Bangkok is one of the best shopping centers in the world. For something smaller and more personalized, you can check out the cutting-edge Thai design of women’s clothing designer Senada Theory, or get your own costume handmade and fitted by trustworthy Pinky Tailor. The most chic designer brand products are available in the upscale upscale shopping malls that are spread throughout the city, led by the new “mother of all malls” Icon Siam, with glamor EmQuartier, Siam Paragon and the mammoth Central World. In places like this, you can eat gelati or go to an aquarium, sit in a Starbucks, or even watch a sumo wrestling demonstration. In fact, in the original Terminal 21, you can even travel around the world because the theme of the mall is to look like different cities on different floors.
Bangkok’s malls are refreshingly cool, filled with trendy restaurants, cineplex and bowling alleys, bookstores, cafes and thousands of shops to choose from, not to mention hosting music events, festivals and a range of changing displays, making them places to spend whole days. For those who want something a little more unique, try the outdoor markets that are special in Bangkok. The Chatuchak weekend market is legendary, hot and chaotic, but it’s a great place to trade and people-watch. The retro hipster market Talad Rot Fai is the largest antique market in town and has VW cocktail bars and lots of cool stuff, plus it’s a real local affair. Even the good old Khao San Road is fun for shopping, with hundreds of small shops and stalls for the tourist trade. You can get anything from souvenirs to take away here to tattoos and braids to make you unrecognizable on your return!
1. TERMINAL 21
Although not the largest or most lavish, Terminal 21 is the first choice of many visitors for its design and layout. Each floor is named after a different part of the world, with local icons, and one can visit the Caribbean, San Francisco, Tokyo, Rome, Paris and London simply by climbing an escalator. There are all the usual designer brand chains, as well as 44 outlets offering local products of Thai design. There is a dazzling array of dining options, from Mexican to Japanese, and the 35 baht food court offers excellent local cuisine. Perhaps the space age restroom, with bidets and heated seat covers, is the best of all the reasons to shop, eat, watch a movie and use the restroom!
2. Khao San Road
Khao San Road has gone from a hippie and backpacker’s haven to a little more upscale. While this remains a place for cheap accommodation and for Thais to come and see the foreign crowd, it is also a decent place to buy some items, and with lots of food, bars, and people watching out for opportunities. Getting started makes for a pleasant journey. Here you will find the largest collection of second-hand English books, as well as typical Thai souvenirs to take away such as t-shirts, embroidered pillow covers and Thai pillows, sarongs and patterned beachwear, vintage and exotic clothes, lots of jewelry and other works of art, as well as the latest DVDs and CDs to name a few, not to mention that you can have your hair braided in dreadlocks and tattoo the body while waiting.
3. Pinky Tailor
You will be accosted almost everywhere in Bangkok by tailors claiming to have the best suits or jackets made at incredible prices compared to the house. Although the price part may be true, often the rest is not, because the materials used are of poor quality, the workmanship is lacking, and it is really not the case that it was cracked. While having tailor-made clothes made by a tailor is certainly a reason for shopping in Bangkok, you have to choose wisely, which is all the more reason to make a straight line for Pinky. They have been in business since 1980, use high quality wool and other fabrics, and you can walk through their three floors checking the fabrics without being harassed by the vendors. Pinky can make you a full suit, just pants or shirts, jackets, and whether it’s shirts and overcoats for women or tuxedos and suits for men, they adapt to the hand, offer personalized service, and you can rest assured that you don’t get caught at the tailors.
4. Central World
Formerly known as the World Trade Center, Central World Plaza is the third largest shopping complex in Asia, and even with the opening of the nearby Siam Paragon, it remains one of Thailand’s main shopping centers. The outside of the mall is full of visitors praying at the local female fertility sanctuary, as well as enjoying the exhibitions and festivals that change daily in the large open space overlooking the complex. Inside, 8 floors house just about all of Thailand’s shopping labels, bookstores, musical instrument stores and much more. The 7th floor has a wide choice of excellent restaurants of different cuisines, as well as a gourmet supermarket stocked with goodies, and the 8th floor houses the 15-screen SF Cinema City cinema complex.
5. Senada Theory
This acclaimed Thai designer is Bangkok’s best store for discovering cutting-edge and feminine clothing. Senada combines materials like Thai silks with Indian embroidery to create beautiful clothes for women. Created in 1991 and winner of several design awards, Senada mixes lady-couture with vintage and offers striking results that are at the top of Thai design. The ethnic, modern and traditional combinations are quite impressive, and those looking for the high-end and the cutting edge will love shopping here. While you can find Senada products in all of Bangkok’s upscale malls, this is their flagship store and the largest selection. You can also get custom items here.
6. Talad Rot Fai Train Market
Also known as Talad Dek Neaw (hipster market), this market, formerly located in a former railway depot, crossed the city behind Seacon Square and became the city’s favorite subject. It only takes place on Wednesdays and weekends, and although shopping starts at 4 p.m., it only really comes alive in the evening, when hundreds of vendors set up stalls selling antiques, collectibles and tons of retro items, currently a huge fashion in Thailand. There are more than 2000 stalls here, and the largest collection of antiques can be found in Thailand.
There are also plenty of impromptu deceptive VW food stalls and bus bars, offering cocktails and beer at low prices, and there are several more chic bars, located in antique stores, which offer live music in the middle of the good atmosphere.
Siam Paragon is all about great. One of the largest shopping centers in Asia, with a multiplex cinema of 15 theaters which includes the largest screen in Asia, the Siam Ocean World, which is the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia, a track bowling alley, a concert hall and of course the gigantic multi-storey shopping center which houses hundreds of luxury brand retail outlets, car dealerships, food courts and perhaps the finest gourmet market of the Kingdom. You can buy almost any type of food here, from freshly imported seafood to ice to fine wines from around the world. The upstairs cinema includes an IMAX theater and stays open long after the mall is closed.
8. Em Quartier
The EmQuartier is Bangkok’s most chic luxury shopping center. Built as part of an extension of the already existing Emporium, the EmDistrict includes several shopping centers, of which the EmQuartier is the last. Hundreds of world famous fashion and beauty brands can be found here, from Luis Vuitton to Issey Miyake to Diane Von Furstenberg, Jimmy Choo and much more. At Christmas they have a lot of sales here, and there is always a festive atmosphere with music and colorful lights flashing. Plus, the mall has a Helix area filled with every imaginable restaurant, from Mexican to New England seafood, to tons of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai options, and there are also an inexpensive food court. In addition to the stores, the shopping center has a luxury fitness center, a multiplex cinema and an IMAX cinema, a gastronomic market and even a waterfall. The Virgin Active Fitness gym has an altitude training room and the most modern training facilities if you need to burn more calories after shopping. Shopaholics should be satiated for years to come.
9. Chatuchak Weekend Market
Originally a flea market launched in the 1950s by a former Prime Minister who wanted to set up a flea market in each city of Thailand, Chatuchak, more affectionately called JJ Market, is today the largest market in Thailand. Over 5000 stalls compete for business, selling everything from clothing to pets, antiques, plants, amulets, and lots of food and drink. The market is now a very touristy, hot, crowded and cheaper affair, but still a great place to people watch, find something you don’t have to buy and the latest addition of makeshift coffees to sip have a cappuccino or have a cold beer and watch the world go by arguing an afternoon. Note that although there are booths open from Thursday to Friday, you really do have to come here on the weekends to see DD at its best.
The last shopping center in Bangkok must be seen to be believed. It truly is an endless chain of superlatives, with over 500,000 square meters of space and some 50 billion baht spent to create the most impressive commercial space in Bangkok, it is an absolute paradise for visitors.
The mall includes a seven-storey Japanese Takashimaya department store, two luxury condominium towers, an endless array of restaurants and eateries, health clubs, and even an indoor floating market, paying homage to traditional Thai trade. . The first Apple Store in Thailand can be found here, and if you get tired of shopping, you can even get a dose of culture at the National Heritage Gallery museum which is also inside the complex! There is also a 3,000-seat cinema and concert hall, and a light and fountain show outside.