I’ve heard it said that Sampeng Lane is half a mile and I’ve also heard one and a quarter mile. It doesn’t really matter how long it is because it feels like five miles and you’ll be good for nothing by the end of it.
I do absolutely love Sampeng Lane – it’s a must-go to for anyone who enjoys shopping but it’s nicest when you’re there for a browse rather than something you must find. I could have scoured other parts of Bangkok for the items for our Melbourne Cup costume and not find them. I’d waste two days looking so I figured I might as well go straight to Sampeng Lane. If Chinatown doesn’t have it, it’s probably not available.
It’s a bit of a nightmare to get to. There are various routes; the one I take (not the river) is to go by underground to Hua Lampong and take a taxi to the far end of Sampeng – the Pahurat Indian Cloth market end. Hua Lampong is a train station from which naïve backpackers and tourists emerge regularly and the taxi rank here seems to attract the less honest taxi drivers. This is not the same for most of Bangkok.
Sampeng is a long lane of shops facing each other that in some ways puts me in mind of medieval England, where people on a top floor could lean out and shake the hands of people in the opposite building. The pathway is maybe a meter or so wide because goods spill out on the walk way to entice us in. Mobile food hawkers sell their wares; motorbikes, mopeds and hand carts laden with goods weave in and out of the people.
Sadly for me, there isn’t a Starbucks half way along.