Thai kitchenware in Bangkok?
July 18, 2015 1:37 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to get a Thai-style granite mortar and pestle while I'm in Bangkok later this week, on a Thursday. Any ideas on where to go?

I've done some googling and a lot of the responses have been, just walk around, they're everywhere, which I believe except that in this case I'm only going to be in Bangkok for half a day (mid-afternoon to the late evening) so I'd prefer not to spend my limited time wandering around in the heat and would rather have somewhere specific, preferably close to a Skytrain/MRT station, in mind.

(Also I realize they're quite heavy -- I packed light and this is my one planned major souvenir!)
posted by andrewesque to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've assumed you are flying here.

If you are passing through Suwarnabhumi airport (east of town, airport code BKK) the closest easy place to shop that you might find this at is Mega Mall in Bang Na. A taxi can get you there in 30 minutes one way and obviously is pretty heat/rain immune; the Skytrain is very inconvenient here. There's - at least - an IKEA, a huge supermarket, and a department store called Robinson which has a kitchen section, and a huge number of other shops which might carry this but aren't showing up online for me at the moment. Because mortars/pestles are so integral to Thai cooking I wonder if the supermarket is your best bet there. Unlike the more flashy/touristy malls in the centre of Bangkok like Siam Paragon or Central, Mega Bang Na is much more local/family-oriented and features more young local designers with their own quirky shops, which is also a nice change from the Khao San Road T-shirt/beer holder souvenir selection.

If you are passing through Don Mueang airport (north of town, airport code DMK), you may want to head south to JJ Mall, an indoor/air-con version of the famous Chatuchak market. There's a huge selection of kitchen and homeware available there as well but all in smaller shops - no big chains and overall a more mellow scene.

Going to a mall sounds totally banal, obviously, but malls are A Serious Thing in urban Thai life nowadays and you will still have a little adventure.

Finally - make sure you can bring it through security or check it on your flight out!
posted by mdonley at 4:26 AM on July 18, 2015

Best answer: Another idea: if you have more than six hours and are arriving at BKK/Suwarnabhumi airport, you could head to the Siam area and combine your mortar purchase with a shrine visit, a rooftop drink at sunset, and a fun local meal. (DMK/Don Mueang airport isn't linked to the Skytrain system but depending on traffic you could do this in cabs over maybe seven hours?)

- Walk from arrivals at BKK to the station labelled "train to city". Trains go every 15? minutes. Around 50 THB.

- Take the train to the end of the line to Phaya Thai and change at the Skytrain station of the same name to the Skytrain heading south toward Bearing; alight at Siam. ~40 THB? Budget 45 mins to an hour for this journey.

- Walk to the posh Siam Paragon mall, which is attached to the station by pedestrian bridge (it's less than five minutes' walk from the train to mall entrance). It's labelled in English.

- Inside, head downstairs to the "Gourmet" food hall/supermarket and visit the "Spice Story" section, which I believe does have a nice/small selection of stone mortars/pestles, as well as an awesome selection of spices in nice gift-y/souvenir-y packages. It's not cheap compared to a more local place like an open market in the suburbs but with only six hours, what can you do? If you want to check they've got one in advance, call or email the market on the lines below. The Thai text above the second set of phone numbers is for the inquiry/shopping assistant line so I'd try them first:

Address : Ground Floor, 991/1, Rama 1 Rd., Prathumwan, Phathumwan, Bangkok 10330
Tel. 0-2690-1000 ต่อ 1214, 1258
Fax. 0-2690-1222, 0-2610-9101

ติดต่อสอบถามบริการส่วน Shopping Assistant
Tel. 0-2690-1234, 0-2690-1258
Fax. 0-2610-9101, 0-2690-1222

- Once suitably bemortared, head up to the 55th-floor Red Sky Bar (the fourth place down on the list here) at the Centara Grand hotel above Central World, connected to Siam Paragon mall by pedestrian bridge. Probably a ten-minute trip? The bar is outside, has happy hour, and offers amazing 360-degree views. Again: a splurge place with prices to match but very convenient given your limited time. The dress code forbids singlets/flip flops/sports shorts so plan accordingly if you decide to go; normal shorts, thankfully, seem OK!

- The whole Siam area is full of amazing and accessible food, but one of my favorite places is the cheap and cheerful Som Tam Nua, featuring loads of versions of som tam, a cold/spicy/crunchy/delicious green papaya salad popular in Isaan province in northeast Thailand. It's quite busy and you may have to wait but the menu is in English, the service is friendly, and it's a very short walk from the air-conditioned bliss of the malls above. Here's a great rundown of what to expect there.

- Finally, if it's not pouring with rain, head to the lovely, small Erawan shrine opposite the CentralWorld mall next to the Grand Hyatt Erawan complex; there are often dancers there (not sure of time though) and it's a glimpse of Thai spirituality in such a commercial place.

- Depending on time you may prefer getting a cab back to the airport but taxi queues in Siam, especially outside the malls, can be immense. You'll probably have better luck hailing one at a big hotel. Alternately, take your Skytrain/Airport Rail Link journey in reverse to get back to BKK. However, do check the timetable of the Airport Rail Link before leaving Suwarnabhumi so you don't get stranded! Also bear in mind time needed for security/immigration and the high volume of overnight flights that may make this a busy time to go through the airport.

Happy travels! Bangkok is my favourite city.
posted by mdonley at 6:12 AM on July 18, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you for the answers so far! I feel like I should clarify -- I arrive at Suvarnabhumi at around 2:45 pm and leave Bangkok again the very first thing the next morning, so it's not like I'm on a completely compressed timetable. I've also actually already been in Bangkok on this trip so am familiar with getting around; this is a quick layover to get souvenirs for home so I didn't have to lug them around Thailand.

I know that local markets will offer the best deal but to be honest, I don't really enjoy shopping and *really* do not enjoy the haggling process and am 100% willing to pay a markup in order to avoid it. (I really love a lot of aspects of SE Asia...that just isn't one of them.)
posted by andrewesque at 6:26 AM on July 18, 2015

Response by poster: Also (last addition, I promise) -- if anyone has ideas on where to find a clay mortar and pestle, for som tam, that would also be great! (Though luggage restrictions may make it impossible for me to carry back both).
posted by andrewesque at 6:36 AM on July 18, 2015

Best answer: I am wracking my brain but I can't think of a store that for sure for sure has mortar and pestles (I would head for Tangs in Banglampoo myself because they have pretty much everything. It's not on the Skytrain but the river boat at the end of Sathorn connects.)

What you could try is to find a good photo online, print it out, and when you check in to your hotel, show it to the desk clerk and see if they can recommend a nearby shop.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:31 AM on July 18, 2015

I lugged one back from Thailand a few years back, and in hindsight think I would have been better off just getting one through an importer.
posted by doctord at 5:41 PM on July 18, 2015

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