PLEASE NOTE: this was written in 2008 and things have likely changed. Please do additional research before visiting any of these shops. I can also recommend Rainbowholic’s Kawaii Places to Visit in Bangkok guide, posted in 2017.
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In Summer 2008 I was lucky enough to visit Thailand and catch up with one of my best friends Claire (of Miso Funky fame) as she had moved there for a few months. I’d never had any particular wish to go to Thailand but Claire lured me in with her tales of earthquakes, searing heat and endless temples. No, wait, with tales of SHOPPING! Apparently Bangkok was packed full of markets and shops selling amazing handmade things and all the Japanese kawaii you could handle. So off I went. I was only there for about 8 days but Claire had been doing plenty research in the previous months so we got round a lot, once she managed to drag me away from the delights of the Siam Paragon food mall. And yes, I’m joking about the temples – I visited a few and they were very impressive.
I planned to do a series of posts about all the awesome shops we visited but then all the protests broke out and it seemed a bit frivolous to be posting about going shopping there. I did eventually write a zine about my trip (now free to download!) and included a short shopping guide. I’m reposting that guide here in its entirety and hope it’s still of some use.
I’ve given nearest stations (MRT is the Skytrain, BTS is the subway) but I can’t help with better directions than that. Make sure you get a copy of Nancy Chandler’s amazing illustrated map to help you get around – it’s incredibly detailed and shows you everything you actually want to know.
Siam Square is a block of tiny shops selling fashion, accessories, stationery and the like. There are also two huge malls (Paragon and Discovery) in the same area. We came back here many times as there are so many food and shopping options. Nearest station: BTS – Siam. I did manage to write a full post about Siam Square, which goes into more detail of my purchases.
A cute shop that sells, well, felt appliques in a myriad of shapes and colours. Want a cute animal or bird, or to spell your name out in bright letters – it’s all here. You can also buy some super-cute bags and pouches that have already been decorated and other cute crafty supplies.
You couldn’t miss this shop as their storefront was a riot of paper bananas and hand-painted fun. They sell a huge range of stationery and toys featuring their own characters who include Stupid Terrorist Penguin Force, Unsleep Sheep, Bloody Bunny and Biscuit, a bakery run by cats. It’s all equal parts cute, confusing and terrifying.
A branch of the amazing Japanese ¥100 shop (read my Tokyo post), except in this case everything was double the price (about £1), possibly the only time we found kawaii that cost more in Thailand than in Japan. Being a worldwide chain store, I recognised many many things from the Tokyo and London shops so didn’t really buy much.
Winnie Gift Land
A stall that sets up at various times out on the street area and is full to bursting with cheap cute stationery. I found the cutest sad panda bag in the entire universe on sale for a mere £1 and lots of cute stickers.
Paragon is a huge mall with mostly high-end designer stuff but has an amazing food hall and international supermarket in the basement.
Connected to Paragon, with shops catering to a cooler and younger market. It has a branch of Loft (see below) and some fun home/lifestyle/gift shops.
Situated in Discovery is a branch of Loft the amazing Japanese lifestyle shop (read my Tokyo post), which is probably my favourite shop in the world. It sells kawaii stationery, homeware, accessories, gifts, gadgets and more. You’ll be absolutely spoiled for choice. It’s not that cheap though so be prepared to spend a lot of time deciding what to buy. There’s also a branch in Chamchuri Square (MRT – Samyarn) but I didn’t go there.
CENTRAL WORLD PLAZA
Another big shopping mall, with lots of Japanese stores. Nearest station: BTS – Chit Lom or Siam
A branch of the famous Japanese department store! This sells lots of boring stuff and also lots of amazing cute stuff. It has franchises for Sanrio and Kinokuniya (for Japanese craft books) and you’ll also find cute calendars, stationery, toys and homeware. Again, not the the cheapest but it’s quality stuff. There’s also a Japanese-style restaurant floor.
Zen / Muji
Zen sells a bit of everything, mostly homeware, gadgets and lifestyle goods. I got some nice gifts here and a Shinzi Katoh water bottle in the sale. It also has a big Sanrio/San-X area which is fairly expensive but fun to browse. A small branch of Muji is attached, with the usual minimalist stationery, clothing and homeware.
An art, crafts and gift shop with lots of cool and cute stuff on offer. It’s got lots of staples like paint, thread, patterned paper etc. plus cute stationery and stickers. Beware the section of adorable kits though, as all the instructions are only in Thai of course, sob.
The Fabric House
I never saw this shop but apparently it’s beside Isetan and has a good selection of Japanese and Thai fabrics at great prices. See the Japanese Craft Journal blog post for more details.
CHATUCHAK / JATUJAK
A huuuuuge market so get there early to avoid the heat and give yourself plenty time – expect to get lost at least once! Nancy Chandler’s guide (mentioned above) is essential for finding the areas you’re interested in.. You’ll find everything here – traditional souvenirs, independent designer makers, food, bags, clothing, furniture, kitchenware and even live animals. Most stalls only open at weekends but there are lots of markets in Bangkok – check your guide book for the best days and times to visit them. Nearest station: MRT – Kampangphet, BTS – Mo Chit
Claire also recommends the smaller Suan Lum Night Bazaar. MRT – Lumpini Park
Sampeng Lane is a long street of stalls selling fabric, toys, kawaii, clothes, accessories and more. Once you start you’ll have to do the whole street so have a rest first! It’s all quite hit or miss so just have a wander and a rummage. There are also some interesting shops nearby selling packaging. Nearest station: None! We got a boat to Memorial Square and walked.
There are branches of these shops all over Bangkok. Check your local shopping centre.
Enormo supermarket like Tesco but with an amazing stationery/toys aisle. It had blind box toys, cute pens and pads and huge Hannari Tofu pillows. Cheap too!
Like a pound/dollar/¥100 shop, except everything is actually about a tenth of that. Lots of kawaii stationery and toys on offer.
A chemists with a surprising amount of kawaii – I got cute panda flip flops and face cloths and even a cute clock, which has been happily ticking away for the last 18 months.