In Bangkok you can buy anything. Stalls line every major street. Markets fill the niches between the buildings. Street front shops are everywhere.
Everything you can buy at a Home Depot is split between fifty-odd different stores in one downtown district. Need materials to build your own personal armored vehicle? Amongst a few blocks in another area of the city are all of the industrial metal supplies required to construct a full on battlewagon. Need forged documents to get the next job? Maybe you need a degree in Computer Science from Stonehill College for the juicy open CEO position at Yahoo? Booths on the street offer made to order fake driver’s licenses, diplomas, airline identity cards, and student IDs. Services of all sorts are available in Bangkok. A visit to Soi Cowboy or Patpong suggests endless possibilities.
Who can buy all of these things? There’s an impossibly large amount of stuff on sale in Bangkok.
One thing is for certain; the variety of shops and stalls in Bangkok make for interesting browsing. We were swallowed up by the shopping experience wading through the crowds at the mammoth Chatuchak Weekend Market. Later we explored the horticultural offerings during a night visit to the 24-hour Pak Khlong Talat flower market.
It didn’t seem that a flower market could be busy at eleven at night. Just who has to buy large amounts of flowers an hour before midnight? Nevertheless Pak Khlong Talat was full of people when we strolled through. The stalls were staffed and people milled tightly around and amongst the brightly colored flowers. At the market the fragrance of the blossoms compete with the odors of the city and the wafting smells of the spicy food being prepared at the nearby carts. But just like everywhere in Bangkok, we really didn’t see anybody buying anything at Pak Khlong Talat.
There are an impossibly large number of the street stalls in Bangkok. It seems that trying to sell stuff is sometimes more of a hobby than a profession. Is it like fishermen who cast their lines into rivers holding almost no fish? Has sitting on the bank of a fishless river or in a stall on a customer-less street become more about the process than the about the success? Has the dream of the big fish or large sale faded in importance relative to the familiar comfort of the routine?
Scattered amongst the shops are many subtle variations of the same items. Prices are negotiable. A dedicated shopper bent on finding the absolutely best possible deal has a nearly unachievable task. Is it possible that the shoppers and sellers in Bangkok are caught a cycle of excessive merchandising? Is there so much stuff on sale that it is impossible for a customer to choose what to buy?
If you need to buy something it is almost certainly on offer somewhere in Bangkok. The trick is finding what you want amongst all the stuff you don’t need. Bangkok is a great city for shoppers; it is not as good for buyers.
Did you know that Bangkok’s full ceremonial name is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit? In Thai that would be กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุทธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์. Either way it sounds like a mouth filling paragraph. (Click here to listen to Bangkok’s full name.)