Sampeng Market in Bangkok, Thailand is unlike all the tourist markets you’ll end up at if you don’t know where to find the real deal. A typical traditional open-air market, Sampeng Market is one of Bangkok’s biggest, cheapest and most popular places to buy wholesale products, as well as a slice of ‘real Thailand’, which as a tourist you’d love. If you only knew where it was, what to buy and how to get there.
Where is Sampeng Market? – Sampeng Market (sometimes also written as Sampaeng Market) isn’t actually as difficult to get to as you might first think. It’s on the way to Bangkok’s Chinatown and is such a massive area, once you arrive in the general vicinity, you really can’t miss it.
How to Get to Sampeng Market – With several routes and modes of transportation possible, the easiest way is to take the BTS sky train and get off at Saphan Taksin station. From here, take the Chao Praya river boat going north to the pier, Tha Ratchawong. Walk away from the pier area onto Ratchawong Road to Soi Wanit. You’ll see Sampeng Market directly down this soi, going in both directions and packed with stalls and shoppers.
Best Cheap Things to Buy at Sampeng Market – The last time I visited Sampeng Market, I was with a Thai friend who was there specifically to get Chinese-style snacks to send back to her sister in America. We walked along the endless sois of Sampeng Market and, literally at every stall, I was desperate to stop and purchase half of what they had.
Prices at Sampeng Market are dirt-cheap. It’s predominantly a wholesale market where Bangkok’s hundreds of thousands of shops and stall owners head at least once a week to buy products for re-sale in their shops. What that means for you as a tourist is, if you’re polite and friendly and willing to do a little bit of bargaining, you’ll get prices at Sampeng Market unheard of in the rest of Bangkok.
Snacks – I love Thai and Chinese snacks, and Sampeng Market has lots of stalls selling them. Dried fruit, spicy dried fruit, nuts, raisins, cookies, dried fish, dried squid, potato chips, taro chips, and lots of things you won’t have the foggiest idea what they are. For as low as 15 baht (50 cents), you can get a bag of dried fruit (papaya, mango and pineapple are delicious) and wander through the market enjoying a quick munch. Don’t forget too, Thai snacks make a wonderful, unique (and cheap!) gift for the folks back home.
Clothing – As Sampeng Market is the destination for many of Bangkok’s clothing store owners, it’s no great shock that you can pick up some incredibly cheap clothing bargains here. Don’t forget it’s wholesale, meaning the more pieces you buy the cheaper they are. Stock up on t shirts, shorts, floral skirts, jeans, skateboarding and surfing wear, ties, dress shirts, even funky jackets.
Thai Fabrics – Sampeng Market is also a wonderful place to pick out one (or more!) of Thailand’s thousands of locally-produced Thai and cotton fabrics. Look for something bright, colorful and Chinese-style, or floral, quaint and very British – they sell it all here. Prices too are dirt cheap with fabrics as cheap as $1 a meter, or cheaper if you buy a large amount.
Shoes and Sandals – If you’re looking for some inexpensive comfortable loafers to wear while on holiday, or a few pairs of high-heeled sandals to take back for evenings out at home, you can’t beat the prices at Sampeng Market. Leather stalls abound with some of the most gorgeous hand-made shoes and sandals, and at a fraction of the cost of the US or Europe. Fashion shoes too are everywhere with strapless evening sandals selling for 150 baht ($5) and even knock-off sports and running shoes.
Sunglasses and Reading Glasses – If you want a pair of the most ridiculously cheap sunglasses you’ve ever found, find one of Sampeng Market’s wholesale sunglasses and reading glasses stalls.
The last time I was at Sampeng Market I stumbled across a sunglasses and reading glasses shop that was so cheap I had to ask the shop owner if the price I was seeing was the correct one. I ended up leaving the shop with 20 pairs of sunglasses and reading glasses for myself and for gifts for my parents.
Fashion sunglasses and fake designer sunglasses were selling for 30 baht a pair ($1) and reading glasses for 35 baht ($1.20). These are the same glasses stalls at Chatuchak Market and Sukhumvit sell for between 199-299 baht ($6.70-$9.99). The quality though is good as, four months later, all my pairs are still going strong.
For cheap bargains, you can’t beat Sampeng Market and for a fascinating blend of ethnicities (Thai, Chinese and Indian) and a real Thai experience, shopping at Sampeng Market really is a must.
Photo – Sampeng Market, Bangkok – copyright Argenberg, Creative Commons License