The Chatuchak market is enormous and extremely cheap. For those who would rather pay a fraction of the price and are willing to put up with heaving crowds, sore feet and no air-con in order to do so, it’s a shopper’s dream come true. Particularly impressive are the art, household goods, garden statuary and ceramics: if travelling shortly before Xmas then why not buy lovely presents for the whole family? This is Thai culture at its most manic, three hundred thousand shoppers per day crowding into fifteen hundred stalls and countless tiny restaurants, eating fantastic fast food off makeshift tables constructed out of random items like doors and old sewing machines.
The enormous Siam Paragon shopping mall is at the opposite end of the shopping spectrum. The largest in Thailand, it sits on fully 21 acres of prime central Bangkok land and has hundreds of shops selling just about everything under the sun: there are even car showrooms, an aquarium, cinemas and a high class food court in addition to the budget food court on the ground floor. The mall was designed to eclipse similar projects in neighbouring countries and put Thailand on a par with Hong Kong and Singapore as a shopping destination.
Walking around most of the other shopping malls, you will notice they all seem to sell exactly the same products. The Paragon has broken the mould to some extent, and has brands and designer outlets not seen anywhere else in Thailand.
Forget crèches for the kids and cine multiplexes: no shopping complex can compete with the Siam Paragon’s aquarium, where those with nerves of steel can dive into an aquarium full of sharks. At Siam Ocean World, in the basement, you can go eyeball to eyeball with ragged-toothed sharks while your other half eyeballs Gucci shoes. Sounds scary?
Actually, there’ll be no need to wet your wetsuit, as none of these sharks will attack people unless seriously provoked. Once in the water, however, there is no guarantee that that knowledge will necessarily insulate you from the primal fear of big, pointy teeth.
Maybe the least frenetic big shopping malls in Bangkok are the elegant and swish ‘Central’ chain, where you will find dozens of fashion boutiques and several English language bookshops. Stop for lunch at either Fuji, the scrumptious chain of Japanese restaurants, or at MK Suki, for a ridiculously cheap steam-boat: the prawns are best if dipped in the steam-boat for only 5 seconds.
For electronics head to Pantip Plaza, whose 6 floors are packed with cut-price hardware and software. The police regularly raid the place for pirated software, but the supply is never held up for long, as the vendors have an effective early-warning system in place.
A few metres from Pantip Plaza is the huge Platinum fashion mall. This makes a visit to the Pantip Plaza / Platinum
zones an attractive propositions for couples where she wants to clothes shop, and he wants some new toys.
MBK Shopping Mall is very popular with locals, has excellent fashion boutiques, and is THE place for anything related to mobile phones, if you can stand the heaving crowds.
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