There's probably no better place to see a taste of real life in a foreign country than the markets. Although many markets do cater pretty much exclusively for tourists, it's the world that exists around them that keeps the experience authentic. Of course, the bargains you pick up also help make a visit to a market memorable!
Bangkok is noted for its shopping and its markets play a big part in that reputation. Some of the things on offer in the markets are exceptionally cheap, but be warned - you often need to bargain to bring the prices down! Speaking little or no Thai you probably think that impossible, but a good first step is to learn how to count. It's really not so difficult - you could have it mastered in a couple of days, if that.
You can get virtually anything you want at Bangkok's markets - from vegetables and fruit through to gold, silver and gems. The markets are fast-paced and there are of course lots of people. They are often very large, they can be hot and sticky, and they can also take a long time to get through. However, they are worth the effort, especially if you have to buy presents for home.