Sukhumvit Shopping Experience

There is a good reason that many people stay on Sukhumvit when visiting Bangkok and it is because all the best shopping is on their doorstep.

Yes, Bangkok is full of posh department stores and chic little boutiques but nothing can beat the experience of browsing the makeshift stalls which line the road for mile after mile on one of the city’s main thoroughfares.

The stalls are open all during the day and well into the evening, often only closing around midnight.

This is the place to buy that Rolex watch that you can’t afford, or the branded t-shirts for the bargain price of $2. Everything is fake, everything is available, and everything is negotiable. It’s all great fun. From handbags to make-up, from jeans to plastic guns, everything jostles madly for space. Sitting next to a stall selling children’s toys you will find a stall flogging sex toys. One minute you are picking up a Barbie, and the next a vibrator is in your hand and you are haggling red-faced for something you don’t even want. You walk away thoroughly confused and to buckets and buckets of wild laughter which follows you until you stop, curious, at the next interesting stall.

The most popular stalls are usually selling DVDs and CDs.

These days you don’t actually look at the individual items, but are handed a huge album of covers. From this you can pick and choose to your delight. The quality is variable and I have been disappointed a few times in the past by poorly functioning DVDs in particular. However this is the risk you take and at the prices now being accepted, one really can’t complain. The latest movies are on offer as well as a surprising amount of classics. And there is always that whisper after every transaction…”we have porno DVDs too. Very good selection – especially for you.” I love that ‘especially for me’ addition. It always makes me feel as if the entire industry is vigorously making these videos for just my particular pleasure. I almost feel guilty saying no.

Stalls line both sides of the road. However, do not think that nipping erratically back and forth over Sukhumvit Road is the thing to do. This is a busy, three lane road in both directions. Although you are not legally permitted to cross the road – yes, jay-walking fines do apply – you will see many foreigners doing just that; dodging cars, hurdling the waist-high hedge in the middle and zigzagging across to the other side. Admittedly there are hardly any traffic lights and not a zebra crossing to be seen, so this seems to be the only option. But look up. There are numerous pedestrian bridges and although they do require a little extra effort getting up and down all those steps, they are by far the safer option. And no-one will fine you for using them. My advice however is to stay on one side of the road – because guess what? The other side has exactly the same goods for sale at exactly the same negotiable price!

The nice thing about Sukhumvit, if you can ignore the seedy bars and clubs, is the fact that great restaurants also abound. This makes your shopping experience so much nicer. My uncontrollable spending sprees are only enhanced by pit-stops for delicious snacks. There are great Thai restaurants but also wonderful International eateries, from Italian to Mexican. They are all listed in every guide to Bangkok you can find.

Don’t expect to find shopping on Sukhumvit to be a gentle experience.

It isn’t. It is in your face, it is loud, and it is slightly trashy.

But it is also great fun and you’ll go home with many of the things you planned to buy as well as some extra items which you didn’t.