items.
/ Rama IV Road Area
While the Silom
Road area is the main business district of the Thai metropolis,
itís not at the same time a major shopping area. Nevertheless, a
number of art and antiques as well as jewelry shops
are located there. There is a branch of the Robinsonís Department
Store chain as well as a very tourist oriented night market
at Patpong Road - otherwise rather known for trade in human
flesh. Major hotels with shopping arcades are the Narai, Montien,
Mandarin and Dusit Thani. The area doesnít have a reputation for
This small market
at Chulalongkorn Soi 42, off Rama IV Road (opposite Mandarin Hotel)
is known for seafood and its many seafood restaurants.
Bank (Soi Bank Market)
in a small Soi next to the Head Office of the Bangkok Bank on
Silom Road doesnít have a particular large selection of anything
available there but itís the only real market in the upper Silom
Road area and therefore a natural choice for those working or staying
in the vicinity. The market has a large and fairly pleasant food
stall section which is frequented heavily during lunch time
by the lower brass of employees of companies with their offices
on Silom Road. Just as in any Thai market there are, aside from
the food part, sections with cheap clothes as well as household
New Road Area
The huge exclusive
River City Shopping Complex is a good place, at least to
window shop for antiques and to get some basic ideas on prices.
Whether one actually buys there will depend on whether one has to
look at prices or can afford two blind eyes. Antiques traders
certainly prefer up country places to shop. Prices as quoted at
River City are rather for admirers of art than those who
want to make some profit on it. Along New Road are a number of handicraft
stores, many specializing in bronzeware. Those who want to
buy bronzeware at good prices are advised to compare offers from
the New Road area with those at the Chatuchak Weekend Market
(see below). The selection at Chatuchak is bigger and the competition
fierce. Actually, a number of firms which have shops in the New
Road area and the Silom Road area also have branches at the Chatuchak
Weekend Market, and it is easily possible that the same piece is
priced considerably lower at their Chatuchak branch than at their
New Road or Silom shop. There are also a number of jewelry shops
in the New Road area (no branches at Chatuchak Weekend Market).
The part of town actually is the center for the gem trade in Thailand
though not for its density in jewelry shops but rather because a
number of internationally active gem trading companies have
their offices there. There are many more jewelry retailers in Chinatown,
and prices there are definitely lower. On Silom Road, near the intersection
with New Road, is a branch of the Central Department Store chain.
Around the Oriental Hotel, many street hawkers offer fake watches
and fake designer clothes as well as handicrafts typically
fancied by tourists. The selection is pretty much the same as along
the sidewalks of Sukhumvit Road, so there isnít really any sense
in visiting the area if one stays along Sukhumvit Road.
In front of
the General Post Office  on New Road, stamp dealers
set up their stalls every Sunday.
At this market
on New Road (Charoen Krung) towards the bank of the Chao Phaya River,
between Sathorn Roads and Silom Road, early shoppers can usually
find uncommon meats such as mutton and lamb.
Big hotels of the Silom Road area shop there.
While it certainly
is not the most comfortable shopping district of Bangkok, it is
nevertheless worth a visit even if one isnít interested in
items bought cheaply there. The main roads of Chinatown are the
New Road (Charoen Krung) and Yaowaraj Road. The most picturesque
shopping street is Sampheng Lane (see below), parallel to
Yaowaraj Road. While the amounts of merchandize in stock in many
Chinese shops is amazing, the visitor may be disappointed when looking
for items he would want to buy. Trade in Chinatown is oriented purely
on the needs of locals. While there are a number of shops
selling antiques and handicrafts, the selection isnít very convincing.
In the contrary, many Chinese merchants trade in hardware
and machinery - but which foreigner in Thailand is really
searching for water pumps or building materials? The most interesting
for foreign visitors are probably the jewelry and gold
shops, easily recognized because they all seem to be decorated with
red velvet and gold colored foils. Gold jewelry is sold by the
weight, with a surcharge depending on the craftsmanship that
went into forming the metal into rings, bracelets or other designs.
From the Sukhumvit Road area, Chinatown is easily reached on the
aircon bus No 1 which passes through Yaowaraj Road. Chinatown has
a number of individually named shopping areas and markets, some
of which are described below.
The lane (also
known as Soi Wanit) is the most famous strip in Chinatown, and it
is interesting for itís present day appearance as well as its social
history. While today, itís a retail and wholesale area for the cheapest
and most cheapish merchandize, it used to be the classical red
light district of Bangkok, lined with brothels and related establishments.
According to historical sources, the women were mainly Chinese.
While today, the trade conducted in Sampheng Lane is more honorable,
those searching for a special flair can still be satisfied. The
visitor will be amazed how crammed the lane is. In the shops,
every available square centimeter is made use of, and at many places
the displayed merchandize extends well into the lane. And still,
there are street vendors setting up their suitcase shops
in the middle of the lane. Delivery of merchandize is possible only
on menís backs, and the shopper or strolling visitor is constantly
rubbing not just shoulders but his whole body with the crowds passing
through the lane. As the area is ideal for pickpockets, one
may as well leave large amounts of cash and other valuables in the
hotel safe or at home. Anyway, the foreign visitor will not find
much he would want to buy there. Aside from kitchen and dining
utensils of the lowest quality and admittedly the lowest prices,
goods to be found along Sampheng Lane are stationery, lowest
quality toys, cheap clothes and textiles, fabrics
and almost anything in haberdashery, as well as Chinese religious
items, much of it made of plastic and foils - in the usual prevailing
Chinese colors of gold and red. The lane is more crowded on weekends
than during weekdays, though traffic on the route from the Sukhumvit
or Silom Road areas is lighter on weekends. Sampheng Lane is easily
reached from the Sukhumvit Road area on aircon bus No 1 which passes
through Yaowaraj Road. Coming from Sukhumvit Road, Sampheng Lane
is about fifty meters parallel to Yaowaraj Road on the left side.
/ Old Market (Chinatown)
As the name
indicates, this is an old market area, about 200 years of age. It
is located right in the middle of Chinatown on the corner of Yaowaraj
Road and Yaowaphanit Road, half way between Yaowaraj Road and Sampheng
Lane. From other wet markets in the Thai metropolis, this one differs
in the assortment of strange foods offered. At Talaat Kao
one can convince oneself that no other people of the world finds
as many organic substances usable as food as do the Chinese.
For details, please refer to the part on Chinese cuisine in the
chapter Cuisine. The strangest delicacies described there
are readily available in the Chinese restaurants and food stalls
around this market.
in Chinatown between New Road (Charoen Krung), Yaowaraj Road, Chakrawat
Road and Boriphat Road is traditionally known as Thieves Market
because of its large selection of secondhand merchandize. Officially,
most of the items are from pawn shops. While there are secondhand
and outdated household appliances, the most interesting items are
so-called antiques and Chinese and Thai art objects, including
porcelain, brassware, copperware and furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
This is a hardware
market in Chinatown around Mahachak Road and Soi Chong Charoen
This is an Indian
market on Pahurat Road in a part of town that could be described
as Indiatown. It is located adjacent to Chinatown on the way to
Wat Po. The market has mainly clothes, among them a wide
selection of Sarongs from all over Asia. Aside from clothes
there are textiles for linens and curtains, as well as tailoring
accessories. There are also shops selling Indian spices,
as well as a number of Indian restaurants and food stalls.
Ban Mo Market
This small market
further on Pahurat Road in the direction of Wat Po has many silversmiths
and jewelry supply shops as well as places selling all kinds
of electronic accessories and disco equipment.
wholesale and retail market on Chakrapat Road near the bank of the
Chao Phaya is known for low prices. Many flower retailers throughout
Bangkok buy their stock here. Flowers are much cheaper in Thailand
than in the West, and the per capita demand is probably one of the
highest in the world. Thais love to decorate with flowers, and every
market has one or several shops selling flowers. (For information
on the Thai art of arranging flowers, please see the chapter Art
& Culture earlier in this book.)
on Atsadang Road, near the Khao San tourist area, specializes in
second-hand goods which might or might not be from a thiefís or
robberís loot. Officially, most of the items are from pawn
shops. Nancy Chandlerís advice: "Go here to buy back any stolen
area in old downtown Bangkok used to be frequented solely by locals.
However, especially young tourists are a common sight since the
nearby Khao San area has developed into the principal site
of traveler pension houses. While some goods can be found which
appeal to foreign visitors, the selection of merchandize is still
geared towards ordinary Thai households.
on the bank of the Chao Phaya, off the intersection of Samsen Road
and Krung Kasem Road , has a large selection of potted plants,
pots and general garden and plant supply.
near the intersection of Krung Kasem Road and Rama I Road is one
more textile market with a large number of wholesalers.
on Rama IV Road in the port district is particularly noted for low
South of Klong
Toey Market, this market under the Expressway and close to the railway
line is known for good value electrical equipment, bedding
materials and clothings. Nancy Chandler, in her map on Bangkok,
described Penang Market as follows: "All kinds of appliances, TVís,
sound equipment, watches, canned foods, clothing, etc, etc at much
lower prices than department stores. Of course it just happens to
be close to the port. No further explanation is necessary." And
the Travellerís Guide to Thailand, published by the local company
Saen Sanuk, advices: "This [market] is chiefly for electrical goods
that have mysteriously fallen overboard from the ships which come
to the port."
on Phahonyothin Road near the Northern Bus Terminal is good for
potted plants as well as pots. It also has a cheap fruit
weekend market on approximately 14 hectares (35 acres) opposite
the Northern Bus Terminal on Phahonyothin Road is certainly the
single best bet for anybody who wants to buy just anything at best
prices. The market has everything for ordinary consumer needs, probably
except imported and high quality electronic household items. It
must be noted that it is also the best and cheapest place to buy
handicrafts and other items tourists typically like to buy.
Furthermore, local handicraft retailers as well as Thai and foreign
exporters buy here.
As the market
is just across the Northern Bus Terminal, small scale manufacturers
from the North and Northeast drop in with their own products, bypassing
wholesalers or established tourist retailers. Many businesses running
handicraft shops in tourist areas of the Thai capital also have
weekend branches at Chatuchak. This is especially the case for brass
and bronze items. Nowhere else in the Thai capital is such
a big concentration of brass and bronze shops as at Chatuchak Market,
and because competition is fierce, one gets the lowest prices.
The market is
a prime choice for tourists and locals alike. For the locals, there
are large sections for cheap household products, fresh produce
including a full selection of fruits, for clothes
and other textiles as well as for pottery, plants and garden utensils.
There also is
a pet section which however doesnít live up to the standards of
humanity towards animals common in the West, and the best thing
to show disapproval to the way animals are caged there is not to
frequent this part of the market.
Market is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 7:00
to 18:00. Itís easy to reach from the Sukhumvit Road area on aircon
bus No 13.