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What you can buy in Bangkok

We now know what you need to consider bringing to Bangkok. But besides the standard Thai souvenirs, what should you buy in Bangkok rather than at home? Here’s a list of items you may have assumed are not readily available on this side of the world and may even save some cash picking up here.

Eyeglasses for all.

Eyeglasses: Thailand makes lenses for eyeglasses or spectacles extremely cheaply. Bring your glasses and prescription and get a new pair made for a shockingly low price. [Ed: I have a big head and have tended to find the actual frames too small for my face in Southeast Asia, so I second BYOing frames — the lenses are indeed a bargain.]

Massages: If you were planning to bring your personal masseuse, no need. Thailand is world-renowned for their cheap (and strong) massages for around 200 baht an hour, though when you go really cheap, you may perhaps end up somewhere a bit dodgy (though not always, we hasten to add — there are plenty of legit cheap places). If you want to be certain of what you’re getting, you can always try Wat Pho, and if you are okay with paying a few hundred baht more for flasher surrounds, Body Tune is one reputable chain with three Bangkok branches. If you do want to stick to a cheap, random place off the street, try for a reflexology session, which is basically a foot massage that also includes a leg, arm, and mini-back massage while seated. If you don’t like it strong, make sure to tell them first.

Prescriptions: If you are worried about getting your prescription filled in Bangkok, don’t be. Bangkok has a pharmacy on every corner, and the funny thing is, you often don’t need a prescription and the prices are often cheaper than you’ll be used to. If you have a serious health condition that requires medication, I certainly don’t recommend you show up empty-handed in Bangkok. But for those who need a quick refill of a standard medication, there’s no need to fret. If you are also prescribed medicine at the hospital, don’t buy it directly from the hospital — it will be a lot more expensive to get from a pharmacy. (Though do check standard things like expiry date and dosages.)

Welcome to the pharmacy.

Cell-phones or mobile phones: If you want a cheap cell-phone while you travel, head to MBK where you can get a phone for 1,000 baht or less and a pay-as-you-go plan to find your friends amid the masses on Khao San Road. Another option would be to bring your phone, even an iPhone or Blackberry, to get it unlocked so you can use a Thai SIM card.

Purified water: Do not bother bringing water purifying tablets or portable reverse osmosis systems. Bottled water is available all over Bangkok, as well as water purifying stations where you can fill up your bottle for no more than five baht. Don’t drink the water that comes out of your hotel sink, but packaged bottled water and water purifying stations are perfectly clean. When buying bottled water, make sure to the bottles have a plastic seal.

(We) sell water.

Silks, orchids and, with skill and luck, gems: Leave these necessities at home. Thailand is known for its luscious silks which you can buy at the fabric market and blooming orchids at Chatuchak Market. Glittering gems can be a reasonable buy, but you really need to know your stuff. Do not go to any stores your tuk tuk or taxi driver recommend, nor any claiming to be “government owned” as these will likely be scams.

DVDs: For the long plane ride home, you can buy burned DVDs off the streets or at MBK for a fraction of the normal price.

Proof of internet.

The internet: Duh. Bangkok has internet. Lots of it. I am on it right now.

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