Go on a treasure hunt
Published: 14th September, 2017
If you are looking for vintage clothes in Bangkok, there are several places you can check out where you'll have fun browsing and perhaps snare a one-off original for a song, too.
Be warned though that shiny new is, in general, the preferred Bangkok ascetic. While vintage-chic is a popular look, especially in the Thai hipster crowd, new is still godly and a lot of clothing is mass-produced to only appear like it was made decades ago. We've done some detective work for you though, so you can make a beeline for the places you're most likely to get lucky—and more specialised shops are popping up all the time.
Be warned that even if you find your dream dress, shirt or skirt, chances are the size will be on the small side. Vintage is hard enough to find in Bangkok: Western-sized vintage is a needle in a haystack, as a most of the imported vintage stuff is from other Asian countries, as far as we were able to deduce. Also, shops come and go very quickly. If you find one vintage spot, ask them where else they'd recommend, as you never know what stall is going to shut down and what's going to open.
Tip: When you're hitting the vintage trail, wear an outfit that is easy to slip things over, as there are often no dressing rooms at markets and stalls. Vendors will have mirrors and elasticised skirts, which closely resemble shower curtains, for you to use to cover up your bottom half while you change.
So, to the shopping! First up, we'd make sure we included Chatuchak weekend market on our itinerary. Sections 5 and 6 have plenty of secondhand stalls, with an emphasis on shirts, denim and offbeat jackets, for both men and women. Dig in and hunt around as there are genuine treasures to be found here—and in other sections, too, though not in quite the same abundance.
Union Mall in Lad Prao, easy to get to from the Phahon Yothin MRT, is an air-con and almost empty alternative to the crowded experience at Chatuchak. Opposite Central Lad Prao shopping mall, it's smaller and less assuming than its giant neighbour, with cheaper street-stall style stores catering to a young Thai university crowd. The vintage section is hidden on the fifth floor, so it's easy to miss—while the second and third floors are lively and full of shoppers, the fourth floor is boarded up, and the fifth is largely bypassed to get to the movie theatre on the sixth floor. On the fifth, each of the vintage stalls has slightly different hours, and many of the spaces remain unoccupied. But don’t let the abandoned warehouse ambiance fool you: You will go home with more than one shopping bag filled with vintage goods, even with designer brand names that would go for multiple times the price elsewhere. If you’ve bought out the fifth floor, ride the elevators down to the third, where there are even more vintage finds on “secondhand street”, though these stalls seem to sell more of a hybrid of retro, high-quality clothing and cheap modern goods. Tie in a visit here with your trip to Chatuchak as they aren't too far apart.
Another market with a more specifically focused vintage bent is Talad Rot Fai, which has two locations. You'll find not just secondhand clothes, but all sorts of vintage toys and gadgets here. Siam Gypsy and JJ Green, right next to Chatuchak, also have a vintage bent, though we've not yet checked these out ourselves yet.
Way over on the other side of the Chao Phraya you'll find Talad Naew Naew, a small corner of Wang Lang market (where you must also definitely eat!). The focus here is more women's than men's, and we found some gorgeous dresses. Also in the market are a few interesting jewellery, fabric and shoe stalls. The majority of the clothing is not in mint condition but, again, the market will be a treasure hunt for collectors and vintage lovers. We got three different answers when we asked what time the stalls were open, so we can't advise you unfortunately—we went at lunchtime, and most places were shut.
Back on this side of the Chao Phraya, Asiatique has one designer vintage shop that was packed with original Pucci dresses and an array of other European designers—quite a find, as sizes went up larger than usual. The shop had no name outside, but it was stall 3041. Definitely worth a stop if you love Pucci and probably worth a look if you're looking for a specific European designer.
Terminal 21 is mostly new clothes shops—stacks and stacks of very good ones, actually—but we found one lovely shop, Sugar & Cream. It was packed with vintage dresses, skirts and tops, plus bags, though all the clothes are in small sizes. The lovely manager will help find something to suit you and commiserate with you when there's nothing in your size 14.
Asiatique: Charoen Krung Soi 72-76, Bangkok; T: (092) 246 0812; http://www.asiatiquethailand.com/; open nightly 16:00–24:00.
Chatuchak: Next to Chatuchak Park, via Mo Chit BTS station, Kamphaeng Phet MRT station or Chatuchak MRT station, Bangkok; http://www.jjmarketmap.com/; open Sat–Sun 09:00–18:00.
Talad Naew Naew: Wang Lang Market, Phran Nok Rd, Thonburi. Hours vary, or at least hard to pin down.
Talad Rot Fai Srinakarin: 6 km east of Sukhumvit Rd, Srinakarin Soi 51, behind Seacon Square shopping centre; open Thu–Sun 18:00–01:00.
Talad Rot Fai Ratchada: Behind Esplanade shopping centre; open Tue–Sun 18:00–01:00.
Terminal 21: 88 Sukhumvit Soi 19 (Wattana) Sukhumvit Rd, North Klongtoei, Bangkok; T: (02) 108 0888http://www.terminal21.co.th/asok/home/th; open daily 10:00-22:00.
Union Mall: Lad Prao Soi 1, Bangkok; T: (02) 512 5000; open daily 11:00-22:00.
Union Mall is opposite Central Lad Phrao mall and can be easily reached from Phahon Yothin MRT station. Talaad Naew Naew is located just off the Wang Lang pier in Thonburi, and is stop number 10 on the Chao Phraya Express boat. The market is open every day but midday seems to be the time when the majority of the vendors are open for shopping.
Samantha Brown is a reformed news reporter. She now edits most of the stuff you read on Travelfish.org, except for when you find a typo, and then that's something she wasn't allowed to look at.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
Our top 10 other sights and activities in and around Bangkok