Jun 23 2011
Upon arriving in Bangkok, one of my first orders of business was purchasing a mobile phone. A day or so of asking around resulted in the same advice from multiple sources: buy a phone from MBK, the huge mall located in the Siam Square area. More than slightly overwhelming, MBK is a frenzied mall that seems to sell budget everything. Amid knock-off purses and the overpowering smell of fast food you’ll find the ever-impressive 4th floor, a phone and camera Mecca.
Whether you are looking for a used iPhone, an old-school Nokia that still has snake, or a brand new BlackBerry, the 4th floor seems to have it all. Digital cameras are also in abundance though most of them are of the point-and-shoot variety. If you are in the market for 35mm cameras or more sophisticated digital equipment I would recommend you go elsewhere. Also on tap is a humongous selection of phone and iPad accessories. If you want your Droid to be dressed like a rabbit, or camouflaged in a case that looks like a cassette tape, this is your place.
Hundreds of individual stands each sell a Groundhog Day’s assortment of the same phones and cameras. More reputable, established and therefore expensive shops are usually along the perimeter of the floor and are not freestanding.
Let’s talk through the process. If you are in the market for say, a BlackBerry, I would recommend walking around to a few of the stalls and getting a feel for how much things cost. Bargaining is totally acceptable in these shops and I talked my BlackBerry down from 9,000 baht to 7,000 baht. The trick is to find a shopkeeper you feel comfortable with and work from there. If you are uncomfortable bargaining, shops like DTAC and Power Buy Electronics are more official establishments where prices are fixed.
One thing to keep in mind about MBK is that it really is anyone’s guess where these phones, cameras and other gadgets are coming from. While many of them might very well be new, some are definitely used (even if the shopkeeper assures you they’re fresh from the factory). Make sure to thoroughly inspect your item before making a purchase.
Also be sure to get the business card of whoever sold it to you so that you are able to find them again if there are any problems. If you bring a receipt, their business card and your item, they should be more than willing to help you.
Another handy service offered here is phone unlocking. Many of the shops will be able to unlock iPhones and smartphones from other countries for use in Thailand.
After you have made your purchase, if you wish to buy a SIM card or phone plan and the shopkeeper is unable to help, head to the far back corner of the 3rd floor where the Telewiz and AIS shops will both be able to set you up.
Last but not least, be sure to save receipts and other necessary paperwork in order to get your VAT refund when you leave the country.
MBK is located just off the National Stadium BTS station. You will see the large neon sign but if all else fails, use exit 4 at the BTS. The complex is open from 10:00 until 22:00 though many of the electronics stands do not open until after 12:00.
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