A shopping mission really isn’t complete in Bangkok without a visit to at least one of the famous markets. Coming in a variety of forms, old and new; market ‘must sees’ include the manic labyrinths of Chatuchak Weekend Market, wholesale Pratunam markets and the well organized and cooler night market of Suan Lum. For a peek at Thailand’s history, head out of the city to one of the weekend floating markets.
On offer is a variety of clothing – both genuine and otherwise, accessories, foods, arts and crafts, and fake media. Be prepared to bargain, and expect the first price offer to be somewhere in the region of 10 – 15% more than what will be accepted. Be sure to keep a cool head at all times as demonstrations of anger and impatience are a cultural ‘no no’, and go get yourself a bargain.
Completing the shopping experience, at the markets if where you will find an equally interesting mix of food outlets; from full-on AC equipped restaurants to hot and steamy stalls to loan hawkers selling unidentified treats on-a-stick, these are the places to pick up the traditional Thai dishes honoring their original recipes, so not recommended for those with delicate a stomach. Favorites include som tam – a spicy papaya salad, larb – minced pork ‘salad’ in mint and spices, in addition to other Northern favorites).
Chatuchak Weekend Market
The ‘heavy weight’ of weekend marketing, Chatuchak Weekend Market is seen as an institution in Thailand; so needless to say this market shouldn’t be missed! A bit of a trek, Chatuchak is nevertheless very easy to get to if you take the right mode of transport. Located at Morchit BTS station, simply hop on the BTS (the metro Skytrain) at Asoke station if coming from the Tai-Pan Hotel, and buy a ticket for 40 THB to zone 6 (Morchit). No need to change, just stay on the train until the end of the line and you will arrive at Morchit. Travel time on the train is approx. 20 minutes.
Covering a vast space, Chatuchak is home to some 16,000 stalls, and sees in excess of 150,000 visitors each weekend, even more on the first weekend after pay day! Make no mistake, this market is enormous, and is almost impossible to conquer in just one day, especially in the stifling heat of Bangkok. So buy a bottle of water, available all around the market, and do your best. One thing is for sure, you will inevitably feel like you have navigated the entire market, and you’ll never actually know what you missed! The most advisable way to conquer the market is to get an early start. Not only cooler, there are far fewer people in the early hours between 7.00am and 9.00am.
The general the layout of the market is of one large outer pedestrian walkway surrounding the main markets inner stalls, with multiple narrow alleys branching within the abyss. Free market maps are available at the information kiosks dotted around the market to help you navigate to where you want to go, but unless you have specific purchases in mind, the most fun way to about it is just to jump in head first and drift around.
Chatuchak has an amazing mix of goods, which includes clothing and accessories, arts and crafts, antiques – including originals and fakes, collectables, CD’s, DVD’s, plants, pets and pet accessories. Mixed in with the stock traditional Chatuchak businesses, an interesting aspect of the market are the arts and crafts shops showcasing the work of local talent. For many local artists, Chatuchak market has been the stepping stone to a successful career, so keep your eyes peeled for the works of the next budding Thai artist.
Shops are supposedly organized into color zoning with each category grouped together, this was the intention anyway! Whilst this is true in most cases, don’t be too surprised to find a great little shoe shop nestled in amongst the pet food!
Hone your bargaining skills, or you could be paying more than the next man! A nice friendly and relaxed demeanor is your most valuable asset. Although there are ATM’s located at various points around the market, they aren’t always easy to find, so it is advisable to take enough cash, as most shops don’t accept credit or debit cards. On a negative note, with such crowded space, pick-pockets are active, so keep your money in a safe place.
As is the case in most of the Kingdom, there is no shortage of food and drink within the market. Enjoy a huge Pad-Thai Gung (a traditional Thai noodle dish with shrimp), som-tam (papaya salad), some deep-fried treats or get your mouth around a plate of fried bugs, there’s food options for everyone in the markets many stalls.Back to top
Suan Lum Night Bazaar
A popular evening market attracting a real mixed bag, at Suan Lum expect to see a smartly dressed office workers, both Thai and foreign, casual locals and hip bohemian youths in addition to a mix of holiday makers of all ages from all over the globe.
Featuring under cover open-sided walkways, the Suan Lum market is far cooler than its daytime counterparts, yet still remains an option even in the rainy months, making it a great way to spend an evening at virtually any time of the year.
Perhaps a little more expensive than the Chatuchak Weekend Market, Suan Lum also hosts a mind-boggling array of stalls selling everything from clothes, CD’s, arts and crafts, to fake watches and jewelry. Many are in fact the same shops and owners as in Chatuchak, just with a little added sophistication. In addition to the regular line-up of stalls selling the regular market clobber, the Suan Lum market has a slightly more up-market vibe with several businesses selling lifestyle furniture products and reproduction antique and luxury arts & crafts. Generally these shops can be found at the northerly end of the market.
One of Suan Lum’s differentiating features is its range of food and drink establishments. Suan Lum market’s central location (located at the Lumphini MRT underground train station) and large buzzing open-air beer garden surrounded by restaurant stalls makes it a very popular place to have an evening snack for locals and expats or simply a place to get away from the market hustle and bustle. German beers of Paulaner, Edinger, Hoegarden, in addition to all the domestic beers of Singha, Chang, Tiger, either served in bottles, jugs or 3 liter towers complimented by Thai and international snacks make for a pleasant evening. At one end of the garden is a huge stage where nightly, young Thai’s cover all of the latest Thai and international pop favorites. To find the beer garden, simply head for the large Khmer archway which marks the entrance to the garden. If the hustle and bustle of the bear garden isn’t for you, you may wish to check out the variety of independent restaurants dotted throughout the market. In addition to modern Thai cuisine, there is also German, Italian, Mexican and seafood options, or catch a dinner show and take in the classic Thai Puppetry at the Joe Louise Puppet Theatre. Back to top
For many years the seedy side of town, the Patpong scene has been cleaned up over previous years, and has fast become an essential stop on the shopping circuit for retail gurus visiting Bangkok. Located in Silom district, Patpong at virtually any time in the day is a hive of activity but at night really bursts into life, when its assortment of Go-Go bars, restaurants and nightclubs that line each side of the market open their doors.
The shopping line-up in Patpong includes anything and everything fake, from Louis Vuitton bags to Rolex watches, so don’t expect a refund if the bag breaks or the watch stops, and be prepared to bargain hard!
To get there, simply take the BTS Skytrain to Saladeng BTS station or MRT underground train and head to the Silom MRT Station.Back to top
Bangkok Floating Weekend Markets
The fact that nowadays local Thai vendors, at least those in Bangkok tend to show-off their fruit and veg merchandise crammed into the back of pick-up trucks, either crawling down the small sois (city lanes) with loud speakers blasting or at designated city markets doesn’t seem to matter, as the traditional floating markets still flourish for the benefit of the tourists, pilled high with fresh tropical fruits and vegetables and drinks. To have a glimpse of what traditional life used to be like, head along to the floating markets of Damnoen Saduak, Taling Chan, Tha kha and Bang Ku Wiang.Back to top
Located in the Samut Sangkhram province 80 KM from Bangkok, this market was put on the tourist map courtesy of the bond film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. Certainly still worth a visit, Damnoen Saduak consists of narrow Klongs (canals) lined with boats each fighting for position to snap up a deal from the tourists. It’s fascinating, loud, touristy but heaps of fun. Opening times are 7.00 – 11.00am on Saturday and Sundays. To get there, take a bus from the southern bus terminal to the Samut Sanglhram Province, and then either walk the walk way to the market or haggle a short boat ride to the market pier.Back to top
Kha Floating Market
Located near to the Damnoen Saduak Market, it is spared from vast numbers of tourists that its neighbor experiences. Surrounded by greenery, this is the choice if you wish to avoid the crowds. Be aware however, that Kha only operates 6 days per month in line with the lunar calendar, so be sure to check before you leave.Back to top
Probably the best floating market to visit, less touristy than the others, at Khu Wiang, Monks skipper the boats or their daily morning alms round. As with all floating markets, a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables are on offer. There are a couple of options for getting to the market. One way is to get there by renting a boat from Chang Pier at the main Bangkok Pier at Saphan Taksin and head to Noi Khlong Om Bang Khu Wiang Floating Market. This will be the more expensive option but be prepared to bargain hard. The alternative option is to take a public boat to Wat Chalo, (and be aware that the information staff at the pier are very helpful), and from there take a 10 min. boat to the market. If boats aren’t your thing, taxis will take you there, but it’s probably wise to arrange through Tai-Pan Hotel staff. Back to top
The closest market to Bangkok, this market is convenient for day trip. Get there by taking either number 79 or 83 buses, bargain with a boat skipper, and tour the winding klongs (canals). Back to top
Bangkok Wholesale Markets
For many retailers, Thailand is a business destination, drawn to the country by the rock-bottom prices. Wholesale markets of China Town, Pratunam, Sampeng Lane, Pahurat, Bo-Bae, Baiyoke, Pak Khlon Talat offer an array of merchandise covering clothes and accessories, footwear, textiles, bags, Jewelry, and toys in addition to various random bits and bobs. Back to top
Pahurat Textile Market
Located in China town, the most interesting way to get to Pahurat is to walk down Sampeng Lane, until you reach Chakraphet Road. This way, although quite a trek, in addition to the deals found on Sampeng Lane, you will encounter numerous little sub-sois (lanes branching off the main road) each lined with their own shops selling household products, toys and footwear.
A hive of activity, marvel at the skills of the market workers as they cart the goods all around the market.
You will know that you have arrived at the main market when you start to see formal dresses, glittery gowns and rich textiles on display. These first few shops mark the start of the market. Once you are ready, grab a bottle of water, take a deep breath and make a B-line for one of the many alleyways. Inside this maze are a multitude of shops selling an array of colorful textiles, including the famous Thai silk, herbs and condiments. As always, take your bargaining hat with you.
Other parts worth visiting are the covered market lanes between Ratchawong and Mahachak Roads.
As you get deeper into the market, the influence of the Indian community here becomes more and more prominent, when you will see posters and statuesque models of Hindi Gods. Small shops filled with Indian men and the strong smells of delicious Indian fare confirm what you may have already suspected; you have just arrived into the heart of ‘Little-India’.
The best way to get near is to head to the MRT Hualompong underground train station, of heading there from the Tai-Pan Hotel, take the MRT underground train from MRT Sukhumvit Station. Bus number 40 passes through Pahurat and China Town.Back to top
Located just a stones throw from China Town, Bo-Bae market can be found just 5 minutes from the National Stadium BTS train station by Tuk-Tuk, an approximate 40 – 50 THB journey.
Bo-Bae consists of a two towered, large five-story air-conditioned, yes air-conditioned building crammed full of clothing shops, and is the Mecca for clothes retail buyers from all over the world. Most items at the market are very reasonably priced, especially when purchased in numbers (3 or more), with fantastic deals for items bought in mass.
Up at the top floor of tower two is the food court where all the main Thai dishes can be found at local prices.
Outside the Bo-Bae complex across the Krung Kasem Road, and across one of the many bridges crossing the Klong, you will find the actual market of Bo-Bae. A regular sprawling market covering multiple blocks surrounded by klongs and linked by bridges, the market sells pretty much the same kind of stuff, but in nice surroundings. Back to top
The Baiyoke Market complex consists of 3 main zones; complex 1 & 2 with wholesale clothing deals; Indra Square also featuring wholesale clothing, in addition to silks, jewelry, and arts and crafts; The City Complex, showcasing fashion clothing aimed more at the fairer sex, plus some stores selling arts and crafts.
Outside of the complex are a multitude of vendors and small shops peddling an array of interesting merchandise, including T-shirts, fakes, including clothing, CD’s, DVD’s, watches, and bags.
If you get a little peckish, food stalls are on hand to provide snack food and drinks. If you need to sit down and are looking for something a little more hearty, head up to the second floor of the Indra Square where you will find a food court serving all the regular Thai favorites. The area is heaving most of the time, so come with this in mind and be patient with the slow moving crowd.
To get to the market, take the BTS Skytrain to Rachatewi Station, exit down the right side stairs, take a right at the next junction, and walk down Petchburi until you see Platinum Mall, another wholesale fashion center. Opposite Platinum Mall is the Bayoke Market. Back to top