As a pastime, shopping in Bangkok is second only to its nightlife. The city is loaded up with malls, arcades, swanky department stores and floating markets, so that you can virtually shop from dawn to dusk.
The big malls like the Siam Center and Paragon are well placed and very smart and generally come loaded with higher-end shops, as well as eating and entertainment options. Some of the best shopping can be had in the night markets and in Chinatown, however, where you can bargain and have fun.
Best buys in Bangkok are copied clothes, sunglasses and computer software, as well as silk items and gold and jewelry.
Bangkok's Times Square is a buzzing area in the center of Bangkok that is surrounded by glitzy shopping malls connected by a series of walkways. It is a great meeting place and can be accessed by subway or Skytrain and also comes with movie theaters and a nice shopping/eating street.
Sukhumvit is the main thoroughfare in Bangkok and is lined with shopping plazas and department stores all the way to soi (street) 63 at Ekkamai. The bulk of the action is between sois 3 and 21 (Asok), while soi 1 has a bunch of galleries and boutiques. Best shopping is during the day.
Nearby Silom Road is the commercial heart of Bangkok and is home to dozens of smart shops and arcades. Surawong Road is nearby and is also popular, while Patpong Road runs between the two and really comes alive at night with its market and sexy bars.
You will find the likes of the Gaysorn Plaza, Peninsula Plaza, and Central department store in this area, along with other high-fliers. Central World Plaza is good for handicrafts and Gaysorn for jewelry. You can shop here all times of the day and year.
Best seen in the morning for the shopping to avoid the incessant heat, Yaowarat Road and Sampheng Lane are the main Chinatown thoroughfares. They feature a profusion of typical Chinese medicinal outlets and red and gold jewelry shops. Nearby is Ban Mo Jewelry Street and Old Siam Plaza, other popular traditional shopping places.
One of the main shopping experiences can be had at Suan Lum Night Bazaar, which is open-air and is popular with tourists and locals. You can pick up cheap clothes, souvenirs and food here. It also comes with a large food court and beer gardens and is noisy and lively.
Wear cool clothes, as Bangkok is always hot, and do your market shopping in the morning (avoid rush hour) if you can. Always compare prices between one stall and the next and don't be afraid to ask for a discount even in a swanky store with fixed prices. Be sure to check for any flaws when shopping at the market and ask for tax forms at the big stores.