Duty and tax free shopping at Bangkok’s stylish and modern Suvarnabhumi (pronounced su-wan-na-poom) International Airport may not be the cheapest you’ll find in Asia, but you have to praise if for the sheer variety and size of offer. The huge glass and fabric airport structure is one of the most modern you’ll find, but inside there are many examples of Thai art and culture which leaves you in no doubt that you’re in the Land of Smiles. The travel retail offer, operated by King Power, is similarly a vibrant mix of international designer brands with shops selling arts and handicrafts from Thai hill tribes and provinces, creating a real ‘sense of place’.
Retail space at Bangkok airport is massive at 24,000 sq m, comprising 273 commercial retail units (including food and beverage, entertainment and services) with outlets for departing, arriving and transiting passengers. You can’t miss the shops because you have to walk past or through them in order to get to your departure gate; just remember to explore the other ‘routes’ while you’re waiting as shops vary in each direction. After initial security checks, passengers move into either the West or East intersection, from which there are then various concourses leading to departure gates.
The main retail corridor for international departing passengers is on Level 4 where you’ll find five shopping ‘zones’ including World of Thailand dominated by the wonderful sculpture The Scene of the Churning of the Milk Ocean, which depicts a famous episode in the Indian Puranas. Here you’ll find the Suvarnabhumi Museum Shop which has some lovely reproductions of museum pieces.
Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, is renowned for its shopping • silks, gemstones, tailored clothing, traditional handicrafts, pewterware, lacquerware etc are all highlights • available from hundreds of shopping locations and markets. Bartering is common and bargains are commonplace. So it’s unlikely that you’ll find local handicrafts at the airport at a better price. But, if you’ve had better things to do in Thailand than shopping and get to the airport needing to purchase gifts then there is plenty of local choice in the East and West Intersections.
Outlets include OTOP (One Tambon, One Product), a scheme that encourages every village in Thailand to create and produce unique arts and crafts products based on old folk lore and local custom; Sai Yai Rak, selling contemporary Thai art and design; Sai Jai Thai, products made by disabled people in Thailand; Chitralada, selling Thai handicrafts; and Mae Fah Luang, selling arts and handicrafts made by local hill tribe people. There are also Tastes of Thailand and Memories of Thailand stores. So, you may pay over the odds for a box of Thai Butter Cookies, a model Tut Tuk or a hill tribe doll, but at least you’ll know you’re supporting worthwhile causes • and keeping loved ones happy!
As for designer brands • Bangkok is full of them......but outside the main malls, a large proportion are fake, and everyone knows it. If you want the real thing then the brands you’ll find at the airport • and similarly at King Power’s downtown duty free shop in Rangnam Road • are all genuine. King Power has put great emphasis on luxury brands at the airport and Concourse D is where you’ll find them: Bally, Hugo Boss, Fendi, Bulgari, Chanel, Chopard, Dior, Loewe, Kipling, Ferragamo, Hermes, Cartier, Burberry, Dunill, Zegna. The choice is really quite awesome. For local flavour, though, you have to visit the legendary Jim Thompson outlets (East and West Intersection) where you’ll find some beautiful silk items for men, women and children. No it’s not market prices...but it’s Jim Thompson!