Like most families I imagine shopping anywhere is an ordeal, but if you add the heat, humidity, choking traffic and throngs of people shopping in Bangkok is not something most would even consider if they were traveling with a family. My family however won’t miss an opportunity for a bargain, and Bangkok is just crammed full of bargains.
Most shopping experiences in Bangkok begin as the sun sets and the night markets spring up like long rows of mushrooms lining the already busy streets. Night markets are not what they used to be and the in-famous Patpong is, in my opinion, best avoided if you are looking for a bargain. The goods on offer here are not worth subjecting yourself to the place! Many other street stalls will have the same stuff at a lesser price and with a lot less hassle.
Night markets are not the only or even the best places to shop in Bangkok. With so many different western style malls like Mbk, Gayshorn, World Trade Center etc, you can spend the whole day shopping in Bangkok and never have been outside except to travel from one place to another. Traveling to the different malls is my role in any shopping expeditions our family undertakes. Transport organizer is a role, I think, that is vastly under rated.
Bangkok’s BTS or Skytrain has a reasonable coverage of the major malls and many of the skytrain stations are connected to an adjacent mall making switching an easy affair. Unfortunately not all are linked this way and some form of road travel may be needed. If this is the case then don’t even consider the tuk-tuk’s on offer if you value the life of your children! No only joking …. I’ve traveled many times by tuk-tuk and had my children with me and never really had any frightening experiences. I would say try and avoid the taxi’s in rush hour or you will end up sitting in rush hour traffic, not really something you wanted to do on your holiday was it? The local bus system is NOT for tourists, yes it’s cheap but it would take the best part of your entire holiday to understand how it all works.
If you get saturated with all the malls and night markets you don’t have to stop shopping! Bangkok has thought of everything to help the intrepid shopper spend their money. Chatuchak Weekend Market is the biggest outdoor market in the world and has over 15,000 stalls. I haven’t counted them all but I’m sure we’ve visited each and everyone on separate visits. You can also leave Bangkok for a days shopping on the waterways of the famous Damnoen Saduak. This floating market takes place everyday at sunrise so you do have to start the day really early, not something many people are happy to do when traveling with children.
With so much shopping to do in such a short time you need to be prepared before you even get to Bangkok. Get yourself a map of the city and mark out all the shopping destinations you want to visit and know what you want to buy. Work out a route between these and decide what mode of transport would be best. Plan where you want to be at what time in the day will avoid rush hour traffic and mid day heat. In short plan your shopping trip like a military operation; Bangkok is not for the faint hearted and its shops are not for browsing!
A final thing to mention about shopping in Bangkok is the art of when and how to Haggle. Don’t embarrass yourself and try this in any of the major malls, Tourist Discount Cards or VAT refunds are often available at these stores. Haggling is best left for the market stalls, indeed it’s expected at most and vendors may not be that happy if you don’t join in the fun. Keep a smile on your face, be polite and have some fun with the stall holder, but if at any point you’re not happy with the proceedings move on, don’t start arguing with the stall holder. Remember the first price you get will be over inflated and it’s up to you to get the best price by haggling.