Feb 03 2013
Are you in the market for a state-of-the-art karaoke machine, a clock that looks like the fancy rim on a Ferrari, a fan that emits a black light glow as it spins or DVDs of movies that just started showing in theaters? If so, you need to check out the electronics vendors at Khlong Thom and Baan Mo markets in Bangkok.
Sprawled to the north side of Charoen Krung Road over to Worachak Road (see map) in the northwest corner of Chinatown, Khlong Thom market is a go-to spot for Bangkokians seeking anything from spare car parts to rice cookers to remote controlled helicopters to those pulsing digital signs that say “BAR” with digital bottles clinking or “Toilet this way” with a stream of digital yellow pee flowing from an inebriated digital dude.
Khlong Thom is also commonly known as “flashlight market” — the roofed affair used to be so dark in the evenings that shoppers required flashlights to ensure that products were in fact quality knock-offs. Nowadays, the many flashing disco orbs and fluorescent lighting on the ceilings keep it adequately lit, although many vendors do look as though they haven’t seen the light of day in years.
The market occupies a huge space and like most of Chinatown’s markets, is as tightly packed as it possibly could be. Especially in the narrow passages that maze through the belly of the beast, be prepared for a human traffic jam when a host of shoppers come out on weekends. We’ve been here several times and it always amazes us how just when we think the market’s periphery is visible, it opens into an entire separate section with the same endless mash of modern (or sometimes not-so-modern) gadgets as the last.
Keep in mind that many, if not most of the products sold here are fakes and second-hands (or second-hand fakes for that matter) from China, so don’t think you’re getting an incredible deal on that “Bose” car stereo. We wouldn’t purchase anything too pricey as quality is questionable and it would probably be impossible to locate the stall you purchased from, let alone be able to negotiate a return. Even so, a walk through Khlong Thom is a dizzying way to explore the dark grey side of the Asian electronics market.
To see similar products but in a more spacious, open-air setting — or if you’re hopelessly tech-addicted and still want more after Khlong Thom — the party continues at Baan Mo market, less than a kilometre west up Charoen Krung.
Squished between Phahurat Road, Soi Thip Wari and Baan Mo Road (see map), this area was once where Thailand produced much of the machine parts that fueled its 19th and 20th century industrial revolution. Piles of rusted steel chains and ancient looking engine fragments can still be found in shophouses along Baan Mo Road, but the modern generation have mostly switched to the technology trade. Along with the usual dirt cheap speakers and microphones, clocks and refurb computers, Baan Mo also hosts roaming street food vendors and functions on a slightly lower gear than Khlong Thom.
At either Khlong Thom or Baan Mo, be prepared to get temporarily lost, and to bargain hard should you not be able to part with that Mandarin-speaking calculator or late ’90s edition Thinkpad. If you’re seriously searching for a cheap used notebook, you’re better off heading to one of Bangkok’s IT malls, of which Pantip Plaza — located within walking distance of Ratchathewi BTS station (see map) — is the easiest to reach.
MBK in the Siam Square area is a good bet if it’s new electronics you’re after, but even here, it can be difficult to tell a well-done knock-off from the real thing. In other words, spend the extra 3,000 baht and buy from a reputable store if making a major purchase on something like a new iPad or Nikon DSLR.
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