This Bangkok Shopping Guide takes you on a tour of Thailand’s most glamorous and glitzy shopping malls, enormous and eventful department stores, beautiful and bountiful boutiques, vibrant and bustling street stalls, charming and diversified markets, adventurous and dazzling night bazaars, to name but a few. Whatever your budget, Bangkok has got it all and more in one of the best shopping meccas in all of South East Asia.
Bangkok Shopping – Malls
Ma Boon Krong Shopping Complex also known as the MBK Center is a huge marble shopping mall situated in Bangkok’s downtown Pathum Wan district and adjacent to the Chulalongkorn University.
It was originally one of the biggest malls in Asia when it was founded in 1985. It measures 330 metres long with 2,500 shops using an area of 89,000 square metres on eight levels.
MBK houses a cinema complex, a bowling alley, karaoke rooms, internet cafes, gaming parlors, several restaurants and fast-food outlets including a 5,000 seat food court on the 5th floor.
There are jewellery, electronics, leather, furniture, photography, art and health stores as well as a department store called Tokyu. The centre is also well known for its variety of negotiable products including cosmetics, mobile phones and fake designer clothes.
What many tourists are unaware of is that there is this huge underground shopping section located beneath the building where all the locals shop. The area is a hive of activity where even more bargains can be purchased.
To find it you either have to accompany a local friend or ask a store owner for directions. It is fascinating to see what conspires in these often hidden places. Well worth the experience even if you wish not to buy anything.
Bangkok Shopping – Plazas
Pantip Plaza is a five story IT shopping mall situated on New Phetchaburi Road in Bangkok’s Ratchathewi district. There are hundreds of small shops specialising in computer hardware, software and assorted accessories including photographic equipment and mobile phones and of all descriptions.
The mall is abuzz with huge crowds, especially over the weekends and it can get rather noisy at times with persistent vendors over eager to promote their goods. They often hassle potential customers, including tourist wanting to find bargains.
Watch out for the hawkers selling counterfeit software and pirated movies. As you make your way around the center, you’ll sometimes hear a guy whisper “sexy movie” while showing you a blue movie cover. Next, he’ll ask you to follow him to a hidden compartment behind his store or another one a little further away. These guys are all too aware of random police searches, but somehow they’re not afraid to take their chances either.
Part of the mall’s success and notoriety, however, is due to the many counterfeit items sold there. Sometimes it may be difficult to know which is which. It is best to insist on a valid receipt or invoice, which should include value added tax.
Otherwise it may cause problems for you later on. And you won’t be able to claim a vat refund or a guarantee at the airport when leaving the country if you don’t have a proper receipt.
The mall outside is a hive of activity with tiny stalls selling all sorts of items from cheap batteries, alarm clocks, lighters and a whole host of other bizarre looking articles. Tuk-Tuk drivers are all over the place offering to take you anywhere around the city at over-rated prices. Otherwise, it can be a thrilling experience.
Bangkok Shopping – Department Stores
Central World Plaza was formally called the World Trade Center. It’s the second largest shopping complex in Southeast Asia situated in one of Bangkok’s busiest shopping precinct at the Ratchaprarop intersection in the Pathum Wan District. It measures a total of 1,024,000 square metres with the actual shopping section measuring 550,000 square metres. The biggest complex is in the Philippines.
Originally the complex started out as an eight-story mall opening in 1990 but has subsequently undergone massive reconstruction having acquired new owners in 2002. The basic architectural structure of the building didn’t exactly arouse any emotions. It looks more like a large rectangular box than anything else but lately, things have dramatically changed. Once you are inside the real beauty unfolds.
Lifestyle mega-store ZEN is an upmarket department store that occupies seven levels with a floor space 50,000 square metres. A modern 15-screen cinema complex named SF World Cinema is located on the eighth floor and a number of Thai cinema premieres are held there every year including Bangkok’s International Film Festival. It also houses some first-class luxury theatres.
There is a central food hall on the seventh floor, which can be essentially two-fold, allowing you to do some gourmet shopping in a supermarket while stopping over for a meal at any number the of smaller outlets and restaurants there. Some of the brand names include Marks and Spencer, Guess, Lacoste, Starbucks, Toys “R” Us. Hush Puppies, Playboy, Swatch, Panasonic, Rolex etc.
Bangkok Shopping – The Markets
For a truly electrifying shopping experience in Bangkok, you should try to visit as many of the markets as you possibly can. Not only do the markets here mimic an intrinsic and fundamental part of city life, but they also invite you into a world of unimaginable magnetism and amazement.
But much more than this, these markets provide the perfect opportunity for you to enjoy a close encounter with some really wonderful sites, sounds and smells, synonymous with the type of lively ambience you’d come to expect from such great places.
But before you start your day, you may want to focus your attention on one particular area at a time. This way you can explore your chosen market in depth. Be aware that there are a vast variety of markets out there.
You can easily spend an entire day visiting the floating markets at Damnoen Saduak or those at Taling Chan though they may not be all in the same area.
A market you simply must not miss is the Chatuchak Weekend Market but for this to happen, you’d need to be in the city over a weekend as the market is only open on a Saturday and a Sunday for tourists and the general public. Here you’ll find a wide variety of merchandise and local food stuff.
Chinatown is another fantastic market to spend quality time. Best of all, it’s open all day and every day. You could if you like, visit a combination of two markets on any given day. More than that would be far too much, though not impossible.
The Bangkok shopping experience continues to expand into more areas of the city like the clothing market at Pratunam, where a huge range of inexpensive fashion garments is on display as well as handicrafts, jewellery and other assorted paraphernalia.
Bangkok Shopping – Other Markets
As you relentlessly continue your Bangkok shopping experiences you may come across Pat Khlong Talad Flower Market, which is possibly the best of its kind in the city. It’s a flower market paradise for lovers of bright big blooms such as orchids and roses including many species not found anywhere else.
If you have time to spare and would love to educate yourself a little bit more as to the way in which a great many locals do their daily shopping, then take a trip to one of the open-air markets. Klong Toey Market is perhaps the best example of a traditional Thai wet market because of the fresh produce in which it trades.
Thewet Market is similar in that it is also a wet market (hence the name) but slightly different as are all the markets of this type. There you’ll find not only fresh plants and flowers but also fresh produce such as fish and vegetables.
For visitors wanting to buy cheap, why not try the street market on Khao San Road. It’s where you’ll find just about everything you might need for further your travel to other locations around the country as well as to a few neighbouring nations. Assorted travel related equipment such as rucksacks, hiking boots are readily available for sale at very reasonable prices.