Thailand is a paradise for shoppers. Regular shoppers to Asia know that, in many ways, Bangkok beat Hong Kong and Singapore for deals in terms of handicrafts, textiles, gems, jewelry, art, and antiques. Nowhere else will you find the same selection, quality and prices.
Fixed prices are the norm in department stores, but at most other places bargaining is to be expected. Generally, you can obtain a final figure of between 10-40% lower than the original asking price. Much depends on your skills and the shopkeeper’s mood. But remember, Thais appreciate good manners and a sense of humor. With patience and a broad smile, you will not only get a better price, you will also enjoy shopping as an art.
Where to shop
What to Buy
A wealth of shopping opportunities awaits the visitor, and bargains abound throughout our country in traditional handicrafts, textiles, gems, jewellery and antiques, as well as more contemporary items.
We’re one of the world’s leading manufacturers of ready-to-wear clothing. Fashion boutiques are found in every shopping mall, while cheaper clothing such as T-shirts and jeans are available at bargain prices from street vendors. Custom tailoring is also very affordable and tailors can produce or copy most styles in just a few days.
Probably the most famous of all our kingdom’s handicrafts, silk is available in a range of colours, patterns and plys, and is sold by the yard, or as ready-made clothing and souvenir items. A unique style of Thai silk is Mat Mee, a tie-dye silk traditional to the North-east. The best known outlet for Thai silk is undoubtedly Jim Thompson’s shop at the top of Surawong Road in Bangkok.
Cotton & Batik
Our Thai cottons have become increasingly popular and are a good deal. Particularly notable are the hilltribe cottons woven by the tribal people of the North, typically displaying bold designs and often lavish embroidery. Equally distinctive are original batiks crafted at several studios in Bangkok.
Pewter is fashioned with great skill by Thai craftsmen, and the smooth, silky finish of this attractive alloy is enhanced by delicate relief decoration. Pewterware items include plates, boxes, vases and pocket flasks.
Bangkok is the coloured gemstone capital of the world. Rubies and sapphires are indigenous stones, but virtually all coloured gems, as well as diamonds, are available. Shoppers should exercise caution and buy from reputable dealers only.
Thai, Chinese, Burmese and Khmer antiques are excellent buys. There is an export ban on certain pieces, particularly Buddha images. Other pieces may require an export license, but any reputable dealer will be able to advise on restrictions and any necessary documentation.
Both traditional and contemporary styles of pottery are available throughout our kingdom. Best known are the distinctive sea-green celadons from the Sukothai area, and the central provinces’ colourful Benjarong (five color) porcelain, which are unique to our country.
Practiced in the South for hundreds of years, nielloware is the craft of decorating gold and silver objects with delicate etched designs filled with a metal ware. Nielloware trays, boxes, vases and other items are some of our best buys.
A specialty of Chiang-Mai and the north, this craft involves coating split bamboo or wood with lacquer, then adding intricate hand-painted designs typically gold-on-black lacquer or yellow and green on a red brown background. Look out for lacquerware bowls, boxes, trays and other items for decoration or for souvenirs.
We’re famous for our huge variety of orchids and their magnificent colours and durable beauty make them a popular purchase. Specially packaged flowers, complete with water supply, are easily transported and can be conveniently purchased at Bangkok International Airport.
Rattan and rosewood furniture items are available in many designs and styles and can also be made to order. Shops in Bangkok and Chiang Mai have a wide selection and can arrange shipment overseas.
The tribal groups who live in the hills of the north make a variety of beautifully embroidered textiles and silver jewellery. Chiang Mai is the centre for such goods.
Packing & Shipping Services
With shopping well established as one of Thailands major attractions, most shops are experienced in packing and shipping goods, as well as in arranging insurance, customs permits and any other necessary documentation. The Central Post Office also offers a parcel-wrapping service for those who want to make small shipments themselves.