Tucked down shadowy, orchid-strewn alleys or confronting you in glittery glory, Bangkok’s shopping opportunities come in every size, shape, budget, and locale imaginable. The best part is, the prices here are half those you’d find in New York, Tokyo or Hong Kong.
To help you find costume jewelry, vintage heels, custom denim, or the perfect pair of Ray Bans at a steal of a price, we rounded up five of the must-visit streets in Thailand’s capital.
An alley full of vintage apparel at Siam Square. (Photo: Jenny Adams)
At Siam Paragon, you’ll find plenty of places, such as Prada and Armani, willing to take your hard-earned cash. But if you want a chance to purchase fashion labels you can’t find back home, head to the nearby Siam Square. It’s actually multiple streets, anchored by a central, charming, tree-lined road. Both sides of the main avenue offer independent boutiques full of affordable shoes, handbags, ladies’ apparel, nail salons, coffee shops, and amazing custom denim for men.
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Always take the paths less traveled when shopping here. The small “sois” (the Thai name for tiny side streets) stretching off Siam Square are equally good for custom clothing and small items like sunglasses and headphones. Tip for the ladies: Wear a bikini under your clothes. The smaller shops don’t have proper dressing rooms but are happy for you to try things on nonetheless.
Great for: Men’s denim. Check out Selvedgework, which carries Thailand-made denim alongside the coolest jeans imported from Japan, Italy, and the U.S. There are five different cuts, and the staff is happy to help you find your perfect pair.
Khao San Road
Vendors on Khao San Road selling coconut ice cream from a cart. (Photo: Jenny Adams)
This is one of the most famous streets in all of Southeast Asia. Khao San is often called The Backpacker Ghetto, thanks to a mix of dirt-cheap accommodations and rowdy, traveler-filled bars. During the day, you’ll find a wonderful entry to the city’s street food culture in the road’s rolling noodle carts, as well as photo ops with the city’s famous tuk-tuk taxi drivers. As the sun sets, however, Khao San turns into an Asian version of Bourbon Street on steroids, with live music pumping, drinks flowing, and hawker stalls lining the large road from end to end.
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Great for: Knock-off everything, from fake luggage brands to pirated, still-in-theater DVDs. If you are a lover of a certain look at cheap, cheap prices, then this is your happy place. It’s also good for beautiful Thai silver jewelry, hill tribe handicrafts, and daring your friends to eat deep-fried insects from street carts.
The main road in Pahurat. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Also called “Little India,” this street is in Bangkok’s famed Chinatown. It’s well known enough that any taxi can get you there (to make it super-easy, ask for the India Emporium, the road’s largest shopping complex), but it can be hard to spot walking up from the outside. Find Yaowarat Road in Chinatown and follow to the end. Turn left and you’ll suddenly realize the Chinese characters have been replaced with signs in Hindi. Most of Pahurat is covered with tarps and packed densely with shops selling food, scarves, saris, and fabrics, allowing for full immersion in the scents and sounds of a small street you might discover on a day in Mumbai.
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Great for: It might smell tempting to try the tikka masala here, but more than one traveler has gotten sick in Pahurat. It’s not an advisable street-food spot. It is, however, one of the city’s best options for gorgeous fabrics and excellent tailor shops. And if you aren’t in the market for a new suit or dress, you can leave with a smaller reminder like a custom henna tattoo or string of prayer beads.
Chak Phet Road and the Pak Khlong Talad Flower Market
Roses are sold in newspapers at the flower market. (Photo: Jenny Adams)
If you’re visiting, you probably don’t need freshly cut flowers, but the city’s enormous flower market makes this list for several reasons. Did you know Thailand has more than 30,000 types of wild and hybrid orchids? At this mostly outdoor market — which is an easy walk from Pahurat — you’ll pass literally tens of thousands of beautiful plants — from rare orchids to carnations, bamboo and water lilies to fresh-cut roses wrapped in newspaper. The best time to visit is early in the morning, when skilled artisans hurry to create arrangements for temple alters, restaurants, weddings, hotel lobbies, and even cab drivers to hang from the rear-view mirrors for good luck.
Great for: A sunrise stroll, coupled with a traditional breakfast of Thai street food and fresh bao buns or dumplings. The vibrant colors also make this street a solid choice for photographers.
Sukhumvit 63 / Ekkamai Soi 10
Vintage shoes at (un) Fashion (Photo: Jenny Adams)
If you love vintage fashions, this small block of shops is a fantastic way to lose an hour. You’ll come away with great deals too. Start at (un) Fashion. Specializing in vintage heels, boots, brogues, and oxfords, there are hundreds upon hundreds of shoes to choose from for both men and women, housed in two sunny, wooden shop houses and flanked by an adjoining, hipster coffee roaster. After that, stroll to Was Were Will for second-hand chambray shirts, ties, and small accessories, followed by Penney on Her Vintage, a shop devoted to outfitting you in a big-shouldered, sequined 1980s-glam dress, begging for a girls’ night out or next Halloween’s gay pride parade.
Great for: Sushi as well as fashion. After all that hard second-hand shopping, stop in Ebisu Sushi at the end of the block and replenish on perfect maguro, cold Asahi beer and bright, fresh salads.