ENTERTAINMENT. SHOPPING AND RESTUARANTS IN BANGKOK

ENTERTAINMENT IN BANGKOK

Bangkok’s red light district is arguably the most infamous in the world. The main sex and sin area is centered around Patphong Road, just off Silom Road. There are also sex and entertainment places in New Petchburi and Ratchadaphisek. Many discos, cabarets and nightclubs are found in the large hotels. In recent years, the area around the corner of Soi Langsuan and Soi Sarasin (north of Lumphini Park) has become very trendy with locals and expatriates. It boasts numerous restaurants, cafes, food stalls and nightspots.

There are lots of bars, cheap restaurants and Internet cafes in and around the backpacker areas of Khao San Road and Banglamphu. Elsewhere in the city are bars and cafes with blaring music used by locals. The shopping areas and night markets (see below) are also fun. More upscale places are found around Sukhumvit Road (which becomes Rama I), Silom Road, the Phloen Chit-Ratchadamri District and I and around the fancy hotels like the Peninsula near the river.

Concerts and performance of classical music and dance and Khon, traditional Thai masked dance drama, are regularly performed at the National Theater (Ratcini Road near the Grand Palace). There are also daily shows of classical Thai music and dance at Vimamanek Palace. Free temple dancing can be seen at Erawan shrine (Rama I Road) and Lak Muang Temple behind the Grand Palace near Sanam Luang. Thai puppetry is performed at the Joe Louis Theater and Siam Niramit Theater. Many restaurants in Bangkok feature shows with Thai dances and classical music performed by dancers in exquisite, traditionally-embroidered costumes. There are many cinemas in the Silom Road area. Multiplex can be found near the major shopping malls.

The Oriental Hotel features Thai dance performances in its dinner theater. The city government puts on a variety of free shows at Santichaiprakarn Park near the budget hotel district on Khao San Road on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The performances include everything from jazz to classical Thai dance. Major Western acts like Oasis and have performed in Bangkok.

Rest and recreation areas include gardens such as Suan Luang Rama IX or Benchasiri Park. For children there are zoos,, including Dusit Zoo, Siam Ocean World, and Safari World, a planetarium, and theme parks such as Dream World and Siam Park. Movie houses, karaoke lounges, and even bowling alleys can be found at department stores, and the night entertainment places in Thong Lo and Ekamai, off Sukhumvit Road. The Khao San Road area never seems to sleep.

A calendar of events can be picked up at tourist offices and major hotels. Also check out local entertainment magazines, the Thursday and Friday entertainment supplements in English-language newspapers like the Bangkok Post, and posters put up around town. You can also check the Lonely Planet Books and other guidebooks.

Theaters and Culture Shows in Bangkok: Siam Niramit features an enormous stage with advanced special effects and over 150 performers with 500 costumes, Siam Niramit’s world-class cultural performance—A Journey to the Enchanted Kingdom of Thailand—is absolutely a must-see in Bangkok. This stimulating Thai arts & cultural heritage is now listed in the Guinness World Records. Aksra Theatre has unique and colourful combination of exquisite Thai puppetry and other forms of entertainment such as orchestral performances and classical dances, Aksra Theatre is another place to enjoy a rare elegant Thai traditional performance in Bangkok.

National Theatre is located next to the National Museum near Sanam Luang Ground, the theatre is under the administration of the Fine Arts Department with a main objective to stage performances of khon, a Thai mask dance drama and other forms of Thai theatrical art such as lakhon, another type of Thai classical dance drama. Sampran Riverside (Thai Village Show) is held amidst a peaceful garden in the west of Bangkok, the main attractions of the Sampran Riverside are its daily cultural shows like traditional Thai dances, ancient sword fights and Thai boxing.

Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre hosts masked dance drama to foreign visitors. English subtitles are available on screen above the stage and the explanatory notes of the movements and masks are displayed on film prior to the showtime. Thailand Cultural Center is a fully integrated venue for social education and cultural activities in Bangkok, therefore, it is an ideal place to view all forms of cultural performances, both national and international. Symphony orchestra concerts are also held here regularly.

Muay Thai (Thai boxing ) is the national sport of Thailand. Once a skill that was essential for survival in battle, Muay Thai is now one of the most popular fighting sports in the world. Fighters from all corners of the globe travel to Thailand to train in Muay Thai, and it is no longer uncommon for Muay Thai fights in Bangkok or the countryside to feature foreign fighters on the fight bill.

Muay Thai is a fighting style steeped in tradition, as fighters in the ring perform a ceremony known as a “wai khru” prior to each bout. The pre-fight ritual is performed to pay homage to the fighters’ teachers, the spirits, and the art of Muay Thai itself, and is conducted while a live band plays traditional Thai music. The music continues throughout the five round Muay Thai fight, altering its tempo in line with the action. At live venues betting on Muay Thai is nearly as feverish as the fights themselves and in large open air bars across the countryside villagers gather to shout at televisions cheering for their home town favorites.

Lumpini Stadium ( Rama IV Road, Tel: 66(0)2-252-8765) hosts muay thai fights on Tuesdays and Fridays from 6:30pm, Saturday 5:00 - 8:00 pm and 8:30.. Prices for foreigners: 500, 1,000, 1,500 (ringside). Ratchadamnoen Stadium (Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue, Tel: 66(0)2-281-4205) feayures muay thai fights on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays, from 6:30pm. Prices for foreigners: 500, 1,000, 1,500 (ringside). Channel 7 Stadium (behind Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal, opposite Chatuchak Park Tel: 66(0)2-272-0201) hosts muay thai fights on Sundays, from 1:45pm and on the third Wednesday of every month from 12:00. Price: Free.

At the bouts there is a lot of cigarette smoke and betting. In addition there are a number of schools where you can learn Muay Thai. Rangsit Stadium (Pathumthani, north of Bangkok) has two rings: one for male fighters and one for female fighters. Lots of male and female fights take place Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 8:30pm onwards. Rangsit Stadium is home to the Muay Thai Institute and courses varying from a single day to three months are available for foreigners. Ticket Prices are 110 Baht for female bouts and 220 Baht for male bouts. Contact: Rangsit Stadium, 336/932 Prachathipat Road, Rangsit, Pathumthani, Tel: 0-2992-0099

Lumphini Stadium itself is interesting. Named after Buddha's birthplace and built in the 1940s, it is a two-story circular building with seating for 10,000 people. Most people sit on wooden plank bleachers that are separated by a chain-link fence from the expensive orange plastic seats at ring side. The exterior is decorated with bas-reliefs depicting kick boxers, wrestlers, matadors, swordsmen, chariots and war elephants.

Kite Fighting can bee seen at Sanam Luang, the large park next to the Grand Palace, and Lumphini Park in March and April.

Fortune-telling in Bangkok: Joel Gershon of CNN wrote: There are a range of maw du in the city: Palm and face readers; those who interpret tarot or playing cards; zodiac astrologers; handwriting decoders; and other sixth-sense seers. High-end fortune tellers command prices as high as 10,000 baht per hour, though on the street it’s possible to book a fortune telling session for as little as 40 baht. The highest concentration of maw du in Bangkok are located around Tha Prajan pier off the Chao Phraya River. Here, dozens of maw du meet with clients at cramped makeshift stands inside a covered market area on the rickety pier. [Source: Joel Gershon, CNN September 10, 2009]

Bangkok's fortune-teller plaza has the city's highest concentration of seers. Banchobe Thepphachan has worked in a remote corner of the Tha Prajan ‘fortune-telling plaza’ for six years. He earns up to 1,000 baht per day, and says about 80 percent of his customers are women, the majority of inquiries he receives relating to love and romance. Cases aren't always straightforward. Banchobe recalls the time he had to tell a disappointed lesbian threesome that his cards revealed one of them would soon need to exit the relationship.

Across the river, in the winding Wang Lang market, people line up to see 52-year-old Pa-ob Prabnarong. She charges 150 baht per person, though if a customer asks about the fortune of another person, she charges an extra 150 baht, a fee structure that can earn her up to 10,000 baht per day. Pa-ob says she is often asked how her clients’ children will perform in school, or what day might be best to get married, buy a car or take a trip. She admits that occasionally she gets something wrong or doesn’t have an answer, recalling the time when a woman wasn’t sure which of her two boyfriends got her pregnant.

Spas and Thai Massage are enjoyed by both Thais and foreigners in Bangkok. Thai massage is not necessarily sexual. There are numerous small massage parlors in Bangkok that offer traditional muscle-rubbing and joint-cracking massages for $5 to $10 an hour. Nonsexual massages are usually described as "traditional" or "ancient" massage.

The best spas are said to combine modern services with ancient Thai wisdom. Thai herbs, traditional Thai massage, foot massage, reflexology, herbal compress massage, herbal bath, holistic food and Asian healing and exercising methods such as yoga and acupuncture are combined to restore the body’s inner balance, without any chemical components. A massage with coconut oil or using an herbal compress is an adaptation of Thai local methods. Tourists can learn about the principles and methods of massage at Wat Pho, where it is said the traditional Thai massage originated.

The spa business in Bangkok has grown rapidly and comes in diverse forms. Customers can choose to get brief services lasting an hour or two if they are pressed for time, or take a course of several days. Many spas also provide their clients instruction in traditional Thai massage, meditation, and the preparation of holistic food. For hygiene and safety, these health spas require certification by the Ministry of Public Health. Both Buddhists and non-Buddhists are encouraged to practice meditation in order to enhance their concentration and emotional balance. In Bangkok, there are several meditation institutions in peaceful surroundings. Some also teach in English.

The massage school Wat Pho near the Royal Place is famous. Massages here are only $5. The Oriental Hotel offer "jet lag massages" for $45. Recommended places include: 1) Makkasan Thai Traditional Massage (recommended by the Hyatt, includes a sex joint); 2) Winwan Clinic (advertised in a tourist magazine); and 3) Buathip Thai Message, near Winwan;

Sylvia Hui of Associated Press wrote: “Massage parlors and day spas are a dime a dozen here, but locals and travel guides alike gush about Ruen Nuad, a homely, unpretentious two-story shack tucked away in a quiet courtyard in the busy Silom area. If you're sweaty from shopping, hop back to the hotel for a quick shower before heading here - there are minimal amenities and rooms are as spartan as a monk's quarters, though everything is sparkly clean. Enjoy an aromatherapy oil massage that costs as little as $17 an hour amid the soothing white interior, or go for the Thai massage if you're up for stronger healing hands. Ruen Nuad is at 42 Convent Road - exit BTS Skytrain Sala Daeng station towards Patpong, then turn left away from the main Silom Road into Convent Road when you see the California Fitness Center. The spa is five minutes down the road, across from the BNH Hospital. It does not appear to accept credit cards, so remember to bring cash. [Source: Sylvia Hui, Associated Press, September 3, 2006]

The Divana Spa is a more luxurious choice but just as good value. A 10-minute walk from the BTS Asok station, it's a haven tastefully decked out in chocolate wood, rustic Thai furniture, and dimmed lighting. Guest rooms are large, soothingly dimmed and fitted with a steam room for one, as well as a small bathtub. It's immaculate, and service is impeccable. Guests are welcomed with a scented cold towel and lemongrass tea upon arrival.

Medical Tourism has become one of the draws of Bangkok. A large number of foreigners seek medical services in Thailand, both for diagnosis and treatment. Thailand’s hospitals, which are equipped with up-to-date medical technology, are staffed by physicians known for their expertise, many of whom studied in the United States or Britain. The best hospitals provide excellent services, some comparable to five-star hotels, in comfortable medical centers, and at lower costs than similar treatments elsewhere.

Bangkok’s hospitals—most notably Bumrungrad Hospital— are known for their efficient, English-speaking physicians and the latest medical equipment. There are also specialized units such as cancer centers, brain and nerve centers, respiratory system centers, heart disease centers, and dentistry centers. Moreover, Bangkok offers cosmetic and reconstructive surgery by experts. Medical professionals in Bangkok are well-trained in both medical discipline and language skills, facilitating their communication with foreign patients.

Convention Centers in Bangkok have hosted a number of important meetings and conferences. The strategic location of Bangkok, served by various types of transport and with diverse choices of accommodation, means that it is ideal as the site of major functions such as seminars, exhibitions, and conventions. Bangkok is able to provide the necessary infrastructure for events, in terms of location, services, and transport, thanks to the convenient road system, mass transport, and Suvarnabhumi Airport. On top of this, the creative ideas of Thai companies hired as organizers and operators, using new technologies in light, color, and sound, result in more interesting and productive seminars and conventions. The main venues for the biggest events are Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Center (BITEC) in Bang Na, and IMPACT Exhibition and Convention Center in Muang Thong Thani.

The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, or TCEB, has been set up to promote and develop conventions and exhibitions in Thailand, working jointly with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Thailand Incentive and Convention Association, Trade Exhibition Association (Thai), Thai Hotels Association, Thai Airways International, and various other organizations in government and the private sector to provide services and support each stage of preparation and operations, in a concerted effort to develop and upgrade conventions and exhibitions in Thailand to an even higher level.

RESTAURANTS IN BANGKOK

There are more than 50,000 places to eat in Bangkok or roughly one for every 125 residents. Bangkok is filled with so many restaurants it is difficult to know where to begin enjoying them. Thai food, Chinese food, Italian food, Malaysian food, Japanese food, Korean food and other international cuisines are all available in Bangkok. There are also McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and pizza places. Tourist offices and major hotel can provide you with suggestions for restaurants. Newsstands in areas frequented by tourists usually sell restaurant guides in English. Also check lists of restaurants in the local entertainment magazines, newspapers, the Lonely Planet books and other guidebooks.

Many of the most famous restaurants in Bangkok are located in the large hotels. A typical $40-per-head meal offered at a hotel like the Mandarin Oriental features crispy fried catfish with green mango, Thai dumplings filled with crabmeat, banana blossom and shrimp salad and duck satay with peanut butter sauce. The Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula, Shangri-La and Hilton are all situated near the Chao Phraya River, which used to be the heart of Bangkok but now is more on the tourist fringe. Among the hotels are some excellent on-hotel restaurants with good food and views of the river, which are particularly good at night when many buildings and sights are lit up.

There are lots of bars, cheap restaurants and street food in the backpacker areas around Khao San Road and Banglamphu (especially around Prah Athit Road) and at the night markets (see below). There are also good cheap restaurants around Sol Ngam Duphil, Hualamphong, Siam Square, and Sukhumvit Road.

Many of Bangkok’s shopping malls have air-conditioned food courts. Noodle shops and food stands are everywhere. Many people say the best street food is available behind the stock exchange on Witthayu Roads and the business district around Silom Road. The Sala Sabai Rivernight Market near the Sheraton has a nice atmosphere and good barbecued seafood, soups, stir-fry and snacks served from food stalls. There are also restaurants that specialize in bird's nest soup, and delicacies such as liquid essence of chicken and cuttlefish-flavored peas.

Because of Bangkok’s lax zoning laws, some fine restaurants can be found in warehouses and former homes. Small streets like Soi Convent are filled with trendy restaurants. One of the most popular restaurants with foreign tour groups is Cabbages and Condoms, whose profits help fund a Thai birth control and health program. MBK Food Court (on the sixth floor of the MBK shopping mall) was ranked No. 8 of 791 things to do in Bangkok by Lonely Planet traveller. The expansive food court features vendors selling dishes from all over Thailand and many other countries too. The food offering include cassually-tossed-together-but delicious papaya salads, coconut broth soups with shrimp and chicken, pre-packaged sushi sets, deli-style salads and a variety of noodles. There is a dining area called 'Kou Asian' with an interesting menu, which includes vegetarian fare. Here you can either sit down for a quick bite or take home a neatly-wrapped item from the bakery, or something from the fruit or dessert stall. For many purchases you buy tickets first and use the tickets to purchase what you want. Any tickets you don’t use can be refunded at another desk.

Royal Dragon Restaurant (Mang Gorn Luang, Bangkok) is the world's largest restaurant according to the Guinness Book of Records. Opened in October 1991, it covers 8.35 acres and has seating for 5,000 customers. It is so large that the 550 or so waiters and service people roller skate between the kitchen and the tables.

Located in the outskirts of Bangkok on an parcel of land the size of eight football fields, it employees 1,200 people (including 322 chefs), and offers 1,000 different seafood, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Western dishes. Almost 1,000 kilograms of seafood is used everyday in a kitchen that has 24,500 plates and 21,500 bowls. During peak times on the weekend 3,000 dishes are cooked an hour.

Designed an by an ethnic Chinese architect, the restaurant is modeled after the Imperial Place in Beijing. At the center of the of the main dining area is a pond with swans and fishes, and a bridge with nine turns that is supposed to bring good luck to anyone who crosses it. The second largest restaurant in the world is the 6.9-acre Thai Palace, also in Bangkok.

SHOPPING IN BANGKOK

Shopping is a big deal in Bangkok. The city offers nearly every type of merchandise for selective shoppers, whether they are looking for world-class brand names, the latest electronic devices and equipment, or handicrafts created by skilled craftsmen. Shopping zones in Bangkok include wellknown department stores, weekend markets, night markets, and fresh markets, sometimes together in one neighborhood.

Among the major shopping destinations in Bangkok are modern shopping malls, such as Siam Paragon; multi-story electronics malls including Panthip Plaza; expansive local markets, such as the JJ weekend market. Bangkok’s night markets on Patpong and Sukhumvit Roads are ideal places to pick up souvenirs or gifts for those back home, while more impressive gifts can be procured from retailers such as certified antiques dealers, gem and jewelry shops, or Jim Thompson, the famous silk pioneer. In regards to gems and antiques, it should be noted that there are numerous occurrences of scams involving antiques and gems, and restrictions on the export of Buddha images. Otherwise, with the right guidance there are genuine opportunities to make some brilliant shopping discoveries.

Getting clothes tailor made in Bangkok is a top priority for many, though boutique shops in Siam Square feature the latest ready-to-wear designs from the city’s chic young designers. Meanwhile, in Chinatown, almost every conceivable knick-knack and trinket is for sale in the myriad mazes of back alleys, while those shopping for gold can do so along the district’s Yaowarat Road.

Silom Road (Skytrain Sala Daeng Station) is a major shopping and business district. Regarded as Bangkok’s Wall Street, it contains many gem and jewelry shops, souvenir places, cinemas, trendy restaurants, book shops, T-shirt stores and handicraft centers. Major landmarks include the Central Department Stores, Robinson Department stores, Galleria Plaza, and a Hard Rock Cafe. Silom Road and the Indian district of Pahurat are good places to shop for Thai silk. Stretches of the road are pedestrian only on Sunday.

Phloen Chit-Ratchadamri District (Ploenchit Road) is glitzy shopping area with department stores, shopping malls, a Giorgio Armani boutique and other designer shops. Located here are the World Trade Center, Narayan Phand, Siam Center and Naraipahn Pavilion (good selection of handicrafts but the prices are high). The Tourism Authority of Thailand Duty Free Shop is at the seventh floor of the World Trade Center. There are also duty free shops at Central, Sogo and Tourism Authority of Thailand. The Thai Hill Crafts Foundation (at Scapathgum Palace, behind the Siam Center on Ploenchit Road) is great place to shop for crafts. There is an amulet market behind the Chalem Thai Theater. Jim Thompson's Thai Silk Co. on 9 Surawong Road is a good place to shop for silk. Many of the best shops are located in and around the large hotels. The River City Shopping Center (next to the Royal Orchid Sheraton Bangkok) is known for its quality antiques. Gysorn Plaza also boasts trendy boutiques and department stores.

Siam Square is one of the main shopping and entertainment areas of Bangkok and one of the largest shopping areas in Southeast Asia. It encompasses Siam Square, Mahboonkrong Centre (MBK), Siam Centre and Siam Discovery Centre.

Jim Thompson Factory Outlet sells discounted Thai silk and fabrics manufactured under the name of Bangkok's best-known American, Hui wrote. The building's first three floors offer fabrics for curtains, couches and other upholstery, while the top two are filled with ready-made cushion covers, bed linen, and gift items such as sarongs, tote bags, silk ties and scarves. It's at 153 Sukhumvit Soi 93. To get there, take the BTS Skytrain's Sukhumvit Line to the terminal On Nut, then flag down a taxi. It's useful to get your hotel concierge to write down the address in Thai on a slip and show the driver. [Source: Sylvia Hui, Associated Press, September 3, 2006]

Art Galleries are located in and around the major hotels and along New Road (Chareaon Krung Road). Otherwise they is not a concentrated art arena and the city's galleries are scattered all over town. The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, opposite MBK shopping complex, is the city's latest effort to create an all-integrated art experience. But still, if you would like to immerse yourself in Bangkok's contemporary art scene, plan ahead and be prepared to do a bit of exploring in the maze of Bangkok streets.

Bangkok’s art scene is small but vibrant. Since most of the city's small private or commercial galleries promote Thai and regional artists, a day of gallery hopping is a great way of getting a taste of the local scene. Operating in a relatively unresponsive environment, artists and gallery owners in Bangkok have become quite innovative in their attempts to attract domestic crowds. For more on art in Bangkok and a list of galleries check Bangkok.com bangkok.com

SHOPPING MALLS IN BANGKOK

CentralWorld is one of Bangkok’s main shopping malls. Among the items for sale are wine and spirits. watches, toys, textiles, sports equipment, sports wear, souvenirs, gifts silverware, accessories, shoes, musical instruments, luggage, handbags, travel items, lingerie, home furnishings, home appliances, herbs (non-food), gourmet products, gold, jewellery, food beverages, flowers, plants, fabrics, electronics diamonds cosmetics, perfumes carpets, books, maps, guides, art, crafts, women's apparel, men's apparel, children's clothes, antiques and collectibles.

Welcoming as many a 150,000 customers a day, CentralWorld has 18 different entrances, 7,000 parking spaces and a six lanes road (CentralWorld Avenue) running around the Shopping Complex. Leading to it are two main road, RAMA I Rd. and Rajdamri Rd. Central World is situated in the heart of Bangkok’s business and shopping area and was the center of the 2010 protests (See History). It has direct Skytrain (BTS) access and home to the two famous shrines, Erawan Shrine and Trimurti Shrine. American Express, Diners Club, ,JCB, MarterCard and Visa cards are accepted. It is open every day from 10.00am to 10:00pm. Central World is located at 999/9 Rama I Rd. in Patumwan, Tel: +66 2667 5555.

Occupying some 550,000 square metres of retail space and a total area size of 830,000 square metresm CentralWorld is 30 percent larger than any other shopping centre in central Bangkok and encompasses more than 500 stores, 100 restaurants and cafes, and 15 cinemas. In addition there is a Kids' Zone and Learning Centre (Genius Planet Zone), two anchor department stores, as well as a trendy food court, an expansive supermarket and an outdoor square for large-scale events like Bangkok's official New Year countdown party.

CentralWorld's retail layout is influenced by the shopping street concept, allowing shoppers to check out several storefronts at a glance, whilst its overall design has placed a lot of emphasis on natural light. Daylight filters through the many skylights and open wells. Sculptures by famous artists are used as decoration features, and a glass mobile consisting of 3,500 glass balls hangs in an open well.

Specialised anchor 'mega-stores' – measuring between 2,000 and 8,200 square metres – include SuperSports, PowerBuy, B2S, Central Food Hall, SB Furniture and Toys 'R' Us. The department store Zen (closed until further notice) spans seven floors, while Zen World (closed until further notice) on 13 floors offer a fitness centre, spa, yoga, beauty centre, as well as an educational and tourist promotion centre. Among the 500 world-class stores count 35 flagship brands like Zara, Miss Sixty and Timberland, and 36 'first stores' – the likes of the Japanese brand Uniqlo and the English brand Next.

Entertainment options include The Rink, an open ice skating rink, Toys 'R' Us and 15-screen SF World Cinema. Genius Planet Zone (kids' zone and learning centre) and Thailand Knowledge Park (TK Park) offer specialised supervision and 'edutainment' for kids. Parents can drop their kids off here while they shop.

Siam Paragon Shopping Mall (Ratchaprasong Intersection, opposite Gaysorn and Erawan, BTS: Chidlom, Siam) is one of Bangkok’s main shopping complexes. After entering through the impressive glass-and-steel atriums one is welcomed by Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Versace are clustered in the prime positions around the main escalators. Many rich people shop here. When a new product is launched, people sometimes wait in long lines to be the first to get it. Brand Shops found on the Main Floor include Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Burberry, YSL, Salvatore Ferragamo, Jim Thompson, Rolex, Bvlgari, Mont Blanc, Marc Jacobs and Emilio Pucci.

Among the shops in the First Floor ‘Fashion Venue’are Zara, MNG, Massimo Dutti, Paul Smith, Armani, Hugo Boss, The Gap, Jaspal, Mikimoto, Swarovski, Greyhound, Coach, D’Mond, Prestige, Code 10, Footwork, H&M. On the second and third floors – ‘Lifestyle and Leisure’ section you can find a Lamborghini display, and the biggest and best stocked foreign-language bookshop in Bangkok (Kinokunia). Sony, Samsung, Bose, Blackberr, Bang & Olufsen and Toshiba have shops here. Aston Martin, Lotus, BMW, Maserati, Ferrari and Lamborghini have showrooms. There is also a Starbucks.

The Fourth Floor features ‘I.T. World’ and a large number of restaurants and shops selling silk products, handicrafts, top-of-the-range aromatherapy oils and other souvenir-type goods. Somewhat confusingly, the level attached to the skywalk is called the Main Floor, despite it being one above the ground, and the floors above that are then the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, up to the 5th, which is taken up by the Cineplex and its 15 large size theaters including IMAX, Blue-O Rhythm and Bowl, and the Royal Paragon Exhibition Hall. It's advisable to ask for a map at one of the numerous information counters to quickly gather your bearings.

A relatively new addition to the already world-class movie theatre up on the top floor is the Nokia VIP Ultrascreen. It takes the traditional cinema experience to a new level of luxury. Think of it as an upgrade to first-class on a long-haul flight. 700 baht gets you deep-seated leather sofa booths with motorized reclining footrests, complimentary snacks and drinks, and a blanket so you can snuggle up close to watch the latest movie releases on a stunning digital screen. The two-person sofas are well spaced out and are designed to keep your experience private and romantic. The enormous IMAX screen is especially recommended for 3D action movies. There are a range of ticket prices, starting from 300 baht.

The emphasis of Siam Paragon is fashionable, luxury living. Remember to take your credit card along as some items come with a large price tag. Twice a year there are large end-of-season sales, but don't worry if you miss these, as there are always deals to be had and there are a variety of monthly promotions all year round. For a 5 percent discount on most purchases, you can apply for a Tourist Discount Card at the information desk on the ground level. Paragon is larger than life and no Bangkok shopping experience is complete without a trip here.

MBK Shopping Center (near Siam Paragon) is one of Bangkok's oldest and most legendary shopping malls. Popular with both tourists and locals, it has eight floors packed with 2,000 shops that sell everything from clothing, fashion accessories, handbags, leather products and luggage to furniture, mobile phones, electric appliances, cameras, stationery and DVDs. Launched in 1986, the complex is especially crowded on the weekends when Bangkokians like to shop for bargains. It's not as up-market or stylish as neighbouring Siam Discovery, Siam Centre and the glitzy Siam Paragon, but it offers a mind-boggling range of goods spread over 89,000 square metres and is considerably less expensive.

There are entire floors dedicated to shoes and handbags, fashion and clothing, mobile phones and furniture. There’s an area with outsized clothing (for 'larger' Western frames). The enormous food court is world famous. It has tons of affordable and delicious Thai and International food to choose from. The top floor is an entertainment complex with cinemas, modern karaoke facilities, a computer games arcade, more restaurants and fast food outlets.

MBK is also famous for knockoff goods. Bargain prices for brand name good that seem too good to be true generally means their copies. But if your idea of a shopping bargain is to pay a few dollars for an Adidas T-shirt or a Gucci belt –– and authenticity is not an issue — MBK is the place for you. Many of the products that can be found here are similar to that at markets, but the convenience of shopping in an air-conditioned environment beats hot and sticky markets – especially in the hot season. And, just like the markets, all prices are negotiable and bargaining is practiced.

The fourth floor is dedicated to mobile phones, DVDs, CDs and all kinds of related gadgets and paraphernalia in a market-type environment with stalls crammed into every available space. New phones, second-hand phones, starter packs, the latest (copy) DVDs, PC games and games consoles, MP3 players and the like can be found here. A flagship tenant is the four-storey Tokyu Department Store, the only one in Bangkok and a leading department store in Japan. It offers a wide range of quality merchandise like clothing, apparel, cosmetics and household goods at reasonable prices. On the fourth level is has a supermarket too. There's also a TOPS supermarket at MBK (ground level) and a mini indoor craft market (on the sixth floor) with a range of arts and crafts and souvenirs from all over Thailand. MBK is opening daily from 10:00am to 10:00pm.

River City Shopping Plaza openly display sculpture that are purported to be Khmer originals. Most are fakes but the fact hat even some are real is very troubling.

Other Shopping Areas include 1) Bang Lampphu (near the Grand Palace), good for clothes shopping; 2) Chinatown and Ban Mor, full or stalls and interesting shops and a night becomes aan open air food market; 3) Sukhumvit, know for its tailor shops; 4) New Road (Chareon Krung Road), a touristy shopping area; 5) Wat Po, famous for its temple rubbings.

6) Shops selling rubies, sapphires, and items made from silver, bronze and nielloware are scattered throughout the city. The Thaigem.com Gem Superstor (Skytrain Surasak Station) is one one of the largest of its kind in the world. It has a wide selection and good prices. In house experts can advise you. All purchases are fully guaranteed.

7) Gaysorn (in the city center Ratchaprasing district) featured 80 luxury fashion, lifestyle and home accessory stores as well as some first rate antiques shops, silk stores, jewelry shops and art galleries. 8) Pantip Plaza (Skytrain Rachthew Station) is an arcade with Bangkok’s highest concentration of computer hardware and software and electronic gadgets. 9) Phahurat is Bangkok’s Little India. It is a good place to shop for textiles, fine fabrics and clothes. 10) Future Park is a huge suburban shopping mall.

11) The Emporium Shopping Complex features a major Thai silk outlet. Nearby Rasii Sayam is a good place to shop for handicrafts. 12) Saphan Lek is known for electrical appliances. 13) Pak Khlong Talat is famous for flowers. 14) Pratu Nam specialize in textiles and garments.

MARKETS IN BANGKOK

Patpong Night Market (near Silom Road) draws huge crowds of tourists. Vendors sell things like cheap clothes, silver jewelry, pirated CDs and DVDs, wood carvings, lacquerware, ceramics, Burmese tapestries, silk items, embroidery, cotton appliques, knickknacks and handicrafts set up on tables and racks.

Amulet Market (Ko Ratanakosin several small soi off Th Maharat, near Wat Mahathat near the Chao Phraya River) according to to Lonely Planet features “pendant-sized to medallion-sized, prá krêuang (amulets) in various classes, from rare objects or relics (like tusks, antlers or the dentures of abbots) to images of Buddha or famous monks embossed in bronze, wood or clay. Itinerant dealers spread their wares on blankets along the broken pavement across from the temple, and more-permanent shops proliferate in the sunless alleyways along the river. Taxi drivers, monks and average folk squat alongside the displays inspecting novel pieces like practised jewellers. Mixed in with certain amulets are pulverised substances: dirt from a special temple, hair from a monk or powerful herbs. When the serious collectors aren’t perusing the market, they are flipping through amulet magazines that discuss noteworthy specimens. While money changes hands between vendor and customer, both use the euphemism of ‘renting’ to get around the prohibition of selling Buddhas.

Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the largest open flea markets in the world. It features 8,000 stalls grouped into 26 sections with good buys on silk, ceramic, toys, jewelry, handmade paper, hill tribe stuff, leather goods, puppies, batiks, fighting fish, herbal aphrodisiacs, antique whisky bottles and shoes. The market is huge and confusing, it even has its own map. It is open from 5:00pm to midnight Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday until 10:00pm. Next door is the Aw Taw Aw food market. Here you can find a large variety of fruits, vegetables and seafood, including four kinds of crab. To get there take the BTS Skytrain to Mo Chit station, go down the stairs at Exit 1, walk straight ahead for about 5 minutes and you'll arrive at the market's main gate after going under a footbridge.

At Chatuchak bargaining is the norm. The plant market is held every Wednesday and Thursday. The weekend is when the 8,000 vendors from all over the country converge. The 26 sections including areas for antiques, books and magazines, fashion, food, furniture, handicrafts, jewelry, paintings, pets, plants and miscellaneous items. Nancy Chandler’s famous map is invaluable for sorting it all out. Go in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the worst of the heat and the crowds. Many of stalls open for business on Friday.

Chatuchak market is held on the grounds of a park donated to the people of Thailand by the State Railway at the behest of King Bhumibol on his birthday in 1976. Inside the park there are many gardens of various themes, an herb garden, and a garden devoted to flowers in literature. Also of interest in the Prestigious Train Hall—a transportation museum— located near Gate 2.

On shopping at Chatuchak, Sylvia Hui of Associated Press wrote: There's so much on sale - clothes, jewelry, handicrafts, ''antiques,'' orchids, pets and even army surplus - that you could spend all day here and still not hope to have explored everything the market offers. As for those who aren't that keen on bargain-hunting, gawking at the mayhem and jostling with the locals is reason enough to visit. All the goods come at low prices that could go much lower, provided you bargain hard and prepare yourself for the claustrophobic sauna that the tiny inner alleys typically become after noon.[Source: Sylvia Hui, Associated Press, September 3, 2006]

Chatuchak is a nightmare to navigate, so don't plunge in without looking at a map of the market first. Animal-lovers should steer clear of the central section where they keep puppies and squirrels for sale in shabby conditions. Food stalls selling cheap Thai food and refreshments are everywhere in the market... And here's a tip for good quality clothes and fashion accessories. Turn immediately left from the main gate. Heading farther left will take you to the corner of the market and the new Kamphaemg Phet MRT station. From there you should see central stalls labeled Sections 24 to 26, which offer silks, fabrics and lots of other home decoration choices.

Suan Lum Night Bazaar is another shopper's paradise, Hui wrote, and a good place for a leisurely post-dinner stroll. This market is more touristy and prices are slightly higher than what Chatuchak offers, but it's cleaner and easier to navigate, and you don't come away as sweaty. Like Chatuchak, the Night Bazaar is a grid of stalls selling local artists' paintings, souvenirs galore, plenty of home decor, and decent quality T-shirts from just $2.65 each. There's also a beer garden and plenty of food stalls. The market is right outside the MRT (underground) station Lumpini, open 6pm to midnight daily. [Source: Sylvia Hui, Associated Press, September 3, 2006]

Other Markets include 1) Phahurat Market (corner ofTh Phahurat & Th Triphet), with its impressive array of colorful textiles; 2) Jatujak market, a sprawling indoor market near Mo Chit, the last stop on the Skytrain, a labyrinth of narrow alley and small stalls; 3) The Market Organization for Farmers (MOF), with a large selection of food and fruit; 4) Asiatique The Riverfront, a night market by the Chao Phraya River, opened in 2012; 5) Khlong Lod Market, a night market near Sanam Luang, with new and second-hand cheap clothes, shoes, jeans, toys; 6) Pak Khlong Talat Market, by the Chao Phraya River, with fresh flowers and vegetables; 7) Pratunam Market, tourist oriented; 8) Sripaisit Night Bazaar (Siam Paradise Night Bazaar), Sukhumvit 101/1, trendy clothes, shoes, handicraft, souvenirs); 8) Suan Lum Night Bazaar Ratchadaphisek, new mall and open air market; phase 1 opened in 2012; 9) Talat Rot Fai, a (night market close to the Chatuchak weekend market; 10) Tha Chang Market, next to the Grand Palace, new and second-hand small goods, amulets, traditional medicine; 11) Tha Pra Chan Market (by the Chao Phraya River, amulets); 12) Nonthaburi Market, a short walk from Nonthaburi Pier, a huge and atmospheric produce market that sees much of its business before 9:00am.

FLOATING MARKETS IN THE BANGKOK AREA

Floating Markets in the Bangkok Area can be touristy places dominated by pushy hawkers that locals stopped using long ago with that are considerably higher than those offered at souvenir shops in downtown Bangkok. The best ones are located some distance from Bangkok. For early birds in the Bangkok area, the Khu Wiang floating market, near the Royal Barge Museum, operates between 4:0am and 7:00am. For information on ones off the beaten track that see few tourist check the Lonely Planet Guide for Thailand and look through the Central Thailand section.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market (40 minutes by boat from the town of Nakhan Pathom, 104 kilometers southwest of Bangkok) is Thailand's most vibrant floating market, intimately better than the ones located closer to Bangkok. The best time to visit is in the morning. Most of the sellers are old women who paddle their boats to the market before dawn. The market is located along the 32-kilometer-long Damnoen Saduak canal, which in turned is surrounded by more than 1,000 other channels.

Some boats are filled with fruits such as durians, rambutans, bananas and lychees. Others are packed with flowers. Yet others contain woodcarved elephants, hill tribe hand bags and other souvenirs. Some have stoves and gas cylinders and can cook up a noodle dish for you in a couple of minutes. Altogether there are more than 100 merchant boats stretched along an 800-meter stretch of canal. Sightseeing boats weave through them. Behind the boats are stilted buildings with yet more stuff.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is in Ratchaburi province. Photos of this vibrant market featuring many small boats laden with colourful fruits and vegetables and paddled by Thai women wearing bamboo hats, are among the most often published in travel magazines and brochures of Thailand. The Damnoen Saduak canal was built in 1866 under King Rama IV to facilitate boat travel between Ratchaburi and Samutsakhon Provinces. It was finished and opened to the public in 1868.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is quite popular with tourists. There is even a portion of it set aside for them, featuring souvenir-laden shops and souvenir-laden boats. The main 100-year-old market is at Talaat Tom Khem on Khlong Damneon Saduak Canal. Talaat Hia Kui, to the south on a parallel canal, Khlong Hia Kui, gets the most tourists. A third, less crowded market, called talaat Khuan Phitak, is on a smaller canal south of Damnoen Saduak. It can reached by water taxi. Taxis and rented boats can also be used to explore the canals and klong life.

Don Wai Floating Market (near Don Wai temple on the banks of the Ta Jeen River, Tambol Bangkratuek, Amphur Sampran, Nakornprathom) is centered around a Thai style cottage at the bank of the Ta Jeen River that still preserves the old style of living from the reign of King Mongkut. Don Wai is the center of growing area for many agricultural products especially organic vegetables and Thai desserts. Popular dishes include boiled carp in salt, pot-stewed duck, and boiled bamboo shoots with chili sauce.

At Don Wai Floating Market, there is a jukebox for visitors to make merit at the Rai King temple. All the songs are from Yordluk Salakjai (a famous Thai singer). There is also fan palm, a rare fruit that crops only every 50 years. Another attraction of the market is the floating restaurant and a boat cruising tour to see the both sides of the river. The market is open daily from morning until evening.

Taling Chan Floating Market (west of Bangkok) attracts both Thais and foreigners. Many people that live here on the Chakphra Canal still retain the lifestyle of river and canal dwellers. This market, which operates on Saturdays and Sundays 09.00 -17.00 only, is located in front of the Taling Chan District Office in the west of Bangkok. The market is accessible by air-con bus No. 79. After visiting the market, long-tail boat trips along the canals are available.

Wat Sai Floating Market ( in the southwest of Bangkok) used to be famous but now is regarded as a rip off and a disappointment. Most of the boats have been replaced by shops on the banks of the canal. To get there, hire a long-tail boat that leaves the Oriental Pier, Tha Chang Pier, Rachini Pier or Saphan Phut Pier. (06.00-14.00 hrs.) The fare must be agreed before departure.

Ko Ratanakosin (next to the Chao Phraya River) describes an area within a large bend of the Chao Phraya River that embraces many of Bangkok’s most famous sites: the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Suthat and Wat Mahathat. Although Ko means island, the area is not an island. Back in old days it may have seemed like an perhaps as was sided by two large canals—Khlong Bangla,phu and Khlong Ong An—which run parallel to the river.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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