Thieves Market Bangkok, 2010 Edition

Written by Frank on February 11th, 2010

© Frank P. Schneidewind


We call a “Thieves Market”, what seems to be a market – where contraband, copies of luxury articles and obviously stolen goods are offered. Bangkok once had a Thieves Market, but that one did deteriorate quick with public knowledge and the arrival of tourists in numbers. It operated for some time in Chinatown’s Nakhon Kasem, and then mutated to just another tourist trap, where questionable merchandise is still offered at times. Prices soared and fake Gucci bags, Rolex watches, porn DVDs and such were on sale for an almost exclusively tourist- and foreigner-clientele. Unattractive for bargain hunters on holiday or shopping-spree and knowledgeable expats alike.

The insider crowd shuns the over-touristed markets like Chatuchak, Patpong or Suan Lum Night Market, those are neat and big for rookies and traveling folks with too much to spend at hand. A true pickpockets galore daily or weekly, but no terrain for us anymore.

The SIAMPEDIA-Team takes you now into the zone called Yaowarat or simply Chinatown. This area isn’t far from the historical Thieves Market. Here, you can get and acquire semi-legally the real stuff, some treasure hunters are after! Luxury articles “found” in hotel rooms and electronic gadgets of all sorts. You never know what you may encounter here. Some vendors show up weekly, but others only when some merchandise of any sorts becomes available. The venue is held Saturday nights and lasts well into the late hours, it fades out on Sunday.


Prepare for a trip into the busiest market in downtown Bangkok, no holds barred – here you’ll discover it all! Buddha figurines are high on the “Things to confiscate”-List at Thai customs, no discussion possible – anything Buddha-related stays in the country, fines are hefty! Some brass reproductions signal to the concerned collector that there may be more for sale, hidden from public view. Stolen artifacts or temple decorations switch hands here for stacks of Dollars, Euros or Baht. Cambodian or Laotian antiques and devotional or religious goods are high in demand with collectors worldwide!

Below pictured Chinese vendor sells booze by the sip and cigarettes by the stick. We use an archive picture here because those are rare and the illegal vending practices (common nationwide), are easy to spot, but difficult to document. You can also buy canned drinks and bottled water at these stalls throughout the market, which stretches for every small side Soi between the roads flanking the Lungbaan Phayabaan Klang, a major Hospital and the Worachak Road at Khlong Thom Center. New is the relative interesting “flashlight”-section to the left of the hospital’s main entrance in the unlit side roads there! Bring a light or shop in the dark here, usually the vendors carry a flashlight to attract passersby and they illuminate their wares briefly for them.

Radios, which are sadly missed by some car owners, steering wheels with and without undeployed airbags, whole sets of used tires on rims – that all moves quickly and unquestioned. Cut off cables on some and ripped off GPS antennas without a complete base do tell stories on their own .;) It must be hearsay, that you can “custom-order” any electronic car accessory or sets of wheels here cheap.

Since the prohibition of advertising for alcohol in Thailand, they crank out a large program for giveaways or on-pack-offers for those brands. There are stall with branded incentives, which may have been channeled somehow differently by a source within the chain. Here, the freebies generate a quick cash-flow.

Only the regular vendors have stalls set up professionally. Most hawk their valuables from tarps or blankets, those often disappear fast, if a uniform shows up here. The market is patrolled by police, which may prevent illegal merchandise to be displayed more openly.

Arrests and confiscations are frequent here, hardly a Saturday night without success for the BIB (Boyz in Brown), when on duty here;(

Elephant tusks (ivory) and countless amulets are presented here. Within time, the highly illegal ivory offerings may vanish (to under the tables!:)). Gold is rare to be found, at least the real stuff. Swiss Coffee, French Champagne or German Chocolate spread or bars are at half price and a real bargain. Watch out for fake packaging and false labeled containers! Not every NESCAFE glass needs to contain the real Swiss instant coffee here.

The funniest folk around are the vendors of hand tools in often professional quality here! Wouldn’t it be cool to see the faces at the lockers on the construction sites in daybreak, when they discover all tools went missing?

Laptop offerings change as fast as new ones appear on the market. Older ones are on sale, but also brand new ones with dual cores and impressive storage and features. No warranty is guaranteed here or trade-ins welcomed. Digital cameras prove to be hot sellers, the older models move slower than the latest decked out versions!

Cameras mostly have the accessories like the charger or the bag missing, but those are obtainable inexpensively in the electronic-malls like Panthip Plaza, Zeer or any larger IT Center

Shavers, Snorkels, suntan lotion or Lonely Planet guidebooks anyone? Perfumes, shades (Ray-Ban or Oakley?) or camcorder bases without the cam. Surely these items were displayed in a hotel’s room before – many assortments here have rather unusual places of origin. :D

Acquisition cost hardly exceeds 45 seconds of fear, the real valuables plus any cash or jewelry is somewhere unknown since long. No shopper here thinks twice, but haggles the heck for a low price!

Silk ties, 5 for 2 Euros? Unbelievable, but true! What’s manufactured locally, finds a buyer quick – if the price is right.

Want to know how to get there? Take the BTS to SIAM or the subway to Hua Lamphong. From there find a Tuktuk to haul you to the Hospital: Lungbaan Klang. This should cost you 40 to 50 Baht. Even a Taxi will not cost over 100 Baht from mentioned points in any type of traffic. Do not mention the market, just ask to be taken to the hospital’s main patient drop off. You are right at the perimeter of all market activity here.

The set-up starts in the afternoon, but the dark hours until after midnight is when finds can be made. Privateers flock into the road in front of the hospital later in the night (22:00) and hundreds of small dealers sell on the sidewalk. Bring sturdy shoes, your toes will thank you for that. Isles are narrow and traffic is tremendous.

Count your change always on the spot and make that a habit whilst in Asia. Watch your mobile phone, if holstered on your belt and never consider coming  here with your own or rented car. Car parking is steeply inflated on Saturday night and some vendors have “agents” scouting the vicinity for a resupply of valuable goods!.

Have fun! Khlong Thom Center hosts a KFC (clean toilets nearby) with A/C, it is located roughly on the opposite end of the market, if seen from the hospital. Don’t complain about sour feet to me! The pavement is mediocre at best and the market is huge.



1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Beowulf says:

    Guter Tipp! Herrliche Fotos, weiter so!