Former Clothing Buyer Tips to Shopping in Bangkok

written by Hanie Hidayah January 12, 2016

A few years back I took up a role in a small online retail company and one of the perks of the job was to source for wholesale clothing in Bangkok, Thailand. Shopping in Bangkok became almost second nature to me, as much as spending time every other month in the infamous Asian Sin City. Now that I’m behind the laptop most of the time, I thought I’d share some of the tips and tricks I lived by during my buying days.

If There’s No Tag…

Fixed prices always comes with a price tag or a notice board. If there are no price tags, they’re usually up for haggling. However, it depends on where you shop, as wholesale stores in Platinum or Pratunam Market would have price tags, but you could always try your luck and ask for a discounted price.

Ask ONLY When Interested

In Asia, only ask for price if you’re genuinely interested in an item. Some sellers get offended when you ask for price and leave when you don’t agree with the price. My mother once asked for the price of a bag when a stall first opened, and then refused to buy it as she thought she wanted to window shop first. The seller was furious that they closed the store and took out their praying kit again before re-opening the store as they thought it would bring bad luck to their business.

Never Pay First Price Offered

The first price is always the jacked up price given to tourist with at least 100-200% increase from their cost price. Never, ever agree to the first price unless it is fixed. There’s no harm in asking for discount, some sellers are just waiting for you to make your move and counter-offer. If you don’t, it’s their gain.

Smile & Haggle

Sellers often look angry or uninterested but it could also be a tactic to intimidate customers so they would not want to be fussy with things. Never retaliate with hostility. Just say hello (preferably in the local language), smile and be polite. You won’t lose anything if you’re polite. Based on my experience, they’re even more helpful and more willing to give better price when you make jokes and treat them like a friend. Even when you don’t decide to buy, say Thank You (in local language) and smile.I’ve never gotten harassed whenever I do this with sellers. Haggle starting with 75% discount, with small increment towards your desired price, or meet in between with the seller.

Never Show Cash Before First Price

Never, ever show how much cash you have before the seller throws their first price. One mistake that I always see people do is carrying the cash in hand while haggling. Once a seller sees your money, the lower the chances for negotiation.

Bring Small Change

If possible, bring smaller change to pay for your items. I like to use smaller change to lure them into lowering the prices i.e show them that I only have THB20 to pay with for an item that is THB25-30. Some sellers want to make quick bucks, so when the cash is shown they would rather take it than receive nothing at all.

Bring your own bag

It is best to bring your own bag, and fill up your shopping goods inside for a few reasons. If you carry a lot of things, they will think that you have money. Secondly, you don’t leave your things everywhere (rookie mistake I made plenty of times) when you rest, go to the toilet or while picking stuff in a pile. I once heard a rumour that in one market in Asia, a seller uses different colored plastic bags to indicate to other sellers along the street if they managed to rip off a tourist so just to be safe, it’s best to keep the goods you bought in your own bag. Lastly, it helps to save the environment if you don’t use plastic bags.

No Honey, No Money

Do not pay before the seller shows you the item you’re getting (samples on display does not count). Always open and check the condition as most wholesale items come in big batches with poor quality control. And don’t follow the seller if they ask you to walk deeper into shops or alleys for your safety. No tank top is worth your own safety and travel documents.

Wholesale Price is Not The Lowest Price

The last tip I’m writing down here is the best tip that would help you in your wholesale shopping especially in Thailand based on my working experience in the wholesale and retail scene. There are three tiers of pricing in the market – retail, wholesale and lastly business. If you think wholesale price is cheap, business prices are cheaper and usually given to business buyers (for small online shops or retail stores). That does not mean that you’re excluded from this category. Wholesale prices are usually given if you buy 2 or 3 items from the same store regardless of design. When you feel like you will buy more than 4-5 items in the store, you could try your luck and ask for business price. Before you do, ask for the wholesale price so you can compare the difference between wholesale and business pricing. Most shops do not mind if you mix and match items of different designs as they go for quantity. My usual flow is per below:

Browse inside shop > Narrow down to a minimum of three items I like > Ask for wholesale price > Ask them for business price and add one or two more items > HAGGLE! HAGGLE! HAGGLE! (while smiling and giving a cute pout if I think it’s too expensive) > Show limited money to entice them > If they say yes, say Thank You > If they say no, say Thank You and walk away. 

 

I hope these tips will help you the next time you want to shop in Thailand (or in Asia). Here are some of the places that I think are great to hunt for great bargains or to just shop your holiday away.

 

pratunam

 

BTS: Ratchatewi or Chit Lom (Both require about 10 minute walk to the Platinum Mall area)

Pratunam Market

This market starts from early morning for those bargain hunters and resellers as they have lower prices compared to Platinum Mall. Get a quick grub on the street stalls next to Shibuya 19 (Petchaburi Soi 19), and then walk over to Pratunam Market right across Platinum Mall into small, winding alleys of cramped shops displaying goods from China. Don’t quickly discard this place from the surface. Some of the shops in Platinum gets their stocks from this market too.

Bargain-o-meter: 4.5/5

  • Opening Hours: Morning Wholesale Crowd from 8am to 7pm and Night Market from 5pm to 9pm (varies from shop to shop)
  • Location: Intersection of Ratchaprop and Petchburi roads to Ratchaprarop Soi 3

Platinum Mall

This mall contains small stores selling a plethora of fashion and beauty items with a food court at the top floor. It is divided into two parts – new and old building. The new building is much more organised than the older one, but not necessarily priced higher than the older ones. The ground and first floor are usually filled with shops that sells the latest trends, while the top floors are mostly for shoes, bags and accessories. Don’t forget to check out the sale racks as they’re usually a single piece or the previous week’s stocks that they’d want to clear out at about 100 Thai Baht. The only downside is that most of the items come in single sizes or if there are sizes, they run a little smaller than standard international ones and you’re not allowed to try them on so bringing a measuring tape and measuring your vital stats beforehand helps. If you’re hungry don’t forget to drop by at the food court on the top floor for some local food (and the irresistible Mango Sticky Rice).

Bargain-o-meter: 4/5

  • Opening Hours: 10:00 – 22:00
  • Location: Petchburi, Ratchathewi (next to Panthip Plaza)

Pantip Plaza IT Mall

This mall is suited to those who are into gadgets or looking to buy electronic goods. There are legit camera, phone and tablet stores within the mall and it’s just situated next to Platinum Mall if you’re planning to buy a new camera for your trip.

Bargain-o-meter: 1/5

  • Opening Hours: 10:00 – 21:00 (every day)
  • Location: Petchaburi Road, opposite Pratunam’s City Complex

Shibuya 19 Shopping Mall

Shibuya 19 is a six-storey mall situated right across Pantip Plaza offering women’s fashion. It is less hectic than Platinum Mall as well as there are lesser stores. Bargaining is often expected here although the range are rather limited. I usually drop by here for the food court – crispy shrimp and omelette over white rice, thai iced tea and desserts. There’s also a Mediterranean halal food stall in the food court.

Bargain-o-meter: 3/5

  • Opening Hours: 08:00 – 19:00
  • Location: Phetchaburi 19, Pratunam

 

pathumwan

 

BTS: Siam or National Stadium

Siam Paragon

Like many other big cities, there’s always the main mall that hosts big, designer luxury brands under one roof and Siam Paragon is one of them. You will find plenty of flagship designer stores, luxury car stores (expect Bentleys displayed in store on the fourth floor), and also tech and telco stores. This is where we buy our apple products (Thailand gets things earlier than Malaysia in general) and also our sim cards as there are major telco service providers in the mall. It is also the location for Sea Life Ocean World aquarium (the largest aquarium in South East Asia), contains an exhibition hall, the Thai Art Gallery and also an opera concert hall. Siam Paragon is pretty much the centre of opulence in central Bangkok.

Bargain-o-meter: 0/5

  • Opening Hours10 AM – 10 PM daily
  • Location: 1 991/1 Rama I Rd, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Siam Discovery

Siam Discovery is also another mall with chain stores but their main attractions are the Madame Tussaud (and their interesting souvenir store).

Bargain-o-meter: 0/5

  • Opening Hours: 10 AM – 10 PM daily
  • Location: Siam Tower, Rama 1 Road, Bangkok, Pathumwan 10330, Thailand

Central World

Central World is one of the newer malls in Bangkok and they have most of the international and local high street stores. We go to Central World for food, movies and other first world leisures. The top floors of Central World hosts many good restaurants as well as cafes so don’t knock it ’til you try the BBQ Buffet at Tokusen Elite Grill Bar then finish off with decadent desserts at After You.

Bargain-o-meter: 0/5

  • Opening Hours: 10 AM – 10 PM daily
  • Location: 999/9 Rama I Rd, 10330, Thailand

Mah Boon Krong (MBK)

MBK centre is a one-stop shop for all things trending in Bangkok. Each floor in MBK is dedicated to a department and it is massive. It is where I go to fix or buy my electronics, and shop for phone covers (I replaced my cracked phone screen for much cheaper than in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta). They have an entire half floor dedicated for this, while there’s also another floor for authentic Thai souvenirs for you to bring home. I love buying incense stick sets from this place and bargaining is allowed in this mall.

Bargain-o-meter: 4/5

  • Opening Hours10 AM – 10 PM daily
  • Location444 Phayathai Rd, Bangkok, Pathumwan 10330, Thailand

Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC)

Bangkok Art & Culture centre is a gem within the row of shopping malls as it hosts good artisan cafes if you’re looking for some drip coffee, an art gallery or some art stores. I had an artist sketch my portrait for a small fee and bought local Thai books here.

Bargain-o-meter: 0/5

  • Opening Hours: 10:00-21:00, Closed Monday
  • Location: 939 Rama 1 Rd, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

asiatique

BTS: Saphan Taksin [Exit 2] and transfer via Asiatique Shuttle Boat

  • Address: 2194 Charoen Krung Rd, Wat Phraya Krai, Bang Kho Laem, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
    Operating Hours : Daily, 5pm – 12am

Now whenever I am in Bangkok I will make it a point to drop by at Asiatique The Riverfront. I love that it is further than the main centre of Bangkok, and to get there you’d have a choice to go by land or by water taxi. The open air market concept is the main crowd-puller to Asiatique as well as the dining options and entertainment that are available within one hub. You may bargain at any of the shops here, and the stores are much better curated, well lit and less cramped compared to Chatuchak market.

chatuchak

BTS: Sapan Khwai Station or Mochit Station / MRT: Kamphaenpetch Station
Bus: No. 3,826,27,28,29,34,38,39,44,52,59,63,77,90,96,104,408,112,122, 134,136,138,153,159
Aircondition Bus: No. 2,3,9,18,19,28,34,39,44,134,145,153,510,512,513

  • Address: 587/10 Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
  • Opening Hours:
    • Wednesday -Thursday (Plants & Flowers) 6.00 am – 6.00 pm.
    • Friday (Wholesale day) 6.00 am – 6.00 pm.
    • Saturday-Sunday (Miscellaneous) 6.00 am – 6.00 pm.

Chatuchak weekend market is one of the highlights of Bangkok over the weekend. Thousands of locals and tourists flock this 27 acres space to shop amongst its 15000 booths of goods from all over Thailand and abroad. Most vendors come from local factories like antique wood carving, clay handicrafts, local souvenirs and crafts as well as trendy fashion items, silk, hill-tribe outfits, pets clothing (even pets!) and more. Almost anything can be found here in Chatuchak market, or fondly known JJ Market. The entire market is divided into 27 sections and bargaining is expected here. There are also plenty of local food and beverage stalls to keep you fuelled while you shop your hearts content. Just make sure you stay hydrated, wear cooling clothing and comfortable shoes, and eat the delicious Thai coconut ice-cream. Stay until closing hours as some vendors will unpack their items on the main alleys to clear their stocks at a low price (and you can still bargain).

nightmarkets

Asiatique

BTS: Saphan Taksin [Exit 2] and transfer via Asiatique Shuttle Boat

Now whenever I am in Bangkok I will make it a point to drop by at Asiatique. I love that it is further than the main centre of Bangkok, and to get there you’d have a choice to go by land or by water taxi on Chao Praya river. It is a family-friendly place – you can watch the Muay Thai Live theatre show, eat local Thai food at the stalls or outdoor restaurants and bars, go on the Ferris Wheel and shop ’til you drop within one open-air concept area.

  • Address: 2194 Charoenkrung Road
  • Operating Hours : Daily, 5pm – 12am

Siam Square

BTS: Siam

  • Address: 
  • Operating Hours : Daily, 5pm – 12am

This night market extends to the roadside of Siam Square and around the Siam BTS station. They sell lower-end fashion clothing item at a very cheap price. Think China-made denim shorts and blouses for 150-300 baht and they’re even negotiable. It’s great for buying instant clothes you’re going to wear only a couple of times as they hardly last and made out of lower-end materials but the market is still great to sift through for last minute gifts or window shopping. Don’t forget to stop by one of the food stalls for supper!

Artbox (Pop-up Container Market)

  • Address: Please check website for latest location update
  • Opening Hours: Weekends (Please check schedule since it’s a pop-up), 3pm – 12am

I personally loved Artbox Container Market. It is different as it’s not touristy (yet!) and are filled with young, hip and urban local crowd and sellers. There are clothing, accessories and also food stalls from the creative small businesses that Bangkok has to offer. It starts late afternoon and ends near midnight, with music acts and performances to hype the crowd up. THB500 set of oysters with Thai condiments, colorful alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks all the way to BBQ and desserts are available here. Bring plenty of cash, and make new friends. Don’t forget to bring and umbrella during the rainy season and some shoes you don’t mind getting in the mud with. See more of our photos from Artbox Bangkok HERE.

Khao San Road

BTS – No BTS, cab and Uber is your best choice.

  • Address: Khao San Road
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 7pm to 12am

Khao San is well-known as the backpackers district and it’s also home to row of bars for dirt cheap drinks, restaurants and a great place to drunk people-watch. It is also packed to the brim with street peddlers selling food and all kinds of souvenirs and clothing but prices are slightly above average here compared to other parts of Bangkok as it is THE western tourist spot. The craziest I’ve seen was a stall selling University degree certifications that you can personalise in case if your parents asked what you’ve done halfway across the world for laughs. You can also find carts selling fried insects here although the price is steeper than other places but who cares about prices after a couple of drinks, right? Just make sure you have friends accompanying you so you don’t end up with unwanted tattoos from many of the tattoo parlors along this street ala Hangover.

 

Check out more night markets in Bangkok HERE.

 

If you have any suggestions on where or how to shop in Bangkok, leave us a comment in the comment box below!

 

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