Bangkok is packed with markets which play a central role in community life and act as popular tourist attractions for visitors to the city. The long-established street markets sell just about anything you can imagine ranging from locally-grown tropical fruits to gold jewellery and fake Levis. As well as bargain-hunting and enjoying the atmosphere of these traditional markets visitors can also splash out at any number of enormous, air-conditioned shopping malls which are up there with some of the most luxurious retail outlets on the planet.
Visit the Traditional Street Markets of Bangkok
Chatuchak Weekend Market
With an estimated 15,000 stalls which attract over 200,000 visitors every weekend this market has become one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist attractions. It is open from 6pm until midnight on Fridays then from 9am until 6pm on both Saturday and Sunday. It is easily accessible by means of both the BTS Skytrain (getting off at Mo Chit Station) or the Subway-MRT (getting off at Chatuchak Park or Kamphaeng Phet Station). From pet snakes to antique furniture, this market sells pretty much anything you can possible imagine though it’s not as cheap as it used to be so make sure you’re prepared for haggling with the stall holders.
Or Tor Kor Market
Located right next to the Chatuchak Weekend Market this foodie heaven is rated as one of the finest fresh food markets in the world. It is the best place in Bangkok to buy the highest quality fruit, vegetables and seafood. There’s also an incredible food court area serving a great selection of Thai dishes which can be eaten on benches in the market or can be prepared for takeaways. The market is open from 6am until 8pm every day.
Rot Fai Night Market
The original Rot Fai Market was better known as the Train Night Market as it was located next to the tracks near the Chatuchak Weekend Market in the north of the city. However, it was forced to move in 2003 due to the expansion of the BTS Skytrain and relocated to a larger site at Soi Srinagarindra 51 where it continues to specialise in all kinds of antiques, collectibles and vintage memorabilia. Located near the Seacon Square shopping mall it is best reached by means of taxi. Whilst the place attracts many young locals shopping for vintage fashion items it is also a popular entertainment area which is packed with lively bars and food stalls where visitors can spend the whole evening. The market is open from 5pm until midnight on Thursday to Sunday nights. This charming venue is one of the least touristy of Bangkok’s markets and is well worth making the effort to get to.
The Train Market opened a second location on Ratchadaphisek Road in 2015 which is smaller but better located for visiting from downtown Bangkok. It opens from 5.00pm until 1.00am on Thursday to Sunday nights and can be reached by metro from the Thailand Cultural Centre MRT Station.
Patpong Night Market
Patpong is best known for its red-light district where countless establishments offer all kinds of adult entertainment. However, it is also a place which attracts curious tourists simply interested in taking a look at the infamous Go-Go bars. The area also hosts a night market which is one of the best places in the city for buying fake branded clothing and handbags. Patpong is not nearly as seedy as it used to be and, thanks to the market, has become a popular tourist destination. The night market is open from 6.00pm until 1.00am daily and is best reached by BTS Skytrain from Sala Daeng Station.
This is Bangkok’s largest wholesale market which is the best place in the city for traders to buy fabrics and cheap clothing. Although the market is open 24-hours a day, the best time for tourists to visit is from late morning until around 8.00pm. As well as buying anything from T-shirts to dinner suits, visitors can simply enjoy wandering around the maze of narrow streets where stallholders go about their business. Prices tend to be so cheap that haggling isn’t necessary! The market is centrally located near the Amari Watergate Hotel. The closest BTS Skytrain station is Ratchathewi which is 1km to the north.
Just north of the river in the Samphanthawong District of town, Bangkok’s Chinatown is a colourful and lively place to visit at any time. It is home to many gold shops as well as street stalls selling a vast array of items including clothing, shoes, bags and foodstuffs to name but a few. Foodies will love to visit in the evening when food vendors set up their stalls on and around Yaowarat Road and serve up some of the city’s finest street food. A particularly lively time to visit Chinatown is during the Chinese New Year when there are all kinds of street festivities with dragon parades and fireworks. The nearest train station to Chinatown is the MRT underground Hualamphong stop, otherwise you can arrive by boat on the Chao Phraya River Express.
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Asiatique Shopping Village (2194, Charoen Krung Road): Standing on the riverside, this is an enormous family entertainment complex complete with more than a thousand shops housed inside warehouses. The venue is best described as being something between a night market and a shopping mall. As well as selling fashion items, electronics, handicrafts and jewellery the venue is also home to many fine restaurants, a Thai puppet show and a very popular ladyboy cabaret performance. Asiatique opens daily at 5.00pm and is best reached by taking the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin then hopping on the free shuttle boat from Sathorn Pier.
Discover the Luxury Shopping Malls of Bangkok
Whilst the traditional markets are an experience in themselves, the modern shopping malls are a reminder that Bangkok is up there with New York, Dubai and Hong Kong as one of the world’s major shopping destinations. There are hundreds of malls around the city with some of the most luxurious located in the Siam district of downtown Bangkok. This district is home to the Siam Paragon, Siam Center, MBK Center and Central World malls and is easy to get to thanks to the Siam BTS Skytrain Station.
Here are some of Bangkok’s best shopping malls:
Siam Paragon (991, Rama I Road): This is a very popular mall for wealthy Thais who come to buy the latest in luxury items from prestigious brands in the world of fashion, technology and even cars! It is also home to an IMAX theatre and many restaurants and food courts serving an impressive choice of world cuisine.
Siam Center (979, Rama I Road): Located just next door to the Paragon, this was one of the city’s original shopping malls. Its complete refurbishment a few years ago has seen it transformed into a modern and at times quite ingenious shopping venue where both international and Thai fashion labels are well represented.
Siam Discovery (989, Rama I Road): Next to the Siam Centre this luxury mall is home to many boutique shops on its lower floors but offers quite a unique shopping experience on its upper floors. The venue was recently refurbished by a Japanese design company which adopted a novel sales technique which involves casually displaying fashion items as though they were in someone’s home rather than being tied to specific store premises. This technique which makes for a very relaxing way to shop has proven very popular (and profitable) in Japan and South Korea.
MBK Center (444, Phayathai Road): Directly opposite the Discovery Center, this enormous shopping mall hosts more than 2,000 retail outlets on eight floors. It doesn’t specialise in luxury items like the previous recommendations but is more akin to a street market albeit with air-conditioning. The place is packed with locals and tourists who aren’t averse to buying fake fashion items and at a fraction of the cost of the genuine article. This is also a good place to shop for electronic goods, mobile phones and computer games.
Central World (999, Rama I Road): This humongous shopping mall is even larger than the neighbouring Siam Paragon, in fact it is the largest shopping complex in all of South-East Asia. Its eight floors are filled with stores selling all the latest fashion items and electronic goods whilst its entertainment offerings include some fine restaurants, an excellent food court, a cinema complex and an ice rink.
Terminal 21 (88 Soi Sukhumvit 19): This is a really popular destination for travellers visiting Bangkok thanks to the travel-themed design of this luxury mall. Each floor is based on a famous shopping venue from around the world such as the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Carnaby Street in London and downtown Tokyo. Whilst its nine floors are filled with hundreds of shops selling fashion items from around the world there is also an outstanding food court on the 5th floor as well as a cinema complex.
Icon Siam (299 Soi Charoen Nakhon 5): This newcomer to the shopping scene has had no expense spared on it in creating one of Bangkok’s most exclusive shopping venues. Standing on the river overlooking downtown Bangkok this high-rise complex houses hundreds of stores selling upmarket brands of clothing and electronics. It is also home to an indoor floating market, more than 100 restaurants and an art gallery. Shoppers can arrive on a free shuttle boat from Sathorn Pier which is next to the Saphan Taksin BTS Skytrain Station.
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