Shopping is the soul of Bangkok, and definitely not just for farang (westerners). In addition to traditional markets, modern shopping centers and supermarkets exist all over the neighborhoods of the city of Bangkok. And they are filled with both Thais and foreigners.
This shopping center (MBK Center) in the center of Bangkok is crowded everyday.
It runs two aisles wide for the length of two football fields on seven floors.
This is a typical Wednesday afternoon crowd, and it looks like Christmas season in the USA.
These are not standard shopping center stores -- they are very small shops like cells. Shops with like items tend to be clustered in groups, which makes it easier to comparison shop and bargain the prices. There are a few more recent centers with standard stores, especially for high-end brands. And those centers are crowded with shoppers, too.
We can only wish (as architects) that we could have the opportunity to design centers of this scale and beauty of materials and workmanship in the U.S.
Matt in the Target Vietnam blog recently featured an article naming Viet Nam as the 3rd most desirable market for international retailers at this time. Other most active markets are in Asian tigers like Thailand. What I saw in Bangkok represents the probable model for shopping development in Ho Chi Minh City. The demand will certainly grow as Viet Nam becomes more prosperous, and Bangkok may be only ten years ahead with these models.