Bangkok is the proverbial shopper’s paradise. It has a multitude of malls, plazas, complexes, centres, arcades and boutiques and even more squares, small shops, markets and street stalls. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it in Bangkok, probably at a lower-than-elsewhere and/or irresistibly flexible price, too.
You can hunt that international shopping “must have” in a number of the city’s chic plazas. Emporium, on Sukhumvit, houses a department store, designer fashion boutiques, fabulous, state of the art Asian homestores and Jim Thompson silks. In Ratchaprasong shopping district, Gaysorn has all the European greats such as Gucci, Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Burberry and Christian Dior. It also features many of Thailand’s innovative fashion labels such as Fly Now and Kloset Red. The Peninsula Plaza, on Rajadamri Road, is often described as Bangkok’s Harrod’s. Its 70 boutiques include Cartier, Davidoff, Versace and Gucci as well as top local fashion designers and jewelers. Here, too, you’ll also find some of Bangkok’s best tailors.
For a taste of old Bangkok head to O.P. Place, next to the Oriental Hotel. This 1908, neoclassic building was originally constructed as the Falk and Beidek Store, furnishing elegant outfits and home comforts to expats. Now, it offers high quality Thai silk, jewellery, carpets, paintings, leather goods and handicrafts. It also houses one of the Chitralada shops which specialize in handicraft goods made at the Sai Jai Thai workshops for the disabled, founded by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
Narayana Phand, also in Ratchaprasong, is Thailand’s largest handicraft centre. It features a tremendous selection of high quality handicrafts from all over Thailand – silks, ceramics, wood carvings, lacquer and bronze ware, ethnic clothing, musical instruments, and Khon masks – all at reasonable prices.
Mah Boon Krong most commonly known as MBK, on Sukhumvit, is a large seven-storey air-conditioned market, packed with stalls selling everything from clothes, fashion accessories and cosmetics to mobile phones, DVDs and electronic games.
In Siam Square on Rama Road you’ll find a labyrinth of lanes with hundreds of cafes, restaurants, pubs and shops selling the latest and most outrageous in local youth fashion. Scattered among them are some of Thailand’s most avant garde and promising young designers, such as Srestis.
Stroll along any of Bangkok’s busy main streets like Sukhumvit, Silom Road or Rama I Road any day, or night, of the week and you’ll pass through long, meandering bazaars of stalls piled with souvenirs, clothes, shoes, CDs, bags and accessories at low, negotiable prices.
The most famous and most fascinating of all Bangkok’s shopping experiences is the weekend market at Chatuchak. It stretches for miles out on a far flung arm of the BTS sky train. Here, you’ll find everything from Animals to Zippers and among them are amazing objets d’art, carvings, masks, costumes, paintings, sculptures, homewares, furniture, silks of every shade and texture, racks of mass-produced clothes and shoes, as well as local designers’ one-off masterpieces. Chatuchak takes time and lots of it, but it’s worth it, not only for the treasures you’ll find there, but also for the sheer pleasure of looking.