Photo: Watch your heels.

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Sampeng Lane

Our rating:

Sampeng Lane is a riot of people, colour, noise and smells. This is the place to come for unusual souvenirs, but be warned: It's also the sort of place you come to buy one thing, but leave having bought a whole stack of other things you didn't realise you needed.

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The area was first settled by migrant Chinese traders around the turn of the 19th century, with Sampeng Lane conveniently running parallel to the Chao Phraya River, and little alleys connecting the two. The main lane became famed for its opium dens, gambling halls and brothels—it's the capital's original red-light district—but these days it's all about the shopping once more.

Plenty of old-style shops remain lining Sampeng Lane. Photo taken in or around Sampeng Lane, Bangkok, Thailand by Samantha Brown.

Plenty of old-style shops remain lining Sampeng Lane. Photo: Samantha Brown

Sampeng Lane consists of a narrow footway that stretches for about a kilometre, with shops and their produce spilling onto it along both sides, plus little alleys running off the main lane, all of which are worth exploring as well. Interestingly, like Hanoi's Old Quarter streets, some of these little secondary lanes (trok) have names that indicate what they are said to have originally sold. You really are likely to get lost, but that's really part of the whole experience. It used to be absolutely stifling and sweaty and unpleasant to shop along Sampeng—we'd be in and out as quickly as we could—but a plastic awning now covers most of the main stretch of market, and with so many of the shops air-conditioned inside, the coolness spills into the little thoroughfare. Watch your achilles heels, as some things never change: The trolley-pushers stop for noone.

While it's often referred to as a wholesale market, and wholesalers do indeed come here to snap up items they'll sell elsewhere, we found most shops more than happy to sell individual items—just know that it's possible some won't, and you'll get a better price, and be in a stronger bargaining position, when you buy more of a particular thing. If prices are marked though, don't bargain. Sometimes there's simply a retail and wholesale price, with no bargaining ... Travelfish members only (Around 500 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
Sampeng Lane runs from Songwat Road to the east through to Chakraphet Rd in the west, parallel to Yaowarat Rd.

Sampeng Lane
Sampeng Lane (Soi Wanit 1), Bangkok
Open daily, around 09:00–17:00
Admission: Free

Location map for Sampeng Lane

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