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It's A Mall World

I’m pretty sure peo­ple in Bangkok suf­fer from a hoard­ing prob­lem. How else can you explain the dozens of malls and mar­kets, scat­tered across the city?

We stayed around Siam Square, home to three huge and inter­con­nected malls. Once you go in and after you show your bag to the secu­rity guard (no, I do not carry a gun with me), you will get hope­lessly lost for at least a few hours.

Asian malls and mar­kets are some­what of a sur­real expe­ri­ence to most West­ern­ers. Upon enter­ing the maze of shops, peo­ple usu­ally go through sev­eral stages, notably “oh my God every­thing is so cheap”, “oh my God I have to bring that back home” and “oh my God I need to buy another suit­case to bring all that back home”. But take a deep breath and think it twice. There is a catch. Well, three catches actually.

First, even though the mall looks huge and even though there are lit­er­ally hun­dreds of stalls, you will soon notice that they all sell the same stuff. Prod­ucts are usu­ally groups by cat­e­gory: level one of the mall could be all shoes, level two all bags, level three elec­tron­ics and so on. So yes, malls are huge but once on a spe­cific level, there is a very lim­ited range of prod­ucts. Have a look around and check out the prices (they will likely all be the same) and then pick a stall. Any stall. In Bangkok, sales­per­sons were much less pushy than in Beijing’s Silk Mar­ket and there was very lit­tle bargaining.

Sec­ond, most clothes won’t fit, unless you are Asian and/or have very small feet. Even petite women may have trou­ble find­ing clothes because of the shape of their body. Oh, and you can’t try the clothes on, at most you may be able to check if a t-shirt fit but that’s about it. And don’t think for a sec­ond you can return the goods if they don’t fit. Get real. And yes, I’ve heard peo­ple try­ing to return a $2 shirt because it was too small. So when it comes to clothes, t-shirts may be your best bet but you may want to pass on jeans and under­wear. Feng tried to tempt me into buy­ing some cheap jean shorts (“it’s only $2, come on!”) but frankly, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to get my knee through (I guess love is blind because Feng actu­ally thought they could fit).

Finally, not every­thing is a bar­gain. The malls can be divided into two kinds: posh malls that sell West­ern fash­ion and local malls that also sell sou­venirs and cheap goods. Louis Vuit­ton in Thai­land or Malaysia is still Louis Vuit­ton, don’t think for a sec­ond it will be cheaper. So unless you are really dying to buy stuff you could get at home for the same price, don’t even bother (although these malls usu­ally have good air-con and clean bath­rooms, so it may be worth a stop). Cheap goods, such as sou­venirs (hun­dreds of plas­tic ele­phants in Thai­land), t-shirts, embroi­dered scarves etc. are usu­ally between $2 and $30. But you usu­ally get what you pay for and like I said before, there are only so many Singha Beer t-shirts you can buy (two for me, mostly because I was too lazy to do some laundry).

So when I see West­ern­ers car­ry­ing huge suit­cases and shop­ping bags in these malls, I can’t help think­ing “what on earth did they buy?”. I guess in a way it’s a shopa­holic dream but really, there are only so many plas­tic ele­phants you can bring back home… right?

You can see the com­plete set of pic­tures taken in Thai­land on Flickr.

Chatuchack Mar­ket

Lit­tle Glass Animals

Pig Head Offer­ing at the Market

Chatuchack Mar­ket

Bas­kets

Twenty-Meter Long Queue for Donuts

MBK Mall

11 comments

  1. Whoa, I’m still reel­ing from the con­trast between those delight­ful glass ani­mals (gorgeous!S) and the grue­some pig’s head (ugh!)

  2. Chatuchak was amaz­ing!!! We came home loaded with gifts. The pig’s head is a nice touch ;-)

  3. @Deadpoolite — Good to see you are still around too! How is the girl doing? I’m sure you are the kind of guy who think we can fit into tiny clothes as well ;-)

    @Linguist-in-Waiting — I know! Every time I’m fly­ing I see peo­ple check­ing in huge suit­cases and I won­der how much they pay for the extra luggage.

    @expatraveler — I’m the same. I hate to buy sou­venirs just for the sake of it… I like things I can actu­ally use.

    @Tulsa Gen­tle­man — T-shirts are always great gifts and they are actu­ally use­ful. I bought a few myself! Choco­late would have melted though ;-)

    @khengsiong — I don’t think you would have been that impressed, they sell the same stuff as in MBK for instance. It’s mostly for tourists.

    @Margaret — Ah, sorry! I was going to post a warm­ing for graphic pig head and then I forgot :lol:

    @Melanie — I should have bought the pig head. Should have.

  4. Yeah the pig head does seem to be the odd one out in that set, doesn’t it? Haha.
    Great tips, Zhu! Good points about the sizes and the non-refundability, especially.

    And con­grats! This arti­cle is going to be included in the 7th Byte­ful Travel Blog Car­ni­val! It goes live July 26th at Byteful.com, and I’ll be sure to men­tion @Xiaozhuli in a tweet about it. If you could retweet and help spread the word, it would mean a lot. :)

    Thanks!

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