Bangkok might not win any beauty contests, but it competes at the highest level when it comes to shopping. Families in Bangkok can while away entire days browsing malls dedicated to toys and collectibles; beautiful handmade clothes for kids and grownups come in at surprisingly affordable prices, cute wooden toys can be found in abundance, and there’s no end of opportunity to haggle over the price of electronic goods.
With more malls, shopping quarters and markets than you can shake a stick at, it can be hard to know where to begin getting that retail therapy fix in Bangkok, which is why we’ve cherry-picked the very best spots for you and your brood to shop in this big, bright and sometimes bewildering city.
Books, booze and zombies. That’s pretty much every kid and adult taste catered for, so there shouldn’t be any problem in enticing the family to this uber-cool bookstore in the middle of Royal City Avenue (RCA, known as Bangkok’s party quarter). The carefully-curated collection of over 10,0000 titles includes vintage kids books in English on the first floor, and there are nooks and crannies galore for flicking through the pages post-purchase. A co-working space and gallery caters to an artsy crowd, and the brightly-decorated third floor bar (yes! a bookstore with a bar!) serves up fruity concoctions with zombie/monster-inspired names that are sure to be a hit with the kids while parents sip their grown-up mixed drinks. Vintage sci-fi and horror prints on the wall It’s open until midnight and attracts a hipster crowd after dark, but families with littlies won’t feel out of place here during daylight hours.
Thais loves their collectibles, and GachaBox is one of the best spots in town to shop for them. It’s hard to know who’s going to love this place more – grown-up nerds or their kids, but what’s certain is that it’s possible to spend entire hours here playing ‘name that character’ while browsing the seemingly endless shelves of cute replica superheroes, cartoon characters and collectible ranges such as Fluffy House and Be@rBrick. It’s located on Siam Square – a known cool kid hangout home to any number of hip boutiques and street stands – so grownups can convince themselves that they’re hip young things as they drool over ultra-rare Star Wars figures. Gachabox has a handily central location on Siam Square (opposite the super-ritzy Rolex store).
♣ Fun fact: Giving the kids spending money? Tell them to check out what’s on the back of their Bahts. Each Thai coin is emblazoned with the image of a Thai temple, and all of them are in Bangkok. See if they can recognize, for example, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (1 Baht coin); the Marble Temple (5 Baht coin) or, if you’re feeling generous, the Temple of Dawn (10 Baht coin).
Check out some of the lesser known attractions for families in Bangkok
There’s a simple joy to the wooden toy, and the Thais have never fallen out of love with these retro-style creations. One Thai brand that has built up a great reputation internationally is Plan Toys, which has impeccable sustainability credentials (the imagination-firing toys and games are made from natural rubber wood trees, with no fertilizer used in the soil for three years before harvest, and the wood is dried using a chemical-free kiln-drying process). Covering all age ranges, the colorful toys range from tiny pull-along animals to entire magic kingdoms, and the focus is on encouraging imaginative play involving the whole family. Plan Toys ships internationally, but families in Bangkok shouldn’t miss a trip to the flagship store at Sathorn 10, Bangkrak.
This cute and colorful clothing store ticks a whole lot of boxes for trend-obsessed kids and their long-suffering parents. Made in durable, breathable fabrics with stitching that’s made to last, the girls’ and boys’ lines include floaty cotton dresses and fun jumpsuits as well as cartoon-stamped tees and hard-wearing shorts, all of which help kids and their responsible adults keep their cool in the Bangkok swelter. Their sneakers and sandals look as good as they feel, so you won’t be shoehorning your five-year-old fashionistas into ‘dull but practical’ footwear. You’ll find Hallo Heidi at 5 Phetchaburi Rd, Thanon Phetchaburi, Ratchathewi.
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♥ BOXOUT: If the kids are flagging in the Bangkok heat, a day at a mall may be in order. It’s more exciting than it sounds – as well as that blessed air conditioning, sparkling clean bathroom facilities and surprisingly impressive range of offerings in the food court, you’ll find family-friendly treats such as a giant aquarium (at Siam Paragon); a rooftop water park (The Mall); ice-skating, and even Thailand’s own Madame Tussaud’s (Siam Discovery).
For a real treat, kit yourself and the littlies out in handmade silk creations from this renowned Bangkok brand. Almeta ship to luxury stores across the world – including Bloomingdales – but there’s unparalleled range (and better prices) at the plush Bangkok store (the company motto is ‘cocoon yourself in luxury’). Manufacturing top-quality silk goods since 1992, the firm offers made-to-measure clothing and ready to wear pieces in more than 1,000 different silks, taking in every color of the rainbow and myriad subtle shades in between. And if you think silk sounds like too much hard work for dressing messy kids, seek out the range of ‘lazy silk’ machine washable items. For extra jazz and pizzazz, some ready-to-wear clothing is accessorised with feathers, seashells and other natural trinkets. You’ll find the Almeta showroom in Sukhumvit, opposite the Grand Millennium Hotel.
Prepare to spend a fair few hours digging for treasures in this gigantic warehouse close to the more famous Chatuchak Market (in itself well worth a visit for kids’ toys and gifts, including traditional toys made with banana leaves, and some fun and funky clothes), which is jam-packed with old-school toys, comics, and collectibles of every kind. Vintage film posters, giant Star Wars figures and all manner of crazy costumes add to the fun, and Instagrammers will have a whale of a time snapping away. You might even come home with some valuable vinyl or an abstract art vase, who knows?
It’s a little out of town, at Soi Lat Pharo 55/2, Lat Pharo Road, so well worth combining with a weekend visit to Chatuchak Market.
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