[Updated November 2017]
Sampeng Lane at Soi Wanit 1 is Bangkok’s famous wholesale market where you can find inexpensive clothing, costumes, textiles, sewing supplies, hair accessories, plush and plastic toys, Christmas decor, bags, stationery and a whole lot more. For many parents, it’s a great place to source craft supplies, such as glitter, pom-poms, felt sheets, ribbons, buttons, stickers and sensory bin items, as well as a variety of trinkets for class gifts or birthday party favour bags, including the paper/plastic bags themselves!
Open 7 days a week, from roughly 8.30am to 5pm, the narrow lane houses numerous shops, under a curved roof in some sections. Its side alleys and streets also feature lots of small shops and stalls (where prices are generally lower than those on the main strip). The market is ideal for those buying in bulk, and some stores will only sell multiple items.
The easiest way to get to Sampeng is via the Chao Phraya Express Boat (N5 Ratchawongse or N6 Memorial Bridge/Saphan Phut) from Sathorn Pier, off Saphan Taksin BTS station. Get off at Rajchawongse Pier and walk straight on Ratchawongse Road for about 300 metres to get to the market. You can also travel via the mass transit systems; go to Hualumphong (MRT) or Wong Wian Yai (BTS) and take a short taxi ride to Sampheng.
Parking is scarce but if you’re coming with a driver, there are paid parking options at The Grand China Hotel, The Old Siam shopping complex and in an open lot at Wat Chakrawat; all are within walking distance to Sampeng lane.
Where to Begin
Running parallel to Yaowarat Road in Chinatown, the long stretch of Sampeng intersects with several major roads, including Chakrapet Road, Trok Hua Met, Rajchawongse (also spelled ‘Ratchawong’) Road and Mangkorn Road. You can start at any intersection but be aware that you’ll have to back track, depending on where you start, if you want to cover more of the market.
Chakrapet is where Sampeng begins; it’s in the Pahurat (“Little India”) area, not far from The Old Siam, which houses numerous jewellery stores, fabric stores, clothing stalls and fast food restaurants. There are lots of textiles, saris, Indian accessories, wedding souvenirs and Thai costume shops (and hair wigs for some reason) on this end.
Ratchawongse, which is just down the street from The Grand China Hotel, bisects the middle of Sampeng, more or less. It can be identified by the Kikuya fabric store on the main road, which is also on Soi Wanit 1 (Sampeng Lane). You can walk across the road from Kikuya or stay on the same side.
Shops are numbered, but they are not grouped in any sort of order in terms of what they sell. The fabric stores and haberdasheries are more concentrated from Chakrapet to Ratchawongse, but there are also lots of shops selling toys, craft supplies, seasonal holiday (Halloween, Xmas, Chinese New Year, etc.) and party décor and random knick knacks.
Goods are already at bargain prices so it is unlikely that haggling will work. Buy in bulk (usually 3 items and up) to get the wholesale price.
Some buildings in Sampeng Lane provide bathrooms for public use (ask sellers for the nearest one), often for a small fee. The main intersecting roads all have ATM machines (Ratchawongse in particular houses branches of most major banks), as well as convenience stores.
Motorcycles and pushcarts often squeeze in and out of the narrow alleys. It’s a good idea to visit without babies and small children, for their safety. Also, watch out for pickpockets. Get in early (before 9am) on a weekday to beat the crowds.
On the whole, Sampeng is messy and packed, especially on weekends and holidays — but for intrepid shoppers and bargain hunters, it can be a fun challenge.