London and Bangkok couldn’t be more different in their approaches to style, yet if you’re truly a serious shopaholic, you’re missing out if you don’t try both.
Fresh out of the fiasco that is Brexit, many are wondering what the future holds for the UK’s, 8.7-million strong capital, London. With its classic charm, pageantry, stiff upper lip, and unceasing thirst for theatres and culture, the city–just shy of two centuries old–definitely has a reputation to maintain when it comes to fashion and shopping culture. Yet it would seem that 5,000 miles away, among the melee of towering skyscrapers, temples, motorcycle taxis, and spas; Bangkok seems to be holding its own and championing an altogether new scene, the likes of which have never been seen before. It’s a showdown of epic proportions – East versus West. But what gives these two cities their unique shopping styles?
Londoners don’t do haggling. And while that may ultimately lead to higher prices, as one of the most expensive cities in the world, it’s all part of the territory. The charm of shopping in London lies in the blend of cobblestone roads, smattering of parks, and decadently decorated department stores. Old is always new in this town and heroine-chic never dies.
Shopping is life. There are more places to blow your hard earned cash than there are hours of the day, and you’ll soon wish you could be in more than once place at a time. It’s a feast for the senses and of course it’s a sin to shop on an empty stomach. The never-ending array of food stalls, food courts, and stands are always on standby to fuel Bangkok’s hungry consumers. So you can quite literally shop till you drop.
Notorious for it’s abysmal weather, the city experiences an average of about 106 days of rain per year. Knowing this then, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the simple fact that practically every corner of the capital boasts of some kind of specialist market.
Columbia Road (Columbia Rd, London, E2 7RG) is a definite must-see. Every Sunday, this unassuming street, near the nations financial hub, bursts into bloom, and transforms into one of London’s most eye-catching markets for fauna and flora.
Londoners are famous for their love of vintage, making Portobello Market (Portobello Rd, London W11), a must see. Made famous by the schmaltzy, and very British 1999 movie, Notting Hill, this remains, to this day, one of the best places in town to hunt for antiques. Bluebells (320 Portobello Road, W10) may just be the haven you need, should the crowds get too much, or you’re weary from all that bargain hunting.
However, for the brave, thrill-seekers amongst you, look no further than East London’s, Brick Lane Market (Brick Lane, Shoreditch, London E1 6PU). The ever-growing, ever-trendy, bric-a-brac of food stalls, food trucks, vintage flat-lays, and eclectic tat; makes this truly one of London’s best. It’s packed, lined with tea rooms, hipster pop-ups, and curry houses, and embodies London’s multicultural and progressive history. A word of warning, if the bargain is too good to be true, as every sensible East Londoner knows, chances are that it’s because it was probably stolen. Keep your wallet close, but I assure you, it’ll be worth the risk.
From rainy, cool to hot, the weather in Bangkok rarely ever falls below the 20- degree mark; making it the best place to stroll around and take in the sights. And what sights there are to see! The daily existence of the locals are interwoven with the countless markets, stalls and malls that pop up in this town – so finding a place to sink a small fortune is not at all difficult.
Not all markets are created equally, and Chatuchak Market (587/10 Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900), effortlessly redefines what it means to be one. From exotic pets, furniture, fruit to flowers, one hour wandering around in the World’s largest weekend market, is just simply eye-opening. You’ll never look at a market the same way after wandering through the 8,000++ strong stalls that JJ (as it is affectionately known) has to offer.
But if you’re looking or a steal,head to the Pratunam Market (Ratchaparop and Petchburi roads). This 24-hour wholesale market is the best place to nab a bargain. Weaving through narrow alleys, you’ll get to experience shopping, before air-con, personal shoppers or luxury brands.
Not content with daily commerce on land, Bangkok’s Damneon Saduak Market (Saduak District, Ratchaburi) is a feast for the senses, allowing you a glimpse of the past, in the city that was once heralded as ‘The Venice of the East’. An early morning start is advisable to avoid not only the unforgiving mid-day sun, but also the multitude of tourists.
You’d think that as the birthplace fashion goliath such as: Alexandra McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Matthew Williamson and Henry Holland; London would have a strong mall culture. It doesn’t. Unlike their American cousins, Londoners have a more discerning taste for shopping that has long since meant a snooty revile for shopping centers (as we used to call them).
However with the arrival of Westfield (various locations: Shephers’s Bush, Stratford City), there’s been a surprising paradigm shift when it comes to mega malls and shopping on a large scale. These ‘cities within cities’, house all just about everything under one roof, shielding shoppers away from the unforgiving English chill and expected rains.
If, like me, it’s all too gauche, and you prefer your brands intimate and bespoke, then head over to Kingly Court (Kingly St, London W1B 5PW). Nestled in the heart of swinging London’s Carnaby St, this three-tiered, pint-sized shopping complex houses quite a few established chains, but also some cool independent stores. If you have time, head to Choccywoccydoodah (30-32 Fouberts Place), and marvel at what happens when art, design and sheer madness decided it has a sweet tooth.
Boxpark (2-10 Bethnal Green Rd, E1 6GY) is a hipsters’ paradise. There’s street food, live music and enough independent stores to satisfy anyone, if the previous two fail to deliver. This place is practically buzzing, but be sure to keep your eyes open, because this is a popular celebrity haunt.
You wouldn’t be wrong in saying that Bangkok has a special relationship with its malls. It is a shopaholics’ paradise; an altogether more pleasant alternative to the bustling heat of the outside market scene. Bangkok’s malls have a character of their own, so to narrow them down to just three is frankly, quite impossible.
Siam Paragon (991/1 Rama I Rd) is an unashamedly upper class affair, housing only the crème de la crème in domestic and international brands. World-class service means you’ll be guided every step of the way, whether you want to splurge on a Chanel bag or buy a Ferrari.
But if you want to avoid the crowds, it’s worth visiting the latest upstart in the world of luxury shopping – Central Embassy (1031 Ploenchit Rd). This dazzling spaceship of a mall, with its crips interior, houses countless international brands, but also is home to an impressive array of culinary heavy weights. Din Tai Fung (5th Floor), intricately folded xiao long bao, is heaven in a mouthful and might just be that thing you need after a long day spent hunting for the perfect outfit.
When squared up against all that luxury, Terminal 21 (88 Soi Sukhumvit 19, BTS Asoke), can’t help but feel like the younger sister. This nine-storey wonder is decorated according to cities around the world and even manages to squeeze in a deconstructed double-decker bus and a miniature tower bridge on its London-themed 2nd floor.
These two cities couldn’t be more different in their approaches to style, yet what is obvious is that if you’re truly a serious shopaholic, you’re missing out if you don’t try both. Which is better? That’s for you to decide…