Patpong night market – the one amid Bangkok’s red light district

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Published: July 18, 2016

Less often recognised as a night market than others in Bangkok, and often well known for all the wrong reasons, Patpong night market is nevertheless a popular spot in downtown Bangkok for you to fill up your suitcase with cheap souvenirs and other Thailand-only goodies.

Patpong in Bangkok - photo by smalljude

Patpong is a street nestled in between Silom and Surawong roads at the heart of what by day is Bangkok’s central business district, and which by night becomes one of its most pulsating nightlife zones.

The alleys that make up the Patpong area are in fact private properties rather than public streets, and are said to have been purchased by the Chinese-descended Patpongpanich family – hence the name – back in 1946, when the plot of land was on the edge of the city beside a since-filled-in canal.

The family built and rented out shophouses on the land, later promoting the area to foreign-owned businesses and in the 1970s introducing entertainment venues as Bangkok’s role developed as an R&R hub for American soldiers posted to Vietnam.

Patpong night market in Bangkok - photo by shankar s.

It’s now most renowned as one of the Thai capital’s infamous red light districts, but there’s more to it than its raunchy bars – and, for the determined shopper in search of some serious retail therapy, there are certainly worse places in Bangkok to head.

On the main stretch of Patpong you’ll find plenty of inexpensive knock-offs of fashion items and accessories for both men and women – expect everything from shirts to handbags to underwear, plus watches, sunglasses and more.

Patpong night market in Bangkok - photo by Eric Molina

But be warned: this is prime tourist territory, and common stomping ground especially for those fresh off the plane. Vendors in the area know very well that this is the case, so you need to come armed with your best negotiation tactics, and expect that the price you’re initially quoted will be deliberately over the top on the understanding that you’ll do your best to barter for a better rate.

It’s worth adding as well, of course, that many of the items you’ll find at Patpong night market – but also at other similar venues around Bangkok – are knock-offs of designer items, rather than the genuine article. Counterfeiting of this kind is of course illegal, and technically subject to ongoing crackdown efforts by the Thai government, but in reality often overlooked by authorities.

As well as having realistic expectations of the lifespan of the products you purchase here – and consequently having an idea in mind as to how much you are willing to spend – you will want to give consideration to any legal penalties you might be likely to encounter in your home country for importing fake goods. We’re not condoning the purchase of counterfeit items, but neither will we pretend that it’s not a widespread practice in Bangkok – how you choose to proceed is of course your own decision!

Patpong night market in Bangkok - photo by Ryan Lackey

Unlike other organised night markets around Bangkok, the more street market nature of Patpong means that there are few food and drink stalls built into the market itself. But that’s not to say you won’t find great eating in the vicinity, of course – this is Bangkok, after all, so you just need to step out of Patpong alley itself and you’re sure to quickly stumble across all manner of street food.

Silom Road is also home to some of our favourite restaurants in Bangkok, plus plenty more to suit just about every budget, including a good selection of Japanese eateries in nearby Soi Thaniya. There are plenty of other nightlife options nearby, too, including Silom Soi 2 and 4 that form the heart of Bangkok’s gay bar and club scene.

Daily, 6pm-1am; BTS Sala Daeng/MRT Si Lom

Which is your favourite Bangkok night market? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by smalljude; shankar s.; eric molina;

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