Back in 2005, when I was living in Bangkok, I was sharing some e-mails with a lady I used to work with in a bank in Alabama. When I sent a photo of Bangkok's skyline, she e-mailed the following question. I then tried my best to answer her.
It's amazing how big the city is. How does the cost of living compare with a big city here in the states?
Generally a lot less expensive. Not even in the same league. And, I am talking head-to-head, comparing things of equal quality. For example, movies in a state-of-the-art cinema here are $3, whereas in a large US city they are $10. However, it's not necessarily always the case. Imported high-end brands in department stores are more expensive. Last night, I was thinking about your question and I prepared a chart that might be helpful. I will share it with you later. For starters, let me lay out the various venues where people go shopping. By the way, when I quiz students on their favorite activities, typically shopping is high on the list. Does it sound familiar?
Where you can shop in Bangkok:
shopping malls - really started sprouting up in the 80's, here they are very modern, several floors and include various types of entertainment (movies, bowling, massages, karaoke, food centers, nice restaurants, fitness centers, etc.). ex: MBK Centre
supermarkets - these are like any you'd see in the US, except, usually rather than being stand-alone, they are on the bottom floor of the huge malls. Things are combined here, I think due to the hot weather and awful traffic. Makes sense to do everything in one place. ex: Tops
dry and wet markets - the dry variety are produce markets, similar to old style farmers' markets in the US. Here, though, they are still in vogue and supply all kinds of delicious products straight from the farm. Much more entertaining than supermarkets, I can assure you. The wet version has live seafood shipped in from the neighboring sea and gulf. Tanks are filled with lobsters, colossal shrimp, white and red snapper, etc. All fresh. ex: Klong Toey Market
wholesale markets - Thailand is one of the leading garment and handicraft centers in the world. Thai silk, screened printed shirts, leather goods and an array of handicrafts are sold to wholesalers who then export them to other countries for retail. ex: Pratunam
hypermarts - these are like Super Walmart. French, British, Japanese, and Dutch versions of Walmart are scattered throughout the city. This is a fairly new phenomenon. Again, they are giant entertainment and food complexes too. ex: Big C
specialized markets - there's a weekend market with anything under the sun and a night bazaar with anything under the moon. also, there's a huge flower market that opens at 5 AM and there are numerous seafood markets that cater to individuals and to restaurant proprietors. ex: Chatuchak Weekend Market
Chinatown - if you want jade or gold, this is where you go
vendors and sidewalk displays - it's a blessing and a curse. There's always something new to see. So, it's very stimulating. Cheap stuff, too. Even pirated copies of DVDs and software if that's your cup of tea. The curse is that even when the city is already overcrowded, sidewalks are cluttered with vendors. I call it organized chaos. example
convenience stores - 7-11 stores are everywhere and there are thousands of little community grocers and stores.