Guides

The Ultimate Guide To Shopping Like A Boss In Bangkok

You'll be fine. Your bank balance won't.

When I tell people that Bangkok is my favourite city in the world, having been there around 15 times over more than a decade, they’re generally puzzled.

But, with vibrant street food precincts, lush rooftop bars, and some of the friendliest people in the world, I reckon it’s a no-brainer.

You see, I have a secret about Bangkok: I’m addicted to the shopping. No, I’m not talking fake designers, Singha tees and questionable DVDs – I’m talking up-and-coming hipster designers, affordable vintage finds and discount luxury shopping.

Come with me, and you’ll be fine. Your bank balance, however, won’t.

For Designer And International Brands

Central World

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The largest shopping centre in Bangkok, Central World features all the best high street and international brands – and when the sales are on, hoo-eeeey, you can grab one hell of a bargain. I still dream about that time I found a 100 per cent silk skirt on sale at Zara for $9.

There are some great food options upstairs, but if you enjoy a walk down memory lane, there’s a Sizzler restaurant complete with salad and soup bars. It’s like a time machine back to the good old days.

Most importantly, it’s fully air conditioned inside, though a night market is occasionally held out the front.

Opening hours: 10am to 10pm, seven days a week

Where: 999/9 Rama I Road, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330 (Ratchaprasong intersection)


Siam Centre

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This is really three shopping centres in one: Siam Centre, Siam Paragon and Siam Discovery, and they all have a different flavour. Siam Centre is your jam if you’re looking for young, fresh Thai designer and boutique fashion; think chic and artsy, rather than cutesy and colourful. It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely unique.

Paragon is all about the luxury brands, like YSL, Chanel, Prada, and LV, but you’ll also find some high-street brands on level two.

Discovery, meanwhile, is a shopping experience rather than a shopping mall, adopting the Japanese trend of concept stores or “labs”. Think bespoke and boutique mixed in with edgy brands like Yamamoto and Comme Des Garcons. If nothing else, it’s definitely worth a walk through.

Opening hours: 10am to 10pm, seven days a week

Where: 991 Rama 1 Road, Puthumwan


Gaysorn

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If luxury is your game, then Gaysorn is your new bae. Located across the road from Central World, this small shopping centre more than makes up for its modest size with its weighty offerings.

Think big hitters like Rolex, Vuitton, Zegna, Pucci and Gucci. Luxury shoppers with big budgets need only apply.

Opening hours: Seven days a week, 10:00-20:00

Where: 999 Ploenchit Road, Ratchaprasong Junction


For Bargains

MBK

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Located down the road from the Siam trio, MBK is like an entire shopping centre of market stalls. There’s a bit of everything here; the ground floor usually holds sales (most often activewear and sports gear), with the next few levels dedicated to jewellery, shoe stores, and accessories.

Keep climbing and you’ll find some clothing, followed by all the latest technology and entertainment. The top floors leans more toward an indoor market with traditional market fare, cheap clothing and souvenirs.

The best bargains at MBK are shoes and leather accessories (many women’s non-leather shoes sit around the $10-50 mark, while men’s leather belts can be bargained down to around $10-20 and cut to fit), as well as technology. Be careful with purchasing name brands here, but generally most tech is genuine, making it great for cheap tech accessories, too.

Head to the BTS skybridge entry level for some great cheap eats, including delish hotpots and local fare.

Opening hours: 10am to 10pm, seven days a week

Location: Pathumwan Intersection, diagonally opposite to Siam Square


Platinum Mall

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The mammoth Platinum Mall is split into two sections that aren’t connected (for some reason), with hundreds of tiny stores jammed into eight floors of mind-boggling shopping.

The biggest reason for bargain hunters to make a beeline to Platinum first is that many market stallholders from across the city buy their goods from here at a much lower cost. Plus, if you purchase three or more items, they’ll generally give you the wholesale price.

The top floor also has a great Asian food court where you can rest your weary legs.

But if there’s one piece of advice I can give you after my many visits to Platinum, it’s that if you like something, buy it – in this labyrinth of literally hundreds of almost identical stores, you’ll probably never find it again. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Opening hours: 10am to 8pm, seven days a week

Location: Petchburi Road, Ratchathewi


For Market Lovers

Chatuchack Weekend Market


The most famous market in Bangkok, Chatuckack Weekend Market regularly pulls 200,000 visitors for good reason: with over 8000 stalls sprawled over 35 acres, it’s an entire day trip in itself and a mecca for bargain hunters and market lovers alike.

When people ask me what you can buy at Chatuchack, I simply reply, “Well, what do you want?!” You can find almost anything here, from plants to pet accessories, fashion to furniture – plus, there are some great food stalls serving up cheap-as-chips local food.

About 15 years ago, this was the cheapest spot for clothing and accessories in Bangkok, but prices have increased with its popularity. Try Platinum or Central World night market first, and head to Chatuchack later in your trip for fear of buying the same thing at a touristy premium.

Opening hours: 9am to 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and 6pm to midnight on Fridays

Location: Catch the skytrain to Mo Chit station and follow the crowd – you won’t miss it (and take a map so you know how to get back to the station)


Rot Fai Market

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Also known as The Train Market, this local hotspot is particularly exciting for vintage and retro hunters. Prices aren’t super cheap, but you’re sure to find some pretty unique items for sale amongst the quirky surrounds.

Opening hours: 2pm ’til midnight, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Location: Srinakarin Road (behind Seacon Square Shopping Mall)


Central World Night Market

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This night market is my white whale. Although it has become my favourite market over the last 15 years of visiting Bangkok, I can’t seem to work out when it actually runs. I used to think it was every night after dark, until one year it didn’t run for three days, then suddenly popped up on the fourth day. Another time I thought it was a weekend market until it foiled me again.

Basically I’ve resorted to staying in nearby hotels and peeking out the window every night to see if it’s on – and that’s because it’s worth it.

Local artists mix with cute, affordable fashion and edgy jewellery in between cheap underwear and quirky food stalls (try the salted crickets, they’re actually really good). My favourite street food stall lies just beyond the market towards the river, just before the bridge – follow the smoky BBQs to the best herb-stuffed baked fish you’ve ever had, paired with prawn laksa and a Singha. You won’t be disappointed, especially with the price.

Opening hours: It’s hard to say

Location: Directly out the front of Central World Shopping Centre

(Lead image: Geoff Greenwood)