Our first week around Bangkok was spent finding cheap street eats and exploring the endless shopping opportunities. Our first big endeavor into the consumerism of Bangkok was to Siam Center Mall: a 5-story building consisting of rows and rows of tiny shops and stands. Our goal was the ‘3rd floor: electronics’ in search of a phone to use in Thailand to not mess with international phone plans & such.
After studying a handful of the hundreds of phone stands, we found a Thai phone for ฿1900 (~$60) & an international SIM card with unlimited data so we can use Google Maps on the go, while away from WiFi, which is all my phone will work off of. We went to another store to buy a case for the new phone. When we showed the young shop attendant the phone, she was laughing so much she could barely say they didn’t sell products for that phone. It was then we knew we were safe from theft at that point. Our new phone was quite a joke. But other than a poor battery life and a terribly inaccurate touch screen, the phone would suffice for our travels.
Our next foray into the world of excellently priced goods was at a side street market we stumbled onto between dentist appointments on Thursday. We initially set out for some lunch, but found a stand selling Yeti tumblers: large 30 oz cups for ฿240 ($7.50). I wasn’t sure exactly what they sold for in the States, but I knew it wasn’t under $8! (Post purchase research informed me ~$38. Sweet!) With our latest addiction to Thai Iced Milk Teas, we knew these Yetis would come in handy immediately to keep our drinks cold in this tropical country and makes strides in the right direction to reduce the plastic consumption here (OMG, don’t get me started on the trash & plastic littered *everywhere*). We then added some snazzy coozies and metal straws to the set up, bringing the grand total to ฿320 ($10) each. Great find!
We then set our sights on the weekend. Big markets spring up all around the city on the weekend. Saturday took us to the north side of Bangkok to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. This outdoor-ish market is so large (35 acres, 15,000+ vendors), it has its own map and app to navigate this place. Of all the sections, we focused on clothes and shoes, rather than home goods and art (trying to keep it practical, at least in the beginning). We brought a minimal amount of clothes to keep our packs light, since we knew I’d be shopping for some new threads upon arrival. First impressions – elephant pants everywhere! It would take days to shop through all the stands of them. I’m talking thousands and thousands of colors, styles, designs, pants, dresses, short, shirts – all in the elephant prints.
After some hard debating, I decided against a pair since all tourists had them on and we were, after all, trying our darndest to blend in. But, 2 dresses, 3 pairs of sandals, a shirt, and assorted accessories did manage to find their way back home with us in Steve’s new recycled backpack! (Travel tip: if the price isn’t marked, bartering is acceptable. If the price is stated, go with the price, though they may give a discount for purchasing multiple items).
Compared to Saturday’s simple jaunt on the subway straight to the market, Sunday’s market adventure was much more complex. Our guide book, Lonely Planet’s Thailand, offered a side blimp about Phrapradaeng Peninsula to the south of the city, which also has a weekend market, Bang Nam Pheung Market.
I was ready for a transportation navigation challenge – take all of the modes of movement! (disclaimer, use guide book for actual travel details) Walk to the subway, take subway to SkyTrain connection, take the green line SkyTrain to exit 12 (Travel tip: book says ‘Stop 13, Bang Na’, but 12 is the same distance to the pier and easier to navigate from), take a taxi to the pier, ferry across the river alongside the motorcycles, take the motorcycle taxi across the peninsula to the market. *Whew!* Just arriving felt like a sense of accomplishment!
This sprawling [formerly] floating market was *much* less touristy. Shopping consisted mostly food stands which were *very* ethnic, as in “I’m not even sure how to consume this” type of foods. We found enough snacks to sample to get us through, snagged a couple stellar shopping deals again (Steve picked up a brand-new Patagonia Fleece for $20, retail $100), then repeated the transportation in reverse: motorcycle, ferry, taxi, sky-train, subway, walking.
Later the next night, we remembered a traffic officer mentioned the Patpong Night Market. Since it was approaching dinner time after Steve’s final dentist appt, we decided to venture in the direction of the night market. Well, what he failed to mention was this particular market happens to be on the same side street as all of the strip clubs and exotic shows.
This left turn off of the main business street offers: Neon signs describing performances I can’t type about in a family-friendly blog (Forrest Gump would be appalled), hype men outside the clubs promoting their shows and happy hour offerings, variety of loud Western music bumping from every club, combined with the rows of vendors pushing their purses, watches, knock-off electronics, and more elephant pants. The only thing leaving this market with us were our Yetis filled with Thai Tea.
[Stay tuned for our monkey mayhem in Lopburi!] Laéw-jer-gan kâ (แล้วเจอกัน ค่ะ) — Sierra