Food & Shopping
Amazing Dining and Shopping Experiences in Thailand
Thailand has always been one of Asia’s most popular destinations for people who love delicious food, and shopping – especially for unbeatable bargains. Thailand’s regional diversity results in a wide variety of cuisines and handicrafts. Bangkok is known for its numerous fine-dining options as well as street food and mega shopping malls, weekend and night markets. In December 2017, the winners of the first Michelin Guide Bangkok were announced, the seventh Asian city to be rated. Three restaurants received two stars and fourteen restaurants including one street food restaurant received one star. Chiang Mai is another Mecca for lovers of street food and bargain shopping, particularly handicrafts.
Bangkok Street Food
Street food is part of the Thai way of life, providing 24/7 convenience, with cheap, yet delicious food. Bangkok, with its abundance of day and night markets, and street food stalls, provides a huge variety of choice.
Chinatown is one of Bangkok’s most bustling street food hubs. There, you can find a whole range of food, from Chinese foods such as congee, fish maw soup, dumplings, to seafood dishes, noodles and desserts. The best time to go is after dark when the road is packed with street food stalls.
How to get there: Take MRT Subway to Hua Lamphong and get a taxi to Yaowarat
Though Silom Road is a business district, there are street food stalls and walking streets amongst the small laneways. During the day Soi Lalai Sap and Soi Saladaeng are packed with stalls selling ready to eat food, but also clothes, shoes and toys. At night, Silom Road turns into an entertainment district, with a wide array of bars, fine dining restaurants and street food.
How to get there: BTS Sky Train to Sala Daeng Station or MRT Subway to Silom Station
Sukhumvit Road is one of the main roads in Bangkok but the best street food is around Sukhumvit Soi 55(Soi Thonglor). (“Soi” means side-street branching off a major street). There, you can find a huge array of street food ranging from noodles, congee, satay and mango to sticky rice. Some stalls, such as Mae Waree Mango and Sticky Rice on Soi Thonglor are open 24 hours.
How to get there: BTS Sky Train to Thonglor Station
Banglampu and Khao San Road
Banglampu and Khao San Road are right next to each other. Banglampu (in particular Soi Ram Buttri and Tani Road) is full of vendors selling ready to eat meals and snacks, cheap clothes and souvenirs from early morning until late afternoon, whereas Khao San Road gets busy from after dark until late at night.
A group of historic wooden shop-houses at Phraeng Phuthon is a must-visit if you love street food and culture. Here you can sample a number of street foods including noodle soup with crab, rice with BBQ pork, grilled sticky rice with banana filling and coconut ice cream with various toppings.
How to get there: Taxi
Wanglang is located by Chao Phraya River next to Siriraj Hospital and Wang Lang Pier. There are frequent ferries from Tha Chang (next to Wat Prakaew) to Wang Lang Pier. Besides street food, there is also a range of inexpensive clothing. The best time to go is during the day until 5pm.
How to get there: Chao Phraya River Ferry to Wanglang Pier
Talad Phlu is home to several locally award-winning food stalls, some of which have been there for over 50 years. If you do not know where to start, just follow the crowd.
How to get there: BTS Sky Train to Talad Phlu Station
Nang Loeng is one of Bangkok’s remaining traditional markets where you can still see old shop-houses selling street food and Thai desserts. Some of the must-trys include Thai desserts and braised duck noodle soup.
How to get there: Taxi
Street Food outside Bangkok
Warorot Market is one of Thailand’s best markets with offerings for both locals and tourists alike. Warorot offers scrumptious street food, but also sells fresh food and vegetables, souvenirs and local handicrafts. The back street of the market features shops selling fabric and hill tribe products. The market is open daily from early morning until evening. Every weekend after dark two of Chang Mai’s streets turn into walking streets with stalls selling ready to eat food, clothes, handbags, and handicrafts. On Saturday it’s Wua Lai Road and neighbouring streets and Sunday Ratchadamnoen Road and neighbouring streets inside the old city walls.
Warorot Market in Chiang Mai
Down south, Patong Beach, Phuket Old Town and Rawai Beach are also home to a great variety of street food. Patong is crowded after dark until late at night with restaurants, bars and stalls selling food, clothes and souvenirs. If you are looking for something a little more traditional, try the small, local restaurants around Phuket Old Town or seafood at Rawai Beach.
Situated in Hua Hin town centre, Hua Hin Night Market is typically a flea-market where you can see local venders trading clothes, fashion accessories, street food and handmade crafts. The market opens daily from 5pm until late. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening, Cicada Market is another place worth exploring. It is located at the entrance of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and occasionally there is live music, or other performances.
Bangkok Fine Dining
In December 2017, the winners of the first Michelin Guide Bangkok were announced. Gaggan (Innovative), Le Normandie (French) and Mezzaluna (Innovative) were awarded two stars, and fourteen others were awarded one: Chim by Siam Wisdom (Thai), Bo.lan (Thai), Saneh Jaan (Thai), Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin (Contemporary Thai), Paste (Thai), Nahm (Thai), L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Contemporary French), J’Aime (Contemporary French), Elements (Contemporary French), Savelberg (Contemporary French), Sühring (Contemporary German), Upstairs at Mikkeller (Innovative), Ginza Sushi (Sushi) and Jay Fai (Thai Streetfood).
Bangkok Scenic Restaurants and Bars
If you are after a unique experience observing the buzzing city from above, there are a number of sky-view restaurants around Bangkok offering exquisite dishes. Experience the twinkle of the sky at some of the finest restaurants and bars including Sirocco & Sky Bar at Lebua State Tower, Vertigo & Moon Bar at Banyan Tree, Scarlett, CRU Champagne Bar at Centara Grand at Central World, and HI-SO Rooftop bar at SO Sofitel Bangkok.
For river views, check out Sala Rattanakosin Eatery and Bar (which has a spectacular view of the Chao Phraya River and Wat Arun on the other side of the bank), Attitude Rooftop Bar & Restaurant at Avani Hotel Riverside and Three Sixty Lounge at Millenium Hilton.
Amita Cooking School in Bangkok
With Thai’s delectable cuisines becoming a hit worldwide, cooking classes are becoming very popular in Thailand. In the big cities such as Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Ko Samui, there are cooking schools offering classes in English. Many big hotels across the country also offer short and basic Thai cooking classes. The most popular dishes on offered at Thai cooking schools are Massaman Curry, Tom Yum, Pad Thai, Som Tum, Green Curry and Stir fried chicken with cashew nuts.
Some cooking schools offer more advanced classes, from half-day classes to classes spread over months. You can learn how to use Thai utensils such as the mortar and pestle, the sticky rice steamer and the fruit and vegetable carving knife. You can also learn how to make the best of Thai herbs including galangal, lemon grass, and basil leaves.
Examples of popular Thai cooking schools are Oriental Cooking School in Bangkok, Amita Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok, MSC Thai Culinary Institute in Bangkok, Blue Elephant Thai Cooking School in Bangkok and Phuket, Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai and Pantawan Cooking School in Chiang Mai. Most of the big hotels in the major tourist destinations such as Bangkok, Phuket, Ko Samui, Krabi and Chiang Mai also offer Thai cooking classes.
Thai desserts, known as ‘Kanom’ are usually made from ingredients such as egg yolk, mung bean, sticky rice and coconut. One of the prettiest desserts is ‘Look Choop’, sweetened mung bean shaped into fruit and vegetables, painted and covered in gelatine. Other delicious Thai sweets include ‘Tub Tim Krop’, water chestnuts in coconut cream and syrup and ‘Sa Rim’, sweetened rice flour noodles in coconut cream and syrup. Thai sweets can be readily purchased from street vendors.
Thailand is renowned for diverse shopping experiences that cater to all shoppers and tourists visiting the Land of Smiles. From the renowned floating markets to luxurious shopping centres, Thailand is your one-stop shopping destination!
Bangkok – Asia’s Shopping Mecca
Bangkok is widely known as Asia’s shopping Mecca, offering opportunities for both market and upmarket shopping – and everything in-between. The great thing about shopping in Bangkok is that most malls and department stores stay open until at least 9pm and there are a lot of night markets, offering after dark bargain shopping and street food dining opportunities.
The major shopping malls in the CBD include Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, Siam Centre, MBK and Central World on Rama I Road; Central Embassy and Central Chidlom on Ploenchit Road, and Emporium and Em Quatier on Sukhumvit Road.
The best way to get to these shopping malls is by BTS Sky Train. Alight at Siam for Siam Paragon, Siam Centre, Siam Discovery and Central World, at National Stadium for MBK, at Chidlom for Central Chidlom and Central Embassy and at Phrompong for Emporium and Em Quartier.
The best shopping mall near Suvarnabhumi airport is Mega Bangna, the largest low-rise shopping mall in Southeast Asia. (Just a 20min drive from the airport).
Bangkok’s Bargain Shopping
Besides shopping malls, Bangkok offers opportunities for bargain shoppers. Highlights include Platinum Fashion Mall in the Pratunam area (opens daily), Chatuchak Weekend Market (opens daily but best to visit on the weekends), Asiatique the Riverfront (opens in the evening until late), and Soi Lalai Sap on Silom Road (opens daily but best to visit during the day on the weekdays).
Chatuchak Market is one of the largest outdoor markets in the world with over 15,000 individual stalls spread across 35 acres. Here, you can buy everything you can possibly think of, from clothes, fashion accessories, handicrafts and souvenirs to home decoration, kitchenware, plants, food and even pets. The market is best reached by MRT Subway (alight at Kampaengpet) or BTS Sky Train (alight at Mo Chit).
Platinum Fashion Mall specialises in wholesale fashion clothing and accessories. It is air conditioned and has a large food court as well as coffee shops and fast food chains. This mall is best reached by taxi.
Another recommended shopping, dining and entertainment venue is Asiatique the Riverfront. This complex is located on the bank of Chao Phraya River and there are free ferries departing frequently from the pier under Taksin Bridge, at the bottom of the stairs from BTS Sky Train.
Lhong 1919 is the newest mixed-use lifestyle development with small shops along the Chao Phraya River. Lhong 1919 is owned by one of the country’s oldest Thai-Chinese tycoon families, built where they first set foot in Thailand after migrating from China. The ferries go directly to the public Wanglee Pier.
Chang Chui is a new creative hub attracting artists and designers. Visitors can enjoy the blend of traditional classic designs within a bohemian atmosphere. Here you will find many handmade products that can’t be bought anywhere else. There’s enough to eat, see and photograph to ensure a fun and funky night out with family and friends. The market is best reached by BTS (alight at Victory Monument Station, then take the air conditioned BMTA bus No. 515 or No 539) or Taxi (to 460/8 Sirindhorn Road, Bang Phlat District).
Other popular night markets include Rot Fai Market Srinakarin, Rot Fai Market Ratchada, JJ Green Night Market (vintage goods), Chatuchak Friday Night Market, Talad Neon (fashion and homewares), Khao San Road (mainly souvenirs and clothes), Patpong Night Market, and Khlong Lod Night Market and Khlong Thom Market (both best known for second-hand goods).
Rot Fai Market
Shopping Opportunities Outside Bangkok
Amphawa in Samut Songkram is famous for three distinctively unique markets: Rom Hup Market, Amphawa Floating Market and Tha Kha Floating Market. Rom Hup Market (which literally means ‘umbrella closing’) is a market located one hundred metres along as well as ‘on’ the Mae Klong-Ban Laem railway line near Mae Klong Railway Station. It’s a most remarkable sight to see the vendors collecting their goods and closing their umbrellas when the train is approaching and setting them back up once the train has passed. Amphawa Floating Market is a canal side market where vendors paddle their boats selling fresh produce and ready-to-eat food along the canal banks, which are also home to old shops and houses. The market opens every day and can be very crowded on the weekends. For a more authentic experience, visit the nearby Tha Kha Floating Market (only opens on Friday to Sunday).
Amphawa Floating Market
Rom Hup Market
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi is approximately 2 hours by car from Bangkok. Its morning congregation of produce laden boats will provide tourists with a glimpse of a floating market in days-gone-by.
The easiest way to get to Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak is to book a tour with local travel agents.
In Hua Hin, there are Chatchai Market (selling fresh produce from early morning until late afternoon), Hua Hin Night Market (selling souvenirs, clothes, and street food after dark), Cicada Market (selling mainly art works, handmade crafts from Friday to Sunday from evening until late) and Plearn Wan Vintage Market (selling mainly souvenirs and fashion accessories).
Cicada Market in Hua Hin
In Chiang Mai, there are Warorot Market (selling fresh produce, souvenirs and clothes from early morning until late afternoon), Chiang Mai Night Bazaar (selling mainly clothes, souvenirs and handicrafts after dark), Sunday Night Market Walking Street around Tha Pae Gate and Saturday Night Market Walking Street along Wualai Road. Other interesting shopping areas here include Ban Tawai Village (famous for wooden crafts), Bo Sang Village – Sankampaeng Road (famous for painted paper umbrellas), Wua Lai Road (famous for silver craft work), and Nimmanhemin Road (rated as Chiang Mai’s coolest, funkiest street with galleries, shops, cafés and bars).
Tha Pae Gate Night Market in Chiang Mai
In Phuket, the most popular night markets are Phuket Town Weekend Night Market and Patong Night Market.
Handicrafts and OTOP
Thailand’s exquisite handicrafts showcase the rich history of Thai art, from Thai silk to hill-tribe handicrafts and spectacular silverware. There are a number of handicraft stores, from luxury high-end goods to high quality goods purchased directly from communities that produce them. We highly encourage visitors to purchase products with an “OTOP” (One Tambon One Product) brand – a local entrepreneurship stimulus program that supports the unique, locally-made and marketed products of each village across Thailand.
Different regions are noted for specific types of products. Highlights of products from different regions in Thailand include:
North: carved wood, silverware, specialty paper products, ceramics, bamboo baskets, cotton fabrics and silver jewellery from hill-tribe minorities.
Northeast: hand-woven silk and cotton fabrics, reed mats, baskets woven from water hyacinth and triangular pillows.
Central: handicrafts made from bamboo, wicker ware, earthen pots and terra cotta items.
South: batik fabrics, woven products made from wild grass (Lipao) and palm leaf, mother-of-pearl inlays, decorative items made of coconut shells and carved wood products.
OTOP products can be purchased online at www.thaitambon.com/en or at the following places:
- Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok
- Thailand Export Mart on Ratchadaphisek in Bangkok
- Thailand OTOP Plaza at Pratunam Centre in Bangkok
- Export Promotion Centre in Chiang Mai
- Ban Tawai Village in Chiang Mai
- Market Village in Hua Hin
Small OTOP corners can be found in some major department stores or in the duty free sections of international airports at Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. Some of the best places to shop for high quality handicrafts and see how they are made are Bangsai Arts and Crafts Centre in Ayutthaya, Sankampaeng Village in Chiang Mai, Wualai Road in Chiang Mai and Doi Tung Development Project in Chiang Rai.
Amazing Thailand Grand Sale – The Best Time to Shop
The Amazing Thailand Grand Sale runs between June and August every year throughout the major tourist destinations including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hat Yai, Hua Hin and Pattaya. Participating shopping centres, jewellery shops, golf courses, Thai products, spa and massages offer discounts of between 10 and 80% off. This spectacular sale is accompanied by lucky draws and other fun activities.
VAT Refunds for Tourists
VAT refunds only apply to goods purchased in Thailand that are taken out of Thailand within 60 days of the date of purchase. Goods must be purchased from stores displaying a “VAT REFUND FOR TOURISTS” sign and valued at, at least 2,000 baht (VAT included) per day per store.
On the purchasing date, tourists must present their passport and ask the sales assistant to issue a VAT Refund Application for Tourists form (P.P.10) with the original tax invoices.
Tourists must then present the goods and the VAT Refund Application for Tourists form (P.P.10) with original tax invoices to the Customs officer for inspection before check-in.
In case of luxury goods (jewellery, gold, ornaments, watches, glasses, and pens valued over 10,000 baht), the tourist is required to hand carry these and show the goods again at the VAT Refund for Tourists Office, after passing the immigration checkpoint.
Tourists can claim a VAT refund at the VAT Refund for Tourists Counter at an international airport, drop the documents into the box in front of the VAT Refund for Tourists office, or mail the documents to the Revenue Department of Thailand.
For more information, see www.rd.go.th/vrt