Bargain finds, curios of different kinds, high-end retail goods — Southeast Asia’s shopping streets have them all. Never content to keep shopping locked away in malls and markets, Southeast Asia locals have taken their wares out to the sidewalks and thoroughfares, allowing easy access to ambulatory travelers with the stamina to walk for miles for that unique find.
These streets have everything – not just bargains, as many of the world’s finest premium brands have followed the crowds and set up in glitzy malls near or alongside these famous shopping streets!
Visit these five shopping destinations and find a piece of the local culture you can take home:
Orchard Road, Singapore. Singapore’s major retail destination, Orchard Road,underwent a S$40-million rejuvenation in 2009, and the result is an even more vibrant shopping scene. Today, glitzy malls flank the 2.2-kilometer boulevard, with new creative spaces for events and people watching. Millions of shopaholics converge on the street and its stores year-round, but the shopping spree reaches a fever pitch during the Great Singapore Sale, an eight-week bargain bonanza from late May to July.
Also look out for Fashion Steps Out @ Orchard, a six-week fashion extravaganza from April to May, when the roads are closed to create a long fashion runway showcasing the finest local and international fashion trends.
Orchard Road is also a major stop on the “Christmas in the Tropics” event from late November to New Year’s Day: a Christmas Light-Up of neon lights adorning the façade of malls and hung from the streetposts, lighting up the length of the road during the Yuletide Season.
Thailand’s Sukhumvit Road ranks as one of the longest shopping streets in the world, and is Bangkok’s main artery for dining, shopping, and nightlife. Whether you’re looking for a designer item or a cheap knockoff sold off of the side of the road, Sukhumvit has something to delight you.
Most of the shopping on Sukhumvit can be found on the main drag from Soi 1 to Soi 20. For the best of after-dark retail therapy on this thoroughfare, visit the Soi Nana Night Market between the BTS Nana and BTS Asok stations.
Siem Reap Night Market. The temples by day; the market at night — such is the traveller’s life in Siem Reap, now a full-blown tourist town thanks to its proximity to the world-renowned Angkor Wat. The night market is an assortment of pubs, clubs, Cambodian spas, cafes, restaurants and shops, stacked side by side, street after street.
Check out the stalls selling handicrafts, silks, paintings, jewelry, and souvenirs near Sivatha Street. Each stall, unlike in the typical warehouse setting, is in a charming Khmer-styled hut, lit with warm ambient lighting — perfect for a leisurely perusal on a balmy evening. Visit its official site: angkornightmarket.com.
Vientiane Night Market. Vientiane’s night market is an orderly, open-air affair held on a promenade at the banks of the Mekong River near Chao Anouvong Park. Hundreds of red-roofed stalls sell the typical wares — clothes, crafts, and a ton of Buddhist-inspired trinkets for the tourist looking for something to take home.
Be prepared to bargain; but most of all, be prepared to enjoy a pleasant night out. Drink in the view of the Mekong at sunset; head on over to nearby restaurants to cap off your night.
Jalan Malioboro street stalls. Image courtesy of Mike Aquino, used with permission.
Jalan Malioboro, Yogyakarta. Malioboro is Yogyakarta’s heartbeat, its streets teeming with the handicrafts Indonesia is world-famous for. Batik in all shapes and forms can be seen on every corner; sarongs of all colors and designs hang from the racks.
Rattan handicrafts are a prized specialty, as are the silver jewelry and silver-plated items made by the workshops nearby. As you’re browsing, treat yourself to a snack or two from the “lesehan” (tents) that sell Indonesian street food specialties like gudeg, nasi langgi, kipo, and jadah tempe.