Besides the many small shops that you find in every street, there are some locations that concentrate on shopping in Bangkok. See following malls and markets we visited with some notes on their character:
The Siam Mall stands for luxury shopping with all the known big brands. Fully air conditioned it’s a nice escape from the heat outside, and we re-energize on a cone of soft ice cream for 15 Baht from the McDonald’s inside. Downstairs is a gourmet temple with expensive food from all over the world. We take our time in exploring that food section.
Best discovery: From one of the bakeries we enjoy dark, German style bread. Feels like home for a short moment.
Weirdest discovery: At one food stand they sell something called “bird’s nest”. I ask the vendor what exactly the ingredients are, but the sole answer I get is “bird’s nest”. After a while even I get it. The sole ingredient is the nest that certain birds – swiftlets -build out of their saliva. It is harvested for human consumption as it is very nutritious and tasty. Like all weird Asian dishes it is said to have some special powers. By eating a bird’s nest soup, seniors relieve their fatigues and chronic coughs, women maintain their youthful looks and children develop better. The bird’s nest is nicknamed the “Caviar of the East” and an expensive Asian delicacy.
The cinema on the uppermost floor is up-to-date and offers modest prices for current Hollywood movies, most of them screened in original language, too.
This mother of all Bangkok malls is the first choice for many tourists. It is hard to find a travel guide which does not mention the MBK. On 6 stories you find all the batik shirts, fake brand goodies, elephant-print-pants and beautiful wristlets you need. There are coconut lamps, small lacquer ware boxes, Buddha paintings and wood carved statues in all sizes and qualities for the ones you left home. Mobile accessories like neon cell phone cases and colorful Hello Kitty gadgets fill one full floor. Don’t forget to bargain to get a good price! This mall is the #1 for tourists and the merchants know how to get most of your money.
Platinum Mall – the local’s choice
If you are up to some more authentic outfit shopping and cheaper prices than in the MBK, the Platinum Mall is your choice. Small vendors squeeze their shops into every floor of the building. They offer a great choice of normal clothing next to touristic fake brand name shirts and elephant pants. Men and women (and children) equally will find what wear they need. You may have to spend some time searching for the right piece of garment, but it is most certainly there.
Small Street Markets
When you walk through Bangkok, small food markets seem to pop up everywhere. We fill up our fruit reserves there. Most of the times those markets are flanked by mobile eateries where locals have their standard Thai dishes, such as Pad Thai or Pad See Ew – a good option for us budget travelers.
The Chatuchak Market
The Chatuchak market is the largest open air market of Bangkok and divided into rough theme sections like clothes, kitchen ware, cloth, decoration and vegetables. The market is frequented by locals and tourists equally. Sitting down in one of the many food stands gives you plenty opportunity for people watching. We get lost between the tight corridors stuffed with fragrant soaps and herbal oils, to find ourselves back on the main road near the central clock tower. The tower gives some orientation. Sipping on a freshly pressed orange juice we continue our walk watching locals bargain loudly with each other over bamboo baskets that are used for rice steaming.
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