What to buy in Thailand
Thailand is a shopper’s paradise and many visitors to Bangkok in particular end up spending much of their time in the countless markets and malls. Particularly good buys are clothing, both cheap locally produced street wear and fancy Thai silk, and all sorts of handicrafts. Electronics and computer gear are also widely available, but prices are slightly higher than in Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines and Kuala Lumpur.
A Thai specialty is the night markets found in almost every town, the largest and best-known of which are in Bangkok and the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai. Here a variety of vendors from designers to handicraft sellers have stalls selling goods which cannot normally be found in malls and day markets. Most night markets also have large open air food courts attached.
You can also find marvelously tacky modern clothing accessories. Witness pink sandals with clear plastic platform heels filled with fake flowers. Night markets along the main roads and Bangkok’s Mahboonkrong (MBK) Mall, near the Siam skytrain stop, are particularly good sources. Not to be left out is what is often touted as the world’s biggest weekend bazaar – The Chatuchak Weekend Market or knowned to locals simply as “JJ” Market. Chatuchak sells a myriad of products ranging from clothes to antiques, covers over 35 acres (1.1 km square) and is growing by the day!
Thai silk is made from the cocoon of the silk worm. It is a very complicated process and is painstakingly completed by Thai women in the Northeast region of Thailand. From raising the silk worms to the weaving of the fabric, it is a real work of art.
Celadon ceramics are another Thai signature handicraft that you don’t want to miss purchasing on your visit to Thailand. Celadon ceramics have been around for hundreds of years and have been an attempt to create a type of manmade jade.
The Thai people are master craftsmen and their talent shines through in the hand carved wooden items available for purchase throughout Thailand. Different types of wood are used; coconut, sandalwood and teak.
Note, for some products in some markets haggling is the norm, especially in Bangkok. In some locations, market and road-side vendors will try to charge you as much as they think you can afford to pay. It’s not uncommon to buy something, walk outside, and find somebody who bought the same item for half or one third what you paid (or even less). Try to figure out the item’s rough value first — adjacent stalls, government-run fixed price shops and even hotel gift shops are a good starting point — and you’ll find that prices drop drastically when the seller realizes you have some idea of what it costs. However, it is important to note that haggling, is not at all common in many of the wet markets or those places with prepared foods. For example, in the local Chiang Mai marketplaces, vendors become deeply offended by the oblivious foreigner trying to get a discount on eggs or bananas or prepared foods by the roadside. At the same time, asking for a discount when trying to buy some souvenirs is generally ok, but the point is to not try and bargain hard as one might in other countries such as India.
If you want to receive new experience by shopping in the most luxurious shopping mall in Thailand, you should go visit the “Siam Paragon”. One of the most famous landmarks in Thailand which is located on “Rama I” Road in “Pathum Wan” district,at the middle of teenager’s walking street called “Siam”.
That said, something like custom tailored suits are generally hugely marked up for the foreign visitor, but good luck getting a reasonable price.
When shopping in Thailand, you should be aware that refunds are very uncommon, unlike in the West where consumers have rights to refunds or exchanges for defective goods. Therefore buying expensive electronic goods can be a costly mistake. Also bear in mind that many goods, especially at the cheaper end of the spectrum, can be very poor quality or fakes of known brands, so don’t be surprised when those $5 Oakley sunglasses fall apart after a week. Likewise with shoes, you may find a very authentic-looking pair of Nike trainers for only $20. However, they probably comprise of at least 25% glue, and in the hot humid condition of Bangkok, you won’t get very far in them at all!