8 things you might not know about Pantip Plaza
Pantip Plaza is Bangkok’s most infamous IT-related shopping center. Located in a drab, five-story building on Petchaburi Road, it houses hundreds of shops selling computer hardware, software –- both pirated and legit -- accessories and other tech-related gadgets.
Nearly every Bangkok resident, not to mention tech-loving tourists who have done even a tiny bit of research, knows that if you need new gear for cheap, go to Pantip. But while the shopping center is well-known to many, the fluorescent and neon-lit space still holds a few surprises.
Here are some of Pantip Plaza’s lesser-known qualities.
1. There actually is a method to the madness. Kind of
On first glance, the tangle of shops and stalls appears chaotic. But there is a semblance of logic. The ground floor has mostly cell phone-related items and various plastic toys, like radio-controlled helicopters and electronic fly swatters. There are also some software, game, and movie vendors here.
The first (mezzanine) floor is home to the large Data IT shop -- you’ll see its prominent yellow sign -- which offers a wide variety of legitimate, brand-name electronics.
The second floor has a handful of vendors selling various pirated software, movies, and porn CDs. The touts offering “sexy movies” can be somewhat aggressive.
The third floor has computer and camera shops, as well as hardware like external hard drives, CPUs, and RAM for sale. Some shops specialize in assembling computers from parts you pick out. The fourth floor has yet more computers and repair shops.
There’s just one shop on the 5th floor: IT City, which has more expensive goods like brand name computers, printers, headphones and hard drives. This can be a good place to shop if you want to find a wide variety of items in one store.
2. There’s good grub
The front of the building -- where taxis, motorbikes and buses sit and spew exhaust -- might not offer a particularly welcoming atmosphere, but you’ll find fruit, grilled meat, iced coffee and more.
Inside, avoid Pantip's acronym-heavy franchises -- -- S&P, KFC and A&W -- and head up to the second floor. There's a food court with typical Thai dishes, as well as a relative rarity in Bangkok: a decent khao soi vendor. Chiang Mai’s signature noodle dish is pretty good here, considering that tasty bowls of khao sois are so hard to find away from the north.
Unless you’re an especially adventurous eater, stay clear of the Crepes by Boss offerings, which feature combinations like banana and shredded pork crepes, tuna and ham.
3. Beer drinking is encouraged
If you’re in the mood for some suds, order a Heineken or Singha at the small stall in the food court serving drinks.
Reports suggest that well after closing, the steps of Pantip are also a popular place for local folks to linger, drink and snack.
4. Pantip is Apple friendly
There’s a common misperception that iPhones and iPads can only be purchased at Bangkok’s high-end shopping malls like Emporium and Paragon. But there’s actually an iStudio and an iShop on Pantip’s third floor, as well as official Apple service center on the fourth floor.
5. There isn’t just one Pantip Plaza
There are also Pantips in Chiang Mai, Nonthaburi, and Bangkapi. Full details on shops, hours and locations on the official Pantip website.
6. The best time to go is midday
Pantip’s official hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., but some shops open later in the morning, while others close as evening approaches, as early as 6 p.m.
7. It’s official: Pantip is a “notorious market”
Many of the pirated goods available in Pantip are the intellectual property of U.S. film studios and software companies. So I asked Walter Braunohler, spokesperson at the U.S. embassy in Bangkok, if the U.S. government has an official policy on Pantip.
The United States “respects intellectual property rights and encourages all nations to do so,” he said. Braunohler pointed out an April, 2010 report from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, that -- unsurprisingly -- classes Pantip Plaza as a “notorious market,” along with other international markets, for “openly selling pirated and counterfeit goods.”
The report notes, however, that Thai authorities have targeted Pantip for “increased raids.”
8. Pantip is featured in the chorus of a popular Thai rock song
Several years ago, Thai band Loso -- as in, the opposite of “high so,” or “high society” -- recorded a popular tune called “Pantip.” In the chorus, the singer says he’ll go shopping with his girlfriend anywhere in Bangkok -- except Pantip, since an ex-girlfriend works there.
Getting there: Pantip Plaza is at 604/3 Petchaburi Road. The closest BTS station is Ratchatewi.