Bangkok can easily be described as a shopper’s paradise as there really is something here for everyone. The main challenges that most people face when browsing for bargains are scams, knowing when to quit, and figuring out how to transport fragile or oversized items to their home countries.
Shopping scams are rampant in Bangkok, but are easy to avoid if you keep your wits about you. One of the most common types of scam visitors will experience involves being approached by a charming and/or eloquent stranger, who will try to steer you away from a tourism site because it’s ‘closed for a ceremony’. Of course, the attraction is actually open, and this is merely a ploy to get you into a gem or tailor shop where the person in question will get a kickback.
Visitors should ignore such overtures, regardless of how earnest your ‘new friend’ seems. The reality is that he only wants your money. Only invest in gems, antiques, artwork and other big-ticket items from shops that are listed in the Bangkok Guide, which is stocked by all Asia Books and Kinokuniya bookstores. Extensive research is conducted every year by the Australian-New Zealand Women’s Group to identify legitimate vendors to include in the Guide.
While you’re picking up the guide at the bookstore, you can also check out Nancy Chandler’s Map of Bangkok. This colourful and creatively-drawn map, which Chandler updates regularly, provides the inside scoop on finding hidden treasures as varied as stationery, musical instruments, Buddha amulets and cakes.
Shoppers who enjoy feeling decadent and keeping cool in air-conditioned buildings have plenty of malls to choose from. The Emporium, Central World, Central Chidlom and Siam Paragon are all accessible from the BTS and are perfect places to indulge in a little retail therapy. These chic malls are extremely modern and can rival any found in major cities such as New York, London, Paris, or Singapore.
Just across the junction from Siam Paragon is the more Thai-style shopping centre of Mah Boon Khrong (MBK), which is also accessible from the BTS. In addition to standard shops like Boots and Starbucks, MBK features a whole host of pirated DVDs, used mobile phone stalls, knockoffs of popular fashions (Izods, Polos, Van Dutch and so on), Thai handicrafts, and an extensive and reasonably-priced food court.
Naturally, the ultimate Thai shopping experience lies in open markets such as the Thursday Market at Sukhumvit Soi 23; Chinatown’s Sampeng Lane; Soi Lalaisap, off Thanon Silo; the Khlong Thoey wet market; Asok (Indian) market; the Am Taw Gaw Farmers’ Co-operative, and last, but certainly not least, Chatuchak Weekend Market.
Chatuchak, which is known locally as JJ, isn’t just open on weekends anymore, and those who visit during the week will find a vast range of stalls selling everything from china to jeans, from pet fish to rattan furniture. Without a doubt, you will get lost if you enter this rabbit warren without Nancy Chandler’s Bangkok map, which includes a comprehensive colour coded guide to JJ.
For a far more comprehensive guide, browse our full section on Shopping in Bangkok, learning more about speciality products like silk, handicrafts, clothing, and antiques, as well as an A-Z on where to shop for what.
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