This story is brought to you by THE OKURA PRESTIGE BANGKOK.
Where to shop in Bangkok? And what to buy? Here is a guide to Bangkok’s key shopping places. From department stores, malls, markets, and wholesale places.
Shopping malls are everywhere in Bangkok. But for visitors, those within the Bangkok CBD would be the best bet. Here is a brief rundown of what to expect when you are inundated with choices.
Bangkok Shopping Location – BTS: PHLOEN CHIT
Above: The Central Embassy in Phloen Chit area of Bangkok.
1. CENTRAL EMBASSY (10.00 – 22.00)
Built on the grounds that used to be of the British Embassy in Bangkok, Central Embassy took on a new approach of the high-class department store with its well-thought-of and avant-garde designs and interiors. Packed throughout its floors are speciality shops, brand names – some with their exclusive outlets here in town – small selections of liquor and spirit shops, MUJI, as well as Truefitt & Hill. Eathai – one of the best Thai-style food courts – is on the lower level, while on the top floors are cinemas, more restaurants, and floor-wide bookstore plus food-court-style cafes and eatery.
2. CENTRAL CHIDLOM (10.00 – 22.00)
Amid the current breakneck competitions of stores and shops, Central Chidlom lives on its legacy of being ‘the’ place for savvy and well-heeled locals. Small in space compared to other newcomers, Central Chidlom is packed with well-curated, elegant, and timeless items – from designer’s brands to cosmetics and speciality shops. What you cannot find in many department stores (such as a particular shade of lipstick, or a certain brand of perfume), you might be able to find them here. Their top-floor food court also offers decent varieties of deliciousness. Their main bookstore B2S on the 7 Floor has Starbucks within – a great escapade to all the hustles of the city.
Bangkok Shopping Location – BTS: CHIT Lom
Above: The Gaysorn Village at Ratchaprasong area of Bangkok.
3. GAYSORN VILLAGE (10.00 – 20.00)
Long before all malls started to call themselves ‘speciality stores,’ Gaysorn Plaza, as it was known then, was Bangkok’s de facto speciality store. The place used to be the exclusive club for the world’s top brand names. Prada had their first flagship here, along with Dior, Louis Vuitton, and much more. Gaysorn Village has gone through some facelifts over the years. The current phrase is a combination of hip, local designers + high brands, exclusive jewellery and so on. They also have Riedel Wine Bar where top wines around the world are served by the glass and the world’s exclusive tea lounge – 1823 Tea Lounge by Ronnefeldt.
Above: The interior of Central World in the Ratchaprasong area of Bangkok.
4. CENTRAL WORLD (10.00 – 22.00)
This is a mall for all people – with everything everyone would want in a day’s out shopping and spending time in an air-conditioned space. High-street brands, local designers, crafty sections, electronic gadgets and appliances, sportswear, casual wear, and so on. Plenty of restaurants upstairs, some good enough to mention – Kam Poon for Thai Esan fare, Din Tai Fung for shrimp fried rice, San Yod (for Chinese stir-fried noodles). In a pinch, their sprawling food court and supermarket on the top floor provide food values of eclectic choices. Adjacent to this mall is the walkway to Platinum Mall (wholesale fashion and accessories) and Pratunam area for more fashion and wholesale opportunities.
Above: The walkway that links Central World, Gaysorn Village, and The Platinum Mall together.
Bangkok Shopping areas: Platinum Mall + Pratunam area
A maze would describe the place. Stacks of floors, each crowded with small and crowded shops brimmed with the latest fashion, or the turn-around of the latest fashions. Everything you think you’d want or don’t know you would want until you see it. From petite to oversized, from prom dresses to casual, from formal attire to sportswear. All kinds of accessories, from benign to wild. A great place to get lost and shop to your heart’s desire. This is the world of fast and cheap fashion, just to inform you what you are getting yourself into.
Bangkok Shopping Location – BTS: Siam
Above: The gleaming facade of Siam Paragon in the Siam area of Bangkok.
6. SIAM PARAGON (10.00 – 22.00)
A sprawling mall with a section of a department store and a section of a mall, inclusive of cinemas and loads of restaurants and cafes, Siam Paragon will appear to be always crowded thanks to its location at the main conjunction of the BTS lines. Again, this place screams brand names – Hermes is here, along with Chanel and Bottega Veneta. But for those into sewing, there are also fabric shops – Nai Chan and Europa – that sells lovely premium prints by the yard. Top floors are more foods and Thai-style crafty souvenir shops.
Above: The Siam Discovery as seen from the BTS walkway.
7. SIAM DISCOVERY (10.00 – 22.00)
The recently renovated Siam Discovery poises itself to be all about edgy designs and non-mainstream fashions, so expect to find exclusive designers brands, design-centric gadgets, home accessories featuring particular collections and series not available anywhere else. SMEG retro fridge is available in more colours here than others, for example. Thai designers featuring Thai cotton and silks – all gorgeous and avant-garde – are on the top floor, sharing the space with an all-white, futuristic-looking food court where you can order your foods using a table-side iPad.
Above: The interior cluster of Siam Center.
8. SIAM CENTEr (10.00 – 22.00)
As Bangkok’s very first department store back in the early 1970s, Siam Center used to be ‘the’ place for Thai teens – all fashionably-decked as they could – to hang out, especially on the white marble staircases upfront. The staircases had now been redone and resized in, well, black, that had substantially subdued its previously glowing persona. Inside, though, Siam Center is still the place for local designers to shine. Some top designers have been having their outlets here for decades, a great testament that this is still the breeding ground of the local fashion industry and more. Food courts are available upstairs; the whole place is interspersed with small cafes and restaurants.
Above: The MBK Center of Bangkok.
9. MBK (10.00 – 22.00)
One of the longest-standing indoor malls in Bangkok, MBK is an institution of Siam. It used to be that locals will combine their trotting routes into a triangle of Siam Center (above), Siam Square (below), and MBK to finish it off and then hail a cab home. MBK is a sprawling indoor market, selling everything from knockoff fashions to precious, collectable watches. This is also a haven for camera lovers and those into espionage – with multiple shops selling not just the cameras and surveillance equipment, but also all kinds of related accessories – at competitive pricing, too. Enjoy browsing and bargaining, all in the cooling comfort of an air-conditioned building.
10. Siam Square
Opposite Siam Center is the area known as Siam Square. With parallel rows of sois and alleys packed with shops, this has been an open-mall and the heartbeat of the Thai fashion scenes for decades. This is the centre of the latest and newest happenings in Bangkok. This is another breeding ground for local designers, so expect to see something unique and exclusive. The scene is young, for it is the backyard of Chulalongkorn University and more, and also with the BTS hub, people come here to get the vibrancy of the city, and the inexhaustible urbanite attitudes. The best time to be there is early afternoon, roughly from 14.00 onwards.
Bangkok Shopping Location – BTS: Asoke
Above: The Terminal 21 in the Asoke area of Bangkok.
11. TERMINAL 21 (10.00 – 22.00)
Asoke used to be mall-dry until the huge existence of Terminal 21 (named after Sukhumvit 21, the soi that was originally named as ‘Asoke’) that was built on the benefits of being right next to the BTS line. This has become a perpetually crowded mall packed with, again, all things wearable, ostensible, and edible. Themed to be an airport terminal with interspersed made-up backdrops for photos, this mall offers a huge collection of small individual shops selling their specialities. Plenty of T-shirt shops with interesting patterns, accessories, bags, shoes, as well as nightgowns and tuxedos for special occasions.
Bangkok Shopping Location – BTS: Phrom Phong
12. The Emporium + 13. THE EMQUARTER (10.00 – 22.00)
This duo of shopping malls dominates the area on both sides of the roads. While The Emporium, once a cosy and plush backyard mall for those living in this residential cluster of Sukhumvit, retains its homey charms, The Emquartier – its younger sister – is loaded with glitters and brand names – from Stella McCartney to Paul Smith to Jimmy Choo and Tory Burch plus hipster dining options from Roast (for all-day breakfast) to Gok Fa Yuan (Hong Kong style noodles) and Mozza pizzeria.
Bangkok Shopping Location – MRT: Kamphaeng Phet
Above: The collection of tiffin carriers at Chatuchak weekend market.
Wed-Thur: open for plants + Flowers, Fri: open for wholesales, Sat-Sun: Open for all areas – all from 06.00 – 18.00
Forget all flea markets of the world and head to Chatuchak Market and go wild with a shopping spree. This sprawling space is an institution when it comes to all things that would make perfect souvenirs from Thailand. Even though the whole area is marked into sections, it is more likely that one would just walk and walk and walk through, pick and bargain, and buy and then ask someone for the way out hours later. Highlights here are hard to describe, it is a maze, packed with all things. Fashion aside, there are also celadon, old china, tea sets, hand-woven fabrics, Thai silk, home accessories of all kinds, rare books, and of course, loads of peculiar trinkets you might not be able to find anywhere else. Also, don’t forget to stop by at many Thai shaved ice dessert places, cafes, and even full-scale restaurants hidden along the way.
Above: Dried Thai fruits make good tasty souvenirs – these are from Or Tor Kor Market on the other side of Chatuchak Weekend Market.
Shopping Tips at Chatuchak market
Walk around and scout out things that you want to buy first. Take your time in browsing. Usually, things that you want from the first shop you see will also reappear in another shop, too. That way you can compare the prices without haggling too much.
For large items such as furniture, the shop usually provides shipping service. Ask first and field the prices.
Like Pratunam and Platinum, Chatuchak is more about cheap and fast fashion which does not necessarily interpret as quality. But amid them are some home-grown local designers who offer their ware at perhaps higher prices, but still reasonable. Again, feel the fields first and see what you like best.
For those into Thai cooking utensils such as granite pestles and mortars, tiffin carriers, woks, large woven slotted ladles and so on, they are all here. Take your time to browse and walkthrough. Bring your own electric fan.
Bangkok Shopping Location – MRT: Thailand Cultural Centre
Nightly from 17.00 – 01.00. Ratchadapisek Road, Behind Esplanade Mall, MRT: Thailand Cultural Centre (Exit #3)
One of the most vibrant and longest-standing night markets in Bangkok, Talad Rod Fai is packed with shops selling colourful things from collectable vintage items to the latest fashions. The large space is divided into zones – foods of all kinds, then shops, and then bars for mingling and drinking. Talad Rod Fai is a type of what we call ‘Talad Nad,’ meaning an ‘ad hoc’ kind of trading space that originally derived from a scheduled gathering of merchants. Now, however, as you can see, this is an organised and systemised market with regular special events. Merchants vary, and it is always fun even just to walk around. Saturdays are usually packed, just so you know. This is an outdoor market, bring a personal electric fan, and enjoy the best people-mingling scenes. Beware of your belongings. Best to avoid fresh, uncooked foods, especially shellfishes.
Bangkok Shopping Location – BTS: Saphan Taksin
Nightly from 16.00 – 22.00, Charoenkrung Road, Between Soi 72-76. T: (+66) 02-108-4488. BTS: Saphan Taksin, then Free Boat Shuttle to The Asiatique, Shuttle Boats Run from 16.00 – 23.30.
Built on the restored East Asiatic Port of the late 1800s, Asiatique The Riverfront shines a new light in Bangkok’s shopping and Thai-cultural immersing scenes. Apart from shopping (best for Thai traditional souvenirs and local designers, local wears such as wide-legged cotton pants, elephant-patterned everything, and gold-trimmed silky pillowcases, Asiatique is also the place people come and see the rare Thai traditional performances such as Muay Thai (Muay Thai Live) and the glittering and fun mini-puppetry show (Joe Louis). To get the best bird’s eye view of Bangkok riverside, take a seat at their legendary Asiatique Sky (Bt400/adult, Bt250/child).
Vat Refund for tourists
Tourists are entitled to a 7% VAT refund when purchasing goods at shops displaying a VAT Refund for Tourist Logo. And you can proceed with the VAT refund procedure either at many downtown malls or at the International Airports – Don Meung and Suvarnabhumi airports.
More information about claiming your VAT refund in Bangkok downtown is here.
Or should you wish to make the refund at the airport, allow enough time, details of the process is available here.
Visit The Revenue Department of Thailand’s website for all the details.
Need recommendations on what to buy? Read our Top 10 Best Things to Buy in Bangkok.