More bang for your buck in Bangkok

By Sarah Lee, a Travel Professional

Read more on Bangkok.

Overall rating:3.8 out of 5 (based on 6 votes)
Recommended for:
Shopping, Winter Sun, Budget, Expensive, Mid-range

The exchange rate may not be as favourable as it once was but head to the Thai capital of Bangkok and not only will you find a dizzying array of shopping options, you’ll still find plenty of bargains

Fashionistas, take note: there’s a new kid on the catwalk. Bangkok is a trendy Asian tiger that hosts its own fashion week and has some of the best shopping in the region, with sparkling malls that are home to established designers, new names and a host of high-street copycats. But it’s not just clothes shopping that's in great supply in the city – locally-made silks, ornaments and gifts are available from a great number of shopping areas. Take your pick from the following and prepare to haggle – it’s a sport in Thailand and many traders outside the larger stores expect it.

This is the place to head to for all the latest fashions. It’s where Bangkok’s trendy young things first cut their teeth on designer wear – the area is at the heart of the city’s fashion scene and regularly hosts shows during Bangkok Fashion Week. Thailand’s newest designers have shops here, while more established names like Versace, Gucci and Prada have stores in nearby Siam Paragon.

Top buys
Trend-setting fashions and designer labels.

Shopping downtime
Although Bangkok’s Grand Palace is its top visitor attraction, Vimanmek is a beautiful former royal palace that will appeal to those trying to escape the crowds. Compared to the dazzling grandeur of the Grand Palace, Vimanmek is more understated but it's equally appealing. The world’s largest golden teak palace, Vimanmek was built in 1900 but was only used as a royal palace for five years. It is beautifully preserved and now serves as a museum to the Thai royal family.

The high street has never been so colourful and so much fun as at MBK. Mah Boon Krong Center, as it’s more formally known, is 330 metres long and eight floors high. Its main shop is Tokyu, a department store specialising in men’s and ladies’ fashions and cosmetics. The different floors in the centre are themed. The ground floor has stalls and shops with an abundance of handbags and flip-flops in every shape, size and colour. The fourth floor is the place to head for electricals, while other floors feature local crafts and rows of jewellery shops (gold and precious stones are a good buy in Thailand, but there are plenty of fakes around, so take care that you are buying quality goods).
Don’t forget to pick up a centre-wide tourist discount card at the information counter for even more savings at MBK’s shops.

Top buys
High-street fashions, electricals, jewellery, shoes and bags.

Shopping downtime
Not far from MBK is Jim Thompson’s house. Thompson, an American, is heralded as being the founding father of the Thai silk trade, before he mysteriously vanished in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands in 1967. The house, formed from parts of six antique Thai houses, is set along one of Bangkok’s many canals and details the history of the silk trade and Thompson’s life. The on-site gift shop has some beautiful silk fabrics, scarves and accessories.

The famed backpacker quarter of the city doesn’t just have cheap accommodation, restaurants and bars. Shopping here is among the cheapest in the city, with a huge variety of items such as light cotton shirts and trousers, beachwear, shoes, and jewellery from a number of wholesale shops. Fancy a light snack? Then try a Bangkok speciality from one of Khao San Road’s street stalls: deep fried cockroaches, scorpions and locusts. If that’s not your cup of tea, there are plenty of great restaurants to choose from and you can follow this up with a relaxing Thai massage for around £3 from one of many massage parlours.

Top buys
Fisherman trousers and backpacker essentials.

Shopping downtime
A trip to Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, should top every visitor’s list. The 15m-high, 46m-long golden Buddha lies gracefully and serenely in a building built simply to house it. When you’re finished there, hop on the ferry across the Chao Phraya River and visit Wat Arun, otherwise known as the Temple of the Dawn. This fabulous temple is covered in porcelain plates and saucers, which had at one time been used as ballast by Chinese ships visiting Bangkok. It’s quirky and beautiful.

Forget the tourist-fleecing stalls of Patpong night market and head to Chatuchak: at 35 acres, and with around 15,000 stalls, it’s possibly the largest market in the world! Naturally, you can get just about anything here, from designer fakes in clothes and shoes to gifts, furniture and even household goods and pets. The market is so vast that maps have been developed to help navigate row upon row of stalls, but if you just want to wander, you’ll find lots to keep you interested, and some great restaurants for very cheap eats.

Top buys
Silk shirts and ties.

Shopping downtime
Hop on the Skytrain (the only way to travel in hectic Bangkok) to Ratchadamri and head to Lumphini Park for a break from the frenetic pace of Chatuchak. The park is Bangkok’s lungs and is home to the city’s first public library. The gardens and boating lake offer a rare chance to completely relax and pause for breath in a frenetic city. In the winter months, the park plays host to classical music festivals.


Where to stay

Pathumwan Princess: a modern four-star right inside MBK – you don’t get any closer to the bargains.

Sofitel Silom: a sophisticated five-star hotel that is a peaceful haven in the chaos of Silom Road.

Buddy Lodge: one of many great cheap hotels in the Khao San Road area.

Siam City Hotel: a quality, centrally located four-star with some great rates.

The Oriental: history, elegance and class all come together at this riverside hotel.

Dream Hotel: one of the cool new kids on the block in trendy Sukhumvit Road

Where to drink

V9, Sofitel Silom: classy bar for the cool crowd, on the 39th floor.

Bamboo Bar, The Oriental: not a cheap choice but its old-world charm and fabulous cocktails more than make up for the prices.

Vertigo, Banyon Tree Hotel: an open-air bar on the 69th floor? Make sure you don’t have one too many!

Where to eat

Wild Orchid: fantastic cheap meals and cocktails close to Khao San Road. This is also a popular hostel.

Silom Village: take a table at any one of the restaurants in this small shopping and nightlife village and you’re assured a good meal.

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More information on More bang for your buck in Bangkok:

Sarah Lee
Traveller type:
Travel Professional
Guide rating:
Average: 3.8 (6 votes)
Total views:
First uploaded:
7 April 2009
Last updated:
5 years 41 weeks 4 days 12 hours 44 min 15 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Shopping, Winter Sun
Budget level:
Budget, Mid-range, Expensive
Free tags / Keywords:
temples, markets, city breaks, bargain

Sarah recommends


Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
2. Sofitel Bangkok Silom
3. Buddy Lodge
4. Siam City Hotel
5. Pathumwan Princess Hotel Bangkok
6. Dream Bangkok
7. Wild Orchid Villa Khaosan

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Community comments (7)

0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Chatuchak Market is a fair way from Lumpini Park, which is actually fairly central - see map.

You can go on either the Skytrain or the underground Metro, depending on the nearest station to your hotel, to Chatuchak - about 20 minutes from central Bangkok. From memory, I think the fare is 40 bahts one-way.

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

I overall I think this is a strong article, with it covering the most easiest to access and fun shopping mecca's in Bangkok.

However one point is not totally accurate - Lumphini Park is not close to the Chatuchak weekend market. To travel by BTS train between the two locations there are 9 stations.

However right near the Chatuchak market there is the pleasant Chatuchak park, which is one of the larger parks in Bangkok's metropolitan area. Over the weekends it's filled with groups of friends and families coming to relax and enjoy the relative spaciousness from the nearby market.

I agree with Chang Fei's comments on the Suan Luam Night Bazaar and a more comfortable night time shopping experience. Plus, it's right next door to Lumphini Park - so a great option to cover the two over an eventful evening. Make sure to get to Lumphini Park before 6pm, so you can watch the world stop for the length of the Kings anthem that's played over the speakers every day.

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

The "big technology shopping plaza" mentioned by Jason is called Panthip Plaza , which is situated on Phetburi Road .

Right next door to Panthip is a large fashion mall called Platinum . I would say that Platinum is more popular and better for clothes than MBK nowadays .

For those , that are not visiting on a weekend , or dont fancy the heat (and its hot!) of the weekend market (JatuJak) , should visit Suan Luam Night Bazaar , which is smaller but still has very interesting stuff , and is handily placed right beside a subway station.

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

A great guide for those who love to shop. Well researched. Maybe include all the transport options too. Siam Square, MBK, Chatuchak market and Lumphini park are all on, or close to, the very efficient BTS ( skytrain ). The Palaces and Kao San Road can be reached by river taxi. I enjoyed reading this guide very much.

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

I like this guide a lot because it mentions the best places to go for shopping and that what it's designed to cover, but I agree with the earlier review that Patpong is a good place for cheap touristy stuff also.

There's also a big technology shopping plaza in Bangkok (can't remember the name) where you can buy laptops and digital cameras 15% cheaper than you can buy in the UK.

I too am a huge Bangkok lover, not for Patpong but for the sheer hectic madness. It's also a huge party town, probably the best in South East Asia.

I would have like to have heard more in the guide about the places to go out. Having been to Bangkok quite a few times, it's not until you manage to go out with locals that you realise where the best places are to go - adding more places of where to go out could have made this a more inspirational guide for urban shoppers.

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Earlier this year I spent some time in Pantip Plaza, the technology mall.

My Canon camera, which I bought for $A173 in Australia, was over $200 at the then exchange rate. Lap top computers were 10-15% more than Australia.

If you buy there, you should check that the warranty will apply in your home country.

1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Great overview of Bangkok, a little disappointing that this was the only guide, other than a business traveller guide. I have stayed in the recommended hotel on the Kao San Rd and its excellent and the best in area. Numerous accomodations recommended and places to eat which is great. No mention of Lumpinee Market, where all the fake goods are sold. I originally typed on Patpong (the more colourful side of Bangkok) but fair enough this guide is more geared towards shopping. Nothing I haven't read in the Rough Guide although some good snippets, hence no top marks.

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