Luxury malls and shopping centers
The Thai capital has in recent years seen the proliferation of a number of high-end shopping malls. Much frequented luxe malls in the city include Siam Paragon, CentralWorld Siam, Siam Center, Terminal21, Gaysorn, Central Chidlom and the Emporium. These sleek, air-conditioned retail heavens offer a somewhat similar retail mix. Their shopping offerings include stores retailing fashion apparel from leading international and Thai brands, life-style products, furniture, accessories, footwear, children’s wear and toys and more.
The malls also host numerous cafes and fast-food outlets in addition to food-courts and supermarkets. They also host various entertainment options, which cater to all age groups like movie theaters (Siam Paragon, Central Siam and Emporium), aquariums (Siam Paragon) and an ice-skating rink (Central Siam). As a result, Bangkok’s malls are popular options for day trips as shoppers’ have their every need catered too. As for prices, these high-end malls are not particularly cheap and prices are quite similar to the US or European outposts of well-known brands. However, the stores at the malls often have sales and if you happen to visit at this time, you are likely to snag a bargain or two.
Wholesale shopping centers
In addition to its luxury malls, Bangkok also hosts shopping centers that specialize in well priced if not cheap and cheerful products. Such down to earth shopping locales include malls like MBK, and Platinum Fashion mall at Pratunam, are two such shopping centers. At both these shopping centers, bulk buying is encouraged and if you buy in multiples you are sure to get better rates, usually after some haggling with the vendor.
MBK mall receives hordes of shoppers daily. The mall’s more than 2000 stores offer a wide variety of products like mobile phones and accessories, footwear, fashion forward clothing, mass produced souvenirs and artifacts, luggage, photography equipment, cosmetics, jewelry, leather goods and more. While Platinum Fashion mall at Pratunam, mainly offers trendy apparel and accessories.
Like most Asian cities, Bangkok is home to many lively markets. The most famous market is the sprawling Chatuchak weekend market. Extending over 35 acres, this bustling market hosts a mind-boggling 8000 stalls as it welcomes more than 200,000 visitors each weekend. The market features enclosed and al fresco sections but is quite organized and relatively easy to navigate. Vendors at Chatuchak market serve up a wide variety of wares including fashion apparel for all the family, footwear, decorative items and lifestyle products, furniture, artworks, plants and flowers, kitchen ware, books, antiques and even used clothing.
While the Chatuchak market is a weekend-only market, other markets in Bangkok like the street market along its main thoroughfare Sukhumvit and the market at Khao San Road, Patpong are open for business daily. In fact, these lively markets are open until the early hours of the morning as they offer similar wares such as clothing, handicrafts, DVDs, local cuisines, footwear, toys, accessories, luggage, silks, watches and more.
Other popular markets in the Thai capital include its floating markets at Amphawa, Taling Chan, Tha Kha, Bang Ku Wiang and Damnoen Saduak. These markets cater to the daily needs of Bangkok’s river communities and feature vendors who peddle their wares from boats. Cooked food, fresh produce, souvenirs and essential are popular items sold at these markets. Bangkok’s floating markets are a popular tourist attraction and are best visited in the morning.
Tips for shopping in Bangkok
Bargaining is an accepted norm in most shopping hotspots of Bangkok. At markets, you can expect to get 40-50% off the quoted price. Most vendors are aware of the haggling process and enjoy the sparring.
Visitors to Thailand can expect to a refund of the 7% VAT tax charged when they leave the country from an international airport and take their goods with them. However, in order for the refund to be approved each application form should show a transaction of 2000 Thai baht. The total value of these transactions should amount to 5000 Thai baht and to be eligible for VAT refund the visitor must leave Thailand within 60 days of arrival. VAT refunds are available at upscale stores and malls bearing the ‘VAT Refund for Tourists’ sign.
Many small shops and market stalls in Bangkok, in addition to upscale stores and boutiques, can arrange to ship your purchases to your home country. The bigger stores also take off the necessary paperwork including customs declarations and insurance. This renders the process of shopping in Bangkok relatively easy and even enjoyable, as you don’t have to worry about exceeding baggage allowances if your purchases are being shipped directly home.