Most prominent among these is Asiatique, the Riverfront. This huge riverside complex has taken over the moniker of Bangkok’s leading lifestyle shopping and entertainment complex following the closure of Suan Lum Night Bazaar a few years ago. This is also the first and the only lifestyle venue on the Chao Phraya River. It is situated on an expansive 80,000 sq-m site and has been created around old warehouses that formerly belonged to the East Asiatic Company trading company.
These have been converted into a superb entertainment and retail zone that pay homage to Bangkok’s past as an important riverside trading post in the 19th Century. The Factory District is the main shopping area and is home to 1,500 small shops that are located in the old warehouse buildings. This area has an abundance of fashion items, handicrafts, souvenirs, furniture, and home furnishings for sale.
Prices are generally fixed unlike other night markets where bargaining is the norm but shoppers will find unusual goods not usually stocked in mainstream shops and department stores. The Home Décor zone sells a wide selection of high-quality home decor products. From a key ring to spa aroma products, the Souvenir and Handicraft zone retails unique items, many of which have been made by Thai craftsmen at affordable prices. The Fashion and Accessories zone stocks a huge range of fashion items with a vast selection of design, including vintage clothing. The Unique Design zone stocks items including clothing, household items and other unique objects designed by young Thai creative designers.
The River City Shopping Complex is a high-end retail centre located on the central Si Phraya Pier. This expansive complex is the largest arts and antiques centre in South East Asia and is spread over 47,000 sq-m. It stocks Thai art and cultural products, including antiques, Buddha images, gold ornaments, porcelain items, silver boxes, art deco pieces, clocks , sculptures, intricate wood carvings and other artwork sourced from Burma, China, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Riverside Auction House holds regular auctions on the first Saturday of every month in the River City Shopping Complex. All lots are on view one week prior to the auction and catalogs are available in the Preview Room.
For less glitzy retail experiences, the Tha Prachan Pier Market is a more casual affair and sells everything from snacks and fruit to clothes and accessories. The market is quite small but is very local and friendly. Most stalls open from early afternoon. This market is also famous for its Buddhist amulet stores and the streets around the pier and the main market area are lined with stalls selling all kinds of trinkets and religious items. Besides browsing for bargains, the food on offer at the Tha Prachan Market is a real treat. Inside the pier’s small complex are a number of great local eateries offering favourites such as papaya salad, som tam and green chicken curry.
For a sea of colour, the Pak Khlong Talaat is Bangkok’s biggest flower market. A busy market has operated at this locale since the mid 1700s. Pak Khlong Talaat means “market at the mouth of the canal” and a long time ago it would have been a floating market. The north side of the market is one of the best places in town to buy fresh fruit and vegetables along with traditional Thai sweets.
Next to the Grand Palace, sprawling over a wide area around the Tha Chang ferry pier stands the Tha Chang day market. Most of the stalls are a simple piece of cloth or a small table set up on the pavement selling both new and second hand goods. There are quite a few shops selling second-hand goods, but the attraction of this market is the culturally interesting northern end of the market where the focus is on religious Buddhist objects and traditional medicine and the area south of the pier where fortune tellers are waiting to tell fortunes based on cards or the stars.
The Ratchawongse Pier lies at the heart of Bangkok’s largest Chinese community and this pier is the perfect jumping off point to explore Chinatown. Better known as Yaowarat, this area is where the first Chinese immigrants settled over 200 years ago and it is a fascinating cultural district that is home to an abundance of gold shops, traditional medicine stores and some of the most delicious street food in the capital.
It is home to two of Bangkok’s most celebrated markets: Phahurat and Sampheng. Phahurat Market is also known as Thailand’s “Little India” as it is home to the city’s largest Sikh population, many of whom are involved in the thriving textile trade. Across the street is Sampheng Market which is the oldest and biggest wholesale market in town. This winding maze of stalls sells everything from textiles and toys to costume jewellery and cutlery – all at bargain wholesale prices.
The Old Siam Plaza is a hidden retro-style, three storey air-con bazaar situated just a few blocks away from the river near Chinatown. The locality surrounding Old Siam is also a window on the past with its old movie theatre and art deco buildings. Old Siam is divided in two main atriums and three floors. The floors are dedicated to traditional jewellers and silk retailers, clothes, household goods and computer repairs. Under the atrium, women use original recipes and equipment to create Thai snacks and classic desserts.
Whether it is a stylish lifestyle complex like Asiatique, the high-end goods of the River City Shopping Complex, or the local markets that stock every type of item imaginable, the riverside offers a wealth of fascinating shopping opportunities.