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Shopping for Christmas in Bangkok: From Malls to Stalls



While Bangkok might not celebrate Christmas the traditional way, shopping is literally a national pastime in Bangkok, and the city often appears to have as many malls and department stores as it does restaurants and hotels, thus it is an excellent place to be if you are in need of Christmas gifts. Additionally, the glitz of Christmas seems to have taken the city by storm, and now all the major malls feature large lit Christmas trees, lights, decorations, and of course plenty of sales. The big glitzy shopping plazas like Siam Paragon, and CentralWorld lead the way, as they put on full scale Christmas events. CentralWorld features the city's biggest tree with accompanying lights, plus a Sound and Light show when it starts up at the end of November, which is even presided over by the royal Princess on its opening night! The new Icon Siam is the city's fanciest and most extravagant mall to date, and even has an indoor traditional floating market along with a museum! Siam Paragon is also glitzy and gets in the holiday spirit with a tree and festivities, and make sure to check out the fancy EmQuartier on the Sukhumvit side, for high end designer goods for Xmas. Most of the shops offer sales and promotions to lure in shoppers, and all the top brands can be found. The mega IKEA store out in Bangna has a large supply of Christmas and holiday decorations and gifts. There are also some great outdoor holiday markets you can shop at; the Sansiri Winter Fest, which offers lots of holiday shopping combined with food, drink, and family fun, although it only runs for a weekend or two around Christmas. For more local and traditional souvenir type gifts to bring home, consider spots like Khao San Road, where traditional Thai pillows, textiles, and artsy items can be found and bargained for, as well as the mother of all markets, Chatuchak. Even better yet, head to the OTOP Gallery where you'll find authentic Thai products from every province in the kingdom. You'll also find plenty of cheap clothing at Pratunam Market if you need some bargain gifts. With so many choices, you might even be putting a new suitcase to carry all your Xmas purchases onto the forefront of your shopping list!


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While Pratunam is not a shopping mall or department store proper, it is a fascinating outdoor market area that features hundreds of small clothing stalls selling at highly discounted prices, and is especially good for wholesale. If you are looking for some affordable clothing for Christmas presents for yourself or others, you can get some great bargains here, but it's best if you buy in bulk. Located smack downtown, it is full of stalls that take up the alleyways between the Baiyoke Tower and Petchaburi Road and are home to an endless array of shops, some covered and others out in the open street, selling mostly clothing, along with silver, jewelery, and other fashion accessories. You will be hard pressed to walk in here, as not only are the aisles incredibly narrow and packed with shoppers, but they are also full of food vendors and street sellers, making for the quintessential Asian street market experience. It's worth braving the crowds here just for the atmosphere, not to mention cheap clothing.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: For cheap clothing for Christmas gifts, you'll be hard pressed to beat the prices at Pratunam Market.

Dave's expert tip: this is the best wholesale market in central Bangkok. It starts somewhat across the street from the Platinum Fashion Mall, just follow the crowds into the alleyways off of Petchaburi Soi 19.

Read more about Pratunam Market →


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Airport - Bkk


The Swedish chain IKEA, home to a zillion products for the home, has settled in Bangkok, with a shop out at Mega Bangna, which is actually closer to the airport than the center of town, but still worth making a trek out to if one is looking for home furnishings or goods. Additionally, the store has an extensive selection of Christmas and holiday items, so it's a great spot to pick up holiday decorations and gift wrapping, along with Christmas and New Year's food items like gingerbread houses. There are artificial trees, wreaths, block candles and decorative lighting, and plenty of Santa figures as well, and of course all the regular IKEA winners like dining sets, kitchenware, and plenty more. The mega store also sells gift cards if you can't decide what to buy for family and friends.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: For an extensive collection of holiday items and home needs, it's hard to top IKEA.

Dave's expert tip: IKEA runs a free shuttle bus for customers that picks up from the Udomsuk skytrain station from 8am until 11pm, this is the easiest way to get here, as the mall is located quite a ways from anywhere.

Read more about IKEA →




Looking to add high end designer goods and upscale products to your Christmas shopping list? The EmQuartier is Bangkok's newest and perhaps most luxury shopping mall. Built as part of an expansion to the already existing Emporium, the EmDistrict will feature several malls, of which the EmQuartier is the latest. Hundreds of worldwide name brands in fashion and beauty can be found here, from Luis Vuitton to Issey Miyake to Diane Von Furstenburg, Jimmy Choo, and much much more. At Xmas time they are having a lot of sales here, and there's always a festive atmosphere with music playing and colorful lights flashing. Additionally, the mall has a Helix Zone filled with every restaurant imaginable, from Mexican to New England seafood, to tons of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai options, and there is also an inexpensive food court. In addition to shopping, the mall has a luxury fitness center, a multiplex cinema and IMAX theater, a gourmet food market, and even a waterfall. Shopaholics should be sated for years to come.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: For expensive designer goods for Xmas, EmQuartier won't disappoint

Dave's expert tip: Easiest way to get here is to take the BTS skytrain to Phrom Phong and use the direct entrance into the mall from here.

Read more about EmQuartier →


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Once known as the World Trade Center, the Central World Plaza is the third largest shopping complex in Asia, and even with the newer malls like EmQuartier or Siam Paragon around, still remains one of the top shopping draws in Thailand. Christmas is an especially festive time here, with Bangkok's biggest Christmas tree and lights decorated outside. The tree, decorations, and even a sound and light show get going during the last week of November, and then the lights and trees stay outside until early January. Inside, 8 floors host just about every shopping label in Thailand, bookstores, musical instrument shops, and much more. The 7th floor has a wide selection of excellent eateries of different cuisines, plus a gourmet supermarket stocked with goodies, and the 8th floor is home to the 15 screen SF Cinema City movie complex. There are also Christmas sales and plenty of themed shopping, so you're sure to find something that fits what you are looking for here.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: For Christmas cheer, Xmas trees, lights, and plenty of widespread shopping opportunities, Central World is at the top.

Dave's expert tip: make sure to ask for gift wrapping with your purchases. Most shops are happy to do it without charge.

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Not only can you find a massive selection of just about any kind of goods, you'll also be visiting Bangkok's top tourist attraction by doing your Christmas shopping here. Originally a flea market started in the 1950's by a former prime minister who wanted to put a flea market into every town in Thailand, Chatuchak, more affectionately known as JJ Market, is now the largest market in Thailand. Over 5000 stalls vie for business, selling everything from clothing to pets, antiques, plants, amulets, and plenty of food and drink. The market is a good spot to pick up some vintage Thai souvenirs, as there are many stalls that cater to this, with elephant pillows, silk items, and other art type items that will go well in anyone's stocking. There is also a selection of unique indie design clothing here for that hard to please nephew or niece.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: For Bangkok's premiere outdoor shopping experience and wide selection of local gifts for Christmas, Chatuchak is the best.

Dave's expert tip: The back section of the market is probably the most interesting, as fairly illegal things such as cockfighting and various animal (some endangered some not) species are to be found, but don't get too pointy with your camera back here, as the merchants may be suspicious of your motives.

Read more about Chatuchak Weekend Market →




Like with some of the other mega malls here, Siam Paragon celebrates Christmas with a vengeance, from its giant lit tree outside to yuletide decorations inside and plenty of holiday sales. One of Asia's biggest malls, featuring a 15 theater multiplex cinema which includes Asia's largest screen, the Siam Ocean World, which is Southeast Asia's largest aquarium, a bowling alley, a concert hall, and of course the gigantic multi-floor mall that is home to hundreds of luxury brand retail shops, car dealers, and food court. The Christmas season sees plenty of events at Paragon, plus lots of colorful purple lights out front to go with all the gift shopping inside. At the indoor gourmet market, you can buy virtually any type of food here, from fresh imported seafood to gelato to fine wines from around the globe. The upstairs cinema includes an IMAX theater and stays open well past the mall closing hours.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: Besides being Thailand's premiere mall, Siam Paragon has Christmas gifts of all sizes and shapes.

Dave's expert tip: The BTS Siam station has a direct entrance right into the mall.

Read more about Siam Paragon →


Khao San Road is a great spot for picking up Christmas gifts. There are plenty of cheap and interesting souvenirs and gifts for the folks back home here, ranging from typical Thai souvenirs for take home such as t-shirts, embroidered pillow covers and Thai pillows, and patterned sarongs, to beachwear, vintage and exotic clothing, plenty of jewelry and other objects d'art, as well as the latest DVD and CD's to name but a few, not to mention that you can get your hair braided in dreadlocks and get your body tattooed while you wait. For friends that want fine clothing, there are even some excellent tailors here who do full suit outfits for great prices.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: For inexpensive gifts and a wide selection of Thai souvenirs for Christmas, Khao San Road is a good stop.

Dave's expert tip: Ignore the tuk tuk drivers that hang out at either end of Khao San. Either take metered taxis to escape, or else use the nearby Phra Athit ferry pier on the Chao Phraya River. Make sure to explore the area behind the temple on Chakrapong Road and the ferry pier, a quiet alternative to Khao San, with plenty of nice gift shops and artsy stuff.

Read more about Khao San Road →




The Sansiri Winter Market really is a holiday style market, a big open air event during the coolest time of year, where a huge display of local arts and crafts combines with loads of local food trucks, artisan vendors, and a fun vibe suitable for the whole family. Where else in Bangkok can you find homemade mulled wine and craft beer alongside taco and burger trucks along with a family play area, and hundreds of local arts and crafts booths. It's one of these events that is easy to spend hours at, with a ton of great food, drink, and innovative items to check out. It's also laid out in a comfortable environment, a departure from the usual overcrowded and steaming hot night markets around Bangkok. In addition to the arts and crafts and food stalls, there are pet products, clothing stalls, and as the market grows each year, really everything under the sun. Unfortunately, they only host the market over one or two weekends in December, so you'll need to time your visit, but if you are around, this is really a great spot to do some unique Christmas shopping and enjoy the Bangkok version of winter.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: For a real Bangkok winter market, Sansiri Winter Fest is best.

Dave's expert tip: The best way to get here is to take the BTS Skytrain to On Nut, and walk back to Sukhumvit Soi 77, then up 77 about 500 meters to the entrance on your left. Sansiri also runs a free shuttle from the station during the height of the market, but the crowds can be fierce enough that it is actually easier to just walk over.

Read more about Sansiri Winter Market →


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Thonburi


For all your Christmas and holiday shopping, and just about anything else, Bangkok's latest mall has to be seen to be believed. It's truly an endless string of superlatives, with over 500,000 square meters of space and some 50 billion baht spent on creating Bangkok's most impressive shopping space, it is an absolute mecca for shopping visitors.

The mall features a seven-storey Takashimaya Japanese department store, two luxury condominium towers, an endless array of restaurants and eateries, fitness clubs, and even an indoor floating market, paying homage to the traditional Thai way of commerce. Thailand's first Apple store can be found here, and if you tire of shopping, you can even get a dose of culture at the Natonal Heritage Gallery museum which is also housed inside the complex! There is also a 3,000 seat cinema and concert hall, and pretty much round the clock light and fountain shows outside.

You'll be hard pressed to find anything more extravagant in Bangkok, so plan to spend the day here, it's certainly the glitziest thing the Thonburi side of the river has ever seen.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: For Bangkok's most extravagant shopping experience and holiday purchase spot, Icon Siam is beyond superlatives!

Dave's expert tip: Take the BTS skytrain across the river to the Taksin Hospital Station, or else you can take a cross river ferry to the mall.

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If you are looking for authentic Thai products to bring home as Christmas gifts, the OTOP Gallery offers a vast selection of products from all around the kingdom. OTOP stands for One Tambon One Product (a tambon is a sub district), a project that was started to showcase and support local products from around the country and from every province in Thailand, providing both revenue and exposure to Thai crafts from rural areas. There are several shops in Bangkok, but this one is conveniently located for those staying around Sukhumvit and on the BTS line, and it has an excellent selection of items ranging from Thai silks from Isaan (Thailand's northeast) to spices and batik from the south, hill tribe jewellery from the north, and much more. If you are looking for Thai crafts as souvenirs, this is the place to come hunting, as there ought to be something for everyone.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: For authentic Thai Christmas gifts, the OTOP Gallery has something from every region of the country.

Dave's expert tip: Take the BTS Skytrain to Nana, and walk west on Sukhumvit past Soi 4 and 2 to where the train tracks meet the expressway entrance with an overpass above you. The OTOP gallery sits right underneath the overpass. You can also get off at the Ploenchit station and walk back in the opposite direction, as the stations are almost equidistant to the shop.

Read more about OTOP the Gallery →


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Meet Dave Stamboulis

Dave Stamboulis is a travel writer/photographer based in Bangkok. Born in Athens, Greece and growing up in the U.S., Dave first discovered Bangkok while on a 45,000-kilometer bicycle trip and...  More About Dave

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