Living and Working in Bangkok The Cost Of Living & Shopping
The Cost Of Living & Shopping
Thailand is a very easy place to live if you are earning a decent salary – and it needn't be that much. The figures I quote here are more relevant to English teachers than anyone else because that is the line of work that I am in. Some people can live comfortably on less than 20,000 baht a month while I know of some other people who struggle to survive on $US 6,000 (about 200,000 baht) or more a month! The latter may have been used to a rather decadent lifestyle in their own country before coming here or perhaps want to live their life in Thailand like they are on one long holiday. Assuming you are single and do not spend too much on accommodation, monthly discretionary spending money of more than 50,000 baht will allow you some comforts. Over 60,000 allows some fun and much more than that, well, you should be laughing! Let me re-iterate that it does all come back to your particular lifestyle. If you are eating in high end restaurants or staying at 5 star hotels often, wining and dining some of the lovely local ladies then things could become quite pricey. But if you eat at more standard restaurants, sometimes cook in your apartment and do not go out that often, you really could get by on not a lot of money. But just how much you need really is like asking how long a piece of string is.
If you are recruited in your home country and then move to Thailand and receive your same Western salary plus a per diem or hardship allowance, you may well be earning a phenomenal amount of money for Thailand and would have an extremely high standard of living. I know of such guys who can earn well over half a million baht a month. This sort of income would allow you almost complete freedom to live how you wanted. You could have a fabulous apartment, a driver, could eat out anywhere you wanted, party anywhere you wanted, buy all of the flashest clothes, the latest books, basically do whatever you wanted and still have money left over at the end of the month.
Just to give you some sort of idea about costs from a personal perspective, I spend around 60,000 baht per month, that is, as at 2008. This allows a pleasant and comfortable lifestyle. We live in a one bedroom apartment (20,000 baht a month) in a very nice building a couple of kilometres from the main business district. This 60K figure covers all expenses including all entertainment, transportation, all food, both eating in and out, new clothes, miscellaneous expenses – basically everything. I reckon I have a nice lifestyle indeed, and one which would cost a whole lot more in my corner of Farangland. I do NOT go out nearly as much as I used to and do not spend any time with ladies of the night, which can eat up money if you are not careful. However, this figure does not allow for major purchases, trips overseas, new computer or camera equipment or that all important pension planning, so if one wants to consider all of these things, you might want to plan to earn a fair bit more! Really, once you have been living in Thailand for a few years and assuming you are not a foreign hire – who can earn serious money – you want to aim for 100,000 + baht a month. That should give you enough to live well, buy the big ticket items like overseas holidays and new techno gadgets as well as save for the future.
But my lifestyle has not always been like this. If we go back a few years, my monthly spending was around 40,000 baht a month. I had a studio apartment in the heart of downtown, just a few minutes walk from MBK. That cost me 10,000 baht a month. I used to eat most meals at street vendors, more for convenience than any other reason, and that ran around 30 baht a meal so my eating costs, apart from the odd splurge at the weekend was low. I did used to go out at night a little too often and spent too much on alcohol. Going out to the bars can add up if you're not careful especially with the price increases since mid 2001. I enjoyed my lifestyle back then, but I would not want to go back to it now. The point here being that if you have 40K baht a month to spend, you should be able to have a pleasant, though certainly not luxurious, lifestyle. If you're on one of the expat packages, you will be laughing. Life could be very sweet indeed!
Following is a list of prices of various things in Bangkok. Note, there may well be differences here between what you read here and what you pay because prices do vary throughout Bangkok. Due to fluctuating exchange rates and quite simply the fact that this is Thailand and you pay in baht, all prices are quoted in Thai baht.
As at November 2013, $US 1 = about 32 baht
|McDonalds Big Mac combo (incl. Coke + fries)||115 baht|
|KFC fillet burger combo (incl. Coke + fries)||109 baht|
|Burger King Whopper combo (incl. Coke + fries)||149 baht|
|Can of Coke / Pepsi in a supermarket||13 baht|
|5 km / 20 km metered taxi ride||65 / 150 baht|
|Plate of fried rice on street or in a food hall / in a restaurant||35 – 50 baht / 100 baht|
|950 ml bottle generic brand drinking water||5 baht|
|800 ml bottle of milk||40+ baht|
|1.5 litre bottle of brand name drinking water||13 – 18 baht|
|6 litre bottle of brand name drinking water||38 – 50 baht|
|Local call from phone box (every 2 minutes)||1 baht|
|Singha beer 330ml / 640ml in supermarket||30 / 50 baht|
|Heineken beer 330ml / 640ml in supermarket||35 / 65 baht|
|Jack Daniel's 700 ml bottle||1,000+ baht|
|Portion of fruit from street vendor||10 – 15 baht|
|Bangkok Post / The Nation newspaper||30 baht|
|Packet of cheap / expensive noodles||5 / 14 baht|
|Barber / Salon men's haircut||60 / 200 – 500 baht|
|Levis 501 jeans – genuine||3,200 baht|
|Paracetamol 500 mg 10 tablets generic brand||12 baht|
|New release English lang. paperback novels||300 – 450 baht|
|New release English lang. hardback novels||495 – 995 baht|
|New release movie ticket at cinema||100 – 240 baht|
|Local phone call (direct phone line / apartment line)||3 / 5 baht|
|Mobile phone per minute charge, pre-paid plan||less than 1 baht|
|Durex condoms, pack of three||75 baht|
|6 x 4 inch photograph print||2 – 4 baht|
|1 litre of 91 / 95 octane petrol||39 baht/ 45 baht|
|1 litre of diesel||35 baht|
Basically, most things that one needs to survive in Thailand are reasonably priced. Food, transport, accommodation and all of the other necessities like toiletries etc are cheaper than in the West. If you want to live frugally, it is very possible – but it is my experience that most Westerners cannot sustain that sort of lifestyle long-term and eventually find that they want creature comforts, be it Western food, English language books or whatever.
The things that can be expensive tend to be luxury goods, cars and anything which is not made in Thailand and therefore must be imported – like decent beef or dairy products. Prices can vary dramatically. In the local supermarket, a roll of Kodak film may cost in excess of 150 baht whereas in a souvenir shop in a touristy area, exactly the same product is selling for 110 baht – which the is opposite to what one would expect in the West. In a camera shop a roll can be bought for as little as 85 baht. Figure it out for yourself! Unlike neighbouring countries like Laos and Cambodia, all of the necessities of life can be easily found in stores and are very reasonably priced, more often than not, cheaper than the West, or at least the part of the West where I'm from. There are convenience stores all over the city and you'll be doing well if you can find a part of Bangkok that doesn't have a 24 hour minimart / convenience store in the neighbourhood. 7 Elevens have been popping up at a phenomenal rate over the past few years. In fact the range of products available is far better in Thailand than in many Western countries.
While many things are generally a lot cheaper in Thailand than in the west, I still find myself spending more in Thailand than I did back home (I am older now and our lifestyle does change over time, so let's factor that in.) There are just so many things to do, so many places to go and visit and the shopping is an absolute dream – huge variety and other than high end imported goods, the prices are low. It is so easy to buy all of the goodies that are available and before you know it, your spending has skyrocketed. You do need to be careful or your spending can get out of hand. There is something about this city that really seems to suck the money out of you. If you are coming here on a holiday and are using one of the guide books, such as Lonely Planet, you can get the impression that you can survive here on very little – you can read about hotels for 100 baht a night, plates of food for as little as 10 baht. While these prices are genuine and it is true that you could survive here on next to nothing, very few foreigners do. Most people end up spending far more than they anticipated – but they still get excellent value for money.
Over the last few years Bangkok has got a lot more expensive, particularly for Westerners. I say this because the sorts of things that the average Thai person buys or consumes have stayed largely the same price. Fried rice, noodle soup and the like still can be found for around 25 baht a plate / bowl, and you can still get a pair of rubber flip flops for under 50 baht. But for a lot of the goods and services that Westerns are interested in, prices have moved. The cost of renting an apartment has gone up, largely due to higher occupancy rates. I am talking about apartments in the 10,000 – 100,000 baht bracket here. Cheap places remain much the same prices as they were many years ago. Restaurants where Westerners like to go have seen numerous prices rises over the last few years. I could rattle off the names of at least half a dozen of the most popular restaurants with Westerners in Bangkok where prices have basically doubled since 2000. And don't think this is all due to the soaring fuel prices the whole world is experiencing. A lot of other things have gone up too. Alcohol prices have gone up a lot, and while I am loathe to include it, the fees charged by ladies of the night have gone up too. Prices were moving a lot well before fuel prices started going up. Bangkok remains affordable but it isn't nearly as cheap as it used to be.
Quite a few Westerners I know or have known here in Bangkok tend to "require" their Western comforts and therefore their outgoings are a lot greater than that of others. So, if you need that taste of home, keep in mind that most of the products and even particular brands that you get back home are available here, but that they generally cost a lot more in this part of the world.
As Saturday comes around, all over Asia the locals head for the huge shopping malls. The suspiciously camp guy on the Qantas Bangkok arrival video who says that while in Bangkok one can shop until you drop is most certainly not exaggerating. Shopping malls are often packed at the weekend, especially the popular places like Mahboonkrong (MBK, Emporium and Siam Square). The other time when the malls are very busy is the first few days of the month. Thais get paid monthly, generally on the last day of the month, and over the following week or so, they proceed to purchase all and sundry in a mad rush to get rid of most of their monthly earnings as fast as possible. And often it seems that by the tenth of the month, they are broke, with just enough money to put rice on the table until the end of the month comes around again! Restaurants are a lot busier in the first week of the month, taxis are often full, and retailers do their best business over this period.
There are many shopping centres all over Bangkok and I will just mention a few of them for to mention them all would take up another 100 or so pages and you'll be asleep by then. The many HUGE air-conditioned shopping all over Bangkok are usually open from 10:00 AM until 9:00 PM EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR! Shopping malls have a large number of places to eat, usually one or more food halls and all of the usual American fast food outlets. Not all shops will be open the full 11 hours though. A lot of the smaller shops may not open until closer to 11, and close nearer to 8 than 9.
Mahboonkrong, the original Bangkok shopping centre is a mid range shopping mall that with 1000+ shops, has a full range of goods available. Want a copied Rolex? At Mahboonkrong, often abbreviated as MBK, you can get that. But if an original is out of reach, you can buy a copied one there too! Want an original Huge Boss suit or a copy – you can get either of them too! Generally speaking, the range of goods here is mid range with a lot of the Thai chain stores represented. You get the obligatory McDonalds, two in fact, in the ideal location on the ground floor and the usual Thai food hall on the 6th floor. There's a new cinema multiplex on the top floor but the cinemas here are often packed with gossiping Thais and in my opinion, are not the best place to see a movie notwithstanding the fact that the cinemas are spanking new. Level 4 has lots of small electronic goods (walkmans, Minidisc players etc) at great prices and also has a mini Panthip Plaza with stacks of software. Many Thais maintain that level six of MBK is the best place to buy Playstation or X Box games. Walking around MBK can be a bit of a mission as the corridors are not too wide so you should try and go early. If there was a fire in there, you'd be well done at the end.
Across the road from MBK is Siam Square, the unofficial posers' quarters of Bangkok. This is the place to spy all of the Thai teenagers strolling around and hanging out at the various trendy hangouts, seemingly doing their best to imitate their Japanese cousins. Resplendent in shocking garishly coloured hairdos, designer label clothes (more often than not copied!) and mega huge platform shoes, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had been teleported to Tokyo. In this area of around 6 or 7 blocks are various boutiques, eateries, the popular photo sticker stores, Internet cafes etc. It's all a bit of a Thai scene and is very much dominated by the kids from wealthy Thai families. Like so many places around the world, teenagers like it here as there are lots of alleys and nooks and crannies where they can hang out and not be seen by adults… This is a bit of a youngsters hang out area so if you're teens are behind you, give it a miss.
Central World Plaza, the second largest shopping centre in Bangkok is home to a couple of decent department stores, Zen and Isetan – the Japanese giant. But what I just love about this place is that the corridors are wide open, so even when the Central World Plaza is relatively busy, you still have unhindered access amongst the dawdling locals. Shops in here are mid to upper range and there seem to be a lot of jewellery shops aiming at foreign tourists. All of the usual Thai chain stores are well represented here.
But the Central World Plaza is far from the most upmarket shopping centre, this accolade used to going to the trendy Emporium, located at Sukhumvit Soi 24 (Prom Pong station on the BTS). With all of the expensive European fashion labels represented, this shopping centre boasts lots of flash looking stores. I do wonder how the notoriously fashion conscious Thais can justify the 30,000 baht price tag on a pair of Yves Saint Laurent shoes, amongst other incredibly expensive things available there. If you want the very latest (and original, no less!) from Gucci, Prada and co, then this is the place for you. Unfortunately for the extremely wealthy Thais who do shop at these mega expensive fashion giants, they still have to put up with the likes of you and me walking around as Emporium, like most shopping centres, still has stores with more down to earth prices too. A shopping centre of this size cannot fill itself up with only high fashion labels in a city with the poverty that Bangkok has.
Bangkok's newest and most swanky shopping mall is Siam Paragon, located right next to the Siam skytrain station, in the heart of the shopping district of Bangkok. Several storeys feature not just shops, food outlets and cinemas, but there's also an aquarium, and a Lamborghini dealership. This shopping centre has to be seen to be believed. The food court on the ground floor is sprawling, and you can find most things there.
While Gaysorn Plaza and Peninsula Plaza strive to compete with Emporium and Siam Paragon for the prestige of being the most prestigious malls in Thailand, they ultimately fail. Gaysorn is located opposite the CWP and does boast a bunch of well known, but as per usual, overpriced Italian fashion houses such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Prada et al. Gaysorn Plaza is worth a look if you have too much money but otherwise, skip it. Actually, this shopping centre was renovated in 2002 and it re-opened as this great big white, sterile shopping centre that seems to appeal to no-one. Peninsula Plaza, a little further down the road next to the Regent Hotel offers all the same sort of stuff but with the pianist on the grand piano doing his best to give the mall a touch of culture, this is only for the well heeled. Still, as Westerners, Thais are unable to work us out so even the Khao Sarn Road crew could still walk through here without being challenged. To the annoyance of the wealthier Thais, a wealthy Thai and a smelly backpacker both get the same pleasant treatment from the security guards (whereas the poor Thais do not!)
There are quite a few big department stores in Thailand with Sogo, Tokyo and Isetan representing the Japanese challenge and Central and Robinsons being their Thai counterparts. Central's flagship store at Chidlom is a popular department store and doesn't compare that badly with some of the better department stores worldwide. They have a good selection of most things and the store is very well laid out and easy to get around. It is no Harrods, but it is still pretty good. They have a very good range of products and the store is very well laid out, but as is often the case in Thailand, the staff, while helpful, really do not know much about the product and even if you are fluent in the local language, they are so often unable to actually answer even the most basic questions about the product that you are interested in.
Panthip Plaza (pictured right,) on Petchaburi Road is the place to go for any computer equipment and of course, all the pirate software you could ever dream of! Perhaps the biggest place for pirate software on the planet, it is a wonder that Mr. Gates has not hired (or bought?!) the US air force to drop a bomb here because I'd wager that he's losing a few million a day from Panthip alone. While people do go there for computer hardware as well, this mall is a Mecca for pirate software and copied DVDs. Pirate software and copied DVDs run at around 100 – 150 baht per disc. The food hall is very average and is nothing special by local standards. For price comparison, computer hardware at Panthip is similarly priced to the States – give or take about 10%. Laptops seem to be dearer in Thailand than elsewhere. If you are thinking of buying a system in Thailand, it's not worth bothering with one of the name brands like Compaq, HP etc. The main reason for buying such a machine is that the company provides high quality after sales service and should any problems be experienced, they will get you back up to speed in no time. In Thailand, this is does not seem to be the case so just stick with a machine put together with all of the separate components that you have selected yourself.
Thaniya Plaza is to golf what Panthip Plaza is to computers. Thaniya Plaza, in Soi Thaniya, a lane that runs between Silom and Suriwong Roads right next to the Sala Daeng skytrain station, is home to a large number of golf shops and you can find all things golf there. I don't know how many golf shops there are but I am sure if you are after anything golf related, that is the place to find it. Golf balls, golf clubs, golf shoes, golf apparel, golf everything – it can all be found at Thaniya Plaza.
Asia Books is the biggest bookstore chain with a number of branches in the central city area, though funnily enough, hardly any in the suburbs, only the Seacon Square branch springing to mind as one not centrally located. I like Asia Books because they source books from the UK and therefore you get books by all of the American authors plus also those written by the British authors – which some of the other stores don't always carry. Some of the other bookstore chains such as Bookazine and DK Books source from American suppliers and frustratingly, they do not stock a lot of material sourced from other countries. In addition to having a lot of books from all around the world, Asia Books has far and away the best collection of books on Thailand and South-East Asia which one seems to progressively becomes more and more interested in the longer their tour if duty in The Land Of Smiles lasts. However, when buying books about Thailand, take your time to examine them well before purchasing. There really is a lot of crap in the Asia Books stores, the sort of stuff that wouldn't be published elsewhere, but which passes the lower standards of the Thailand publishers.
There are big branches of Japanese book store Kinokuniya in Emporium and in Paragon that have much the same – all American sourced stuff – fine if you are happy with that alone. There was another Japanese book store on the 6th floor of the Central World Plaza, above Isetan department store which is reasonable and carries some books that other stores don't, although since the refurbishment I am not sure if it is still there or not. The biggest bookstores with English language books are the Asia Books branch in Paragon, the Kinokuniya branch in Paragon, and the D2S Books branch in Central World Plaza.
New release paperbacks and hardbacks in Thailand are much the same price as you get them from home. They are released fairly soon and you do not usually have to wait for long for titles to be released – unlike movies which are a little late in coming out in Thailand compared to other parts of the world. For second hand books, the most popular store used to be Elite Books in Sukhumvit Road just along from Villa Supermarket near sois 33/1 and 35. But most people now agree that the best second hand bookstore in Bangkok, by a country mile quite frankly, is Dasa Books, which is on Sukhumvit Road, near Soi 26, just a couple of hundred metres from the Emporium Shopping Centre. Unlike most Bangkok second hand book stores which are pokey, dirty and dull, this store is very well laid out, bright and inviting. They also have very good coffee and cakes. There are a lot of second hand bookshops in the backpacker district around Khao Sarn Road but the prices are crazy – some second hand books here are dearer than a new copy of the same book in Asia Books!
For the best selection of international newspapers, there is a small international newspaper shop on the soi next to the Villa Supermarket on Sukhumvit Road, opposite the Emporium Shopping Centre. It sells The New Zealand Herald from time to time so I figure that if it sells that, it must sell just about everything. Mind you, these days just about every decent newspaper worldwide has an internet presence so there is less demand for international newspapers than there used to be. For magazines, you can get a decent selection of magazines from the US and England at many of the major bookshops including Asia Books. Be careful when you go to buy a magazines as many of the major international magazines have a Thai edition and most things on the cover may be in English but pick it up and everything inside will all be in Thai! On a slightly different note, the two major English dailies, The Bangkok Post and The Nation both have good computer sections, Byte Line in The Nation on a Tuesday and the excellent Database in the Post on Wednesday.
While the prices in Thailand for most goods may be extremely attractive, the big trade off is that the folks in the shops often do not have a clue about the product that they are selling. Ask a question (in Thai!) comparing two particular products and the likelihood is that the sales assistant will not be able to answer it or will make up some bogus answer – so as not to lose face! This can be a real pain where it hurts most when you want to know something about a particular technical or computer related product. Often the answer is that product A is better than product B but with no reason given – hopeless really. The way around this is to investigate such product on the net before making your purchase decision. It really shouldn't be that a consumer has vastly more knowledge and product awareness than those charged with selling the items – but this is often the case in Thailand. It doesn't matter if you're talking about a simple item of clothing or a high end precision-engineered product or niche-market item, odds are you know more about it than the vendor. Do your homework online or from other sources because you won't get the same level of product knowledge in Thailand as you are used to at home!
Another pain in the butt is that many stores have a no refund or exchange policy. Even if the product is faulty, they suddenly become incredibly disinterested once they have your hard earned cash in the cash register. Buying at big department stores or name brand stores helps overcome this – and ALWAYS keep those receipts. Another pet hate when going into the electronics / appliance section of a store is that the sales assistants are usually all crowded around a huge TV watching the latest Hollywood productions on DVD. (Central Chidlom is the classic for this!) One must be persistent to pull them away from such important duties… In a lot of stores, the sales assistants are predominantly young pretty Thai girls in their 20s – I wonder what the criteria for employment is?
You will see a lot of SALE signs in stores in Thailand and I guess that there is no legislation saying that such signs can only be displayed if there genuinely is a sale or price reduction – either that or perhaps such a law is seldom ever enforced. But sale does not necessarily relate to price discount. Sometimes though, you can get some really great discounts on items available in sales. In late 1999 when Timberland had a sale, everything was 70% off – and it really was everything! Needless to say Stickman and his buddies queued and spent a small fortune… Further, some of the department stores have some really good end of season sales. I especially like Central Childom's sales where they discount some end of season items at up to 75% off.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Thailand BUT many vendors will slap on a handling charge, usually 3%, on top of the bill! While I am not endorsing this practice, their argument is that the goods are offered at the lowest possible price and unless you are paying cash, they must charge this levy. To get around this, get them to clearly mark the receipt that there is a 3% levy charged for using the credit card and you should be able to get this refunded by your bank / credit card issuer as this practice is in contradiction with their merchant contract. Obviously, offering to pay cash will always get the lowest price. Chain stores, big shops, and a good number of vendors shirk this practice. Travel agents in Bangkok ALWAYS charge this extra 3%.
The biggest market in Bangkok, Chatuchak Market, aka the weekend market, is open for business on Saturday and Sunday. This is a huge market where you can literally buy anything from food to farm tools, clothes to condoms, snakes to sneakers. The market is massive and you could easily spend an entire day here – many people do. If you are looking for anything specific, it is worth buying the Chatuchak Market map. If / when you get an apartment, this is a good place to come to stock up on all of the things that you need – you won't find many things much cheaper elsewhere. Try and get there early if possible as it gets very busy and as it is a market, it isn't air-conditioned – and at certain times of the year it gets bloody hot! You can actually go on Thursday and Friday when some vendors open and there are few people shopping. I gather one of these days is wholesaler day or something like that but everybody is welcome nonetheless – don't worry, a Thai will never be shy in taking your money from you if you want to buy something! As with most markets, it tends to be a lot of generic brand goods, no brand goods, handicrafts etc that are available here. Thai markets are good places to buy many things but NOT everything. I see Chatuchak as more of a fun few hours out than the place to go and do my shopping – maybe I'm just a snob? Further, getting there is a pain in the ass. Even the skytrain to and from there at the weekend is packed and if you buy a lot, it can be a pain carrying stuff on the skytrain. If you want good quality goods, stick to shopping malls and brand names. Opposite Chatuchak is the what is possibly the best fruit market in Thailand, the place where all of the export quality fruit is available. Prices are not cheap and you often see folks pulling up in their Benz's and other European exotics to get all of the very best produce. It's got a funny Thai name which is often abbreviated to three letters, that I can never remember.
Pratunam Market, on the corner of Petchaburi and Rajadamri Roads is a decent centrally located market. Pratunam can never be compared with Chatuchak for it's sheer intensity, but more often than not, you can find what you are looking for there. Specialising in fabrics and a point where merchants from all over the world descend upon for the latest in cheap Thai unfashionable junk, this is perhaps the best place to buy your cheap, but ugly, threads. Whatever you do, do not go shopping here for your job interview threads because even in Bangkok's appalling English teaching industry, threads sourced from here may help you remain unemployed for a decent length of time! It's also a decent place to get knock off and souvenir T-shirts along with a decent range of fruits without having to traipse all the way to Chatuchak. Bobay Market, just a little north of Hualumpong train station, located alongside a canal, is another market that is a good place to buy the cheapest clothes around – but you wouldn't see me dead in some of the stuff that they sell there. The really cheap clothes on sale at some of the cheaper markets such as the 100 baht ties and the 10 pairs of socks for 100 baht are absolute crap – they look bad, are often totally unfashionable and they do not tend to wear very well either. Wash them a couple of times and you might not even recognise what they once were.
Tailor's stores, more often than not Indian owned and run, offer tailored clothes at literally hundreds of outlets all over Bangkok. Predominantly located in heavily touristed areas, these shops are very much hit and miss. The proprietors and their assistants often speak several languages and are very knowledgeable about fabrics, fashion design and all related to the rag trade. The problem with these stores is that while the people that you are dealing with are very smooth, friendly and downright charming, they actually have little control over the quality of the finished goods. Your confidence is gained as you are well looked after in the store and your measurements along with a copy of the design are sent out to one of the many different garment factories around the city. However, some of these garment factories are right sweatshops where hundreds of seamstresses fire out clothes of all designs in record time. Yep, many of these expensive looking tailors shops just farm the work out to a dodgy looking, back alley sweatshop. If you order several suits, some may be good but others may be questionable as they were in fact made by different tailors! It's all a bit hit and miss. Some of the tailors shops do have better quality than others and some really do have their own tailors that work exclusively for them. For one recommended tailor's store, try Boss Apparels on Rama 1 Road, opposite the Mahboonkrong Shopping Centre. The owner of this store, a very personable, friendly but most importantly, honest and genuine Indian fellow is more interested in producing quality tailored goods than knocking off a $50 suit. If you want nice clothes at fair prices, go there. If you want the cheapest stuff, go elsewhere. To get to Boss Apparels, take the skytrain to National Stadium and get off on the opposite side of the road to the stadium itself and to MBK. Walk down the road a little further past 7 Eleven, about another 50 metres or so, and you will see the shop. It is located between Soi Kasemsan 1 and Soi Kasemsan 2 (the soi where Jim Thompson's House is). Mack, the proprietor and David, his assistant, are pictured here. In Bangkok you can get nice clothes off the rack in department stores at prices that are way cheaper than the West, but if like me, you are not quite the perfect athletic physique, it is nice to know that you can get clothes that do actually fit you, at very reasonable prices. At the tailor's stores, avoid buying any of the rock bottom specials like two suits, 5 shirts and ties for $US99 and also totally ignore the bogus claims that some shops make about being elected "tailor of the year". Such awards are often made up! Remember, the reasons to buy tailored clothes apart from them being cheap – due to cheap labour – is to buy clothes that will fit you well. Unless you are porky pig, or have a strange body shape or size, odds are you can find clothes off the rack that will fit you just fine. With tailored clothes, one also have the opportunity to have something quite different or something which cannot be found elsewhere made – but few people order the clothes for this reason. More often than not, it seems that people go for copied designs of big name brands like Armani, Boss etc.
You can buy all manner of copied goods all over Bangkok. Everything from copied software to fake watches / Levis / bags / wallets etc. You name it and it's probably available somewhere. All of this type of merchandise is best bought in the suburbs where it tends to be cheaper. Be aware that there are different producers of copies so a 2000 baht copied Rolex may actually be a lot better than a 500 baht Rolex. (For the best fake football shirts, try Pratunam Market). Copied goods can be a bit hit and miss. I usually prefer the original goods because while the copies may look OK, they don't tend to last too well in my experience.