Bangkok is so far the best place I’ve been to buy fabric. Better than Hong Kong, better than Sydney, better than Melbourne, better than San Diego, better than Singapore and better than Auckland.
There is the possibility of civil unrest or terrorist activity in Thailand but these things can happen in our home locations, too, so keep an eye on your country’s travel advisories, the Bangkok local media and do your best to anticipate if there might be trouble ahead. We did those things, but no-one can predict an unpleasant event like the Erawan shrine bombing that happened on our last night in Bangkok. It was very distressing to hear of the loss of life and injuries, not too far from where we were staying. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families.
I heartily recommend Jills Quilt Site for its excellent Sampeng Lane map and her general advice on buying fabric in Bangkok. I printed out her Sampeng Lane map and brought it with me but sadly didn’t consult it until I was well past China World Mall.
I did go to Phahurat Market though and loved every minute of the fabric shopping there. They had a good selection of upholstery and dress fabrics and plenty of notions. Unexpectedly, we even stumbled upon a stall of Swedish collectibles and bonded with the Thai Muslim proprietor over our shared love of flea markets, known as loppis in Swedish. We didn’t share too many words, but loppis was one we all know.
Getting to the Phahurat Market and Sampeng Lane using Public Transport
We took the underground train to Hua Lamphong station (3 Baht for a visit to the rest room there and BYO paper, by the way), then the the number 7 bus to Phahurat Market, which is right next door to a Sikh temple. If the bus goes over the river and you haven’t got off yet, you’ve gone too far. The bus conductor was apologetic when this happened to us but it was easily fixed by boarding the next bus going in the opposite direction. No harm done, except for 20 Baht worth of additional bus fares. Which is nothing when you get paid in dollars.
Phahurat Market is a building, not a street market. It has four levels of clothes and fabric mostly, and a tasty food court on the fifth floor. I can recommend the chat samosa, a vegetarian samosa accompanied by a chickpea (garbanzo) curry. In a tropical country, if in doubt, go vegetarian. That’s my advice for maintaining stomach stability. It worked on this trip.
I bought some beautiful blue linen Phahurat Market, a bargain at 200 baht for 2 metres (and yes, I bargained, just gently, to get a small reduction.) We then headed back towards the station along Sampeng Lane, where I bought a sarong, something that is a holiday ritual for me. Every trip to Asia brings a new sarong for the collection. My beloved picked up a seam ripper on Sampeng Lane for literally pennies and we both enjoyed the adventure of exploring this part of town. The Sampeng Lane shops have home shrines within them, which was an eye-opener.
Here’s the loot:
A: Handwoven cotton scarf (180 Baht.)Purchased at Central World in support of HM Queen Sirikit’s birthday.
B: 2 metres of shirt weight linen fabric (200 Baht.) Purchased at Phahurat Market.
C: Cotton sarong of approx 1.8 metres length (250 Baht.) Purchased at Sampeng Lane. Probably Indonesian origin.
Put on your walking shoes, pack your fan and your water bottle and go have some fabric fun on Sampeng Lane. You’ll end your day hot and tired, but happy.