Sampeng lane (also known as Soi Wanit 1, or Wanit Soi 1 – or, the lame attempt of some government official who is in charge of promoting tourism I suppose: “Chinatown Walking Street”) is a small street that is bustling with market activity. You can buy all kinds of stuff here – at the beginning of Sampeng Lane you find mainly shoe shops, almost all of them selling only wholesale (meaning you have to buy at least 6 pairs of shoes).
One particularly interesting shop was “Guru”, where they sell really nice (women’s) shoes for low prices, often around 150 baht (about $5) per pair, but you have to buy at least 6 pairs of the same kind, and you can not choose sizes.
This dumpling shop was a real disappointment. We ordered some dumplings here, but the dough was not good and the filling even more disappointing.
In these pictures, you see the “quiet” side of Sampeng Lane. Other places are a lot more crowded, specially before the Chinese new year. Oftentimes there are tiny little streets through which cars and motorcycles make their way in the midst of pedestrians, slowly pushing forward, in a manner that seems impossible for people who are not accustomed to the “Chinatown way of doing things”.
Sampeng Lane is also an excellent place to buy fabrics, fashion accessories, bags, souvenirs, toys, hats, and more. If you want to buy fabrics, I suggest you check out Jill’s site, she made a map of stores that sell good fabrics along Sampeng Lane.
Stuff that you can buy on Sampeng Lane:
- Fashion accessories (e.g. iron-on motives, etc.)
- (cheap) jewelry (e.g. necklaces, bracelets, etc.)
Balanna Plaza used to be a good place to buy (real) brand name shoes like Nike, Adidas, Converse, Scholl, Walker and so on. But as of November 2009, there wasn’t much left of that, and the only shops selling these brands were selling them at 10% of the normal price (on the same day, there was a promotion for Scholl shoes at the Mall Bangkapi with a 20% discount on the same prices). So I think the Balanna Plaza isn’t as interesting anymore as it used to be.
You can easily spend the whole day exploring the Sampeng Lane area and you won’t have seen everything. Not because it’s so big, but because it’s so dense and concentrated.
On the Western end of Sampeng Lane is Pahurat, the Indian market, where you can buy all the stuff that Indians like to buy and sell. Many tourbooks still say that there are very few tourists on Sampeng Lane, but those days are over. Even though the large majority of the people you will see in Sampeng Lane are still locals, there is no lack of foreign tourists who walk along here with wide eyes, wondering about the thousands and thousands upon items for sale here.
In between all the madness there are lots of food sellers, and I highly suggest you bring your appetite and try them. Not all of them are good, but some are just faboulous.
Also, if you see someone selling freshly-squeezed pomegranata juice, go for it. A small bottle costs 50 baht here, which is a lot more than a small bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice (between 10-30 baht), or a fresh coconut (between 10-20 baht), but it’s a delightful experience, and still a fraction of the cost of what you would pay in Europe or the USA if you could find a shop where they actually sell 100% pure, fresh squeezed pomegranate juice.