Bangkok Suvarnabhumi • think malls not markets ….
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!
Tobacco, fragrance and liquor prices at the airport are reasonably competitive , but not the cheapest in Asia by any means (watch confectionery and electronics prices compared to domestic outlets). How prices compare to your home country depend (as always) on the exchange rate you’re getting. At the time of writing, for example, the number of Bahts to the British pound had ranged from over 61 to 51, with a low point of 47, in six months • significantly affecting prices. As always, if you know that you want something specific, check the prices at home first and take your calculator! The cosmetic choice is strong, with some good niche products from brands like Shiseido, Anna Sui, Victor & Rolf, Bond No 9 and La Prairie. Look out for the ME shop in Concourse D which is a super well being store offering all sorts of products to keep you feeling and looking good inside and out! If this appeals, Imagine (East/West Intersection) probably will as well with its aromatherapy products.
The ME and Imagine shops are two of several ‘concept’ stores which are another particular feature of Suvarnbhumi. Others include Bracken (men’s fashion), Crossing Continent (luggage), Eye For Time (sport/fashion and sunglasses), Once Upon a Time (kids) and Thomas & Tonini (gourmet food).
For Chinese travellers to Thailand including the stores in Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport and the Suvarnabhumi Airport shopping is about to become a lot easier. “World Duty Free” service Tmall Global allows consumers to purchase stored-value cards online before their visit.
Part of the Alibaba group, Tmall and Thailand’s largest duty free group, King Power Duty Free, service allows Chinese tourists to prepay for their duty-free purchases before arrival. The service covers both Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and the King Power downtown stores. http://kingpowerdutyfree.tmall.hk/
Suvarnabhumi Airport is more of a shopping experience where international and local brands have been cleverly blended to give passengers a superb world class retail environment (the food and beverage offer is pretty good too). Don’t go there expecting a Chatuchak , Pratunam, Patpong or any other of the famous Bangkok markets. If you want market prices, go to a market.
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Fact File
- Opened: September 2006
- Destinations served: 189 in 48 countries
- Terminals: 1 with two parallel runways
- Retail offer: Commercial and retail space of 24,000 sq m with 273 retail units. Core duty and tax free accounts for around 6,000 sq m. Operated by King Power.
- Hub Airlines include: Thai Airways International, Bangkok Airways, Orient Thai Airlines, Thai Smile Air, Thai Air Asia, Nok Air, Scoot and NokScoot.
Arriving Passenger Duty Free Allowance: Thailand Duty Free Allowances