Shopping in Thailand
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. Pewter ware 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.
:: Lacquer ware
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 lacquer ware bowls, boxes, trays and other items for decoration or for souvenirs.
:: Thai Orchids
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.
:: Hilltribe Crafts
The tribal groups who live in the hills of the north make a variety of beautifully embroidered textiles and silver jewelry. Chiang Mai is the centre for such goods.
Where to Shop
:: In Bangkok
Shopping in Bangkok is not limited to one or two major streets, and there are many areas throughout the city affording ample choice and easy access. Heres just a selection of some of the places to go shopping!
:: Chatuchak Park Weekend Market
A famous Bangkok landmark where you can buy just about everything from clothing to potted plants - a paradise for browsers and bargain- hunters alike.
:: Silom-Mahesak-New Road
Many gems and jewellery stores are found here, also the River City Shopping Complex, known for its quality antique stores and regular auctions.
The commercial heart of Bangkok. houses dozens of specialist shops,
boutiques and shopping plaza representing all the major buys. Street stalls also abound, most notably Patpongs famous night market.
Many department stores and shopping malls are here, including the World Trade Centre, with dozens of shops and restaurants, and the Siam Centre, which contains many fashionable boutiques. Opposite the World Trade Centre you will find the Narayaphand Pavilion, the official handicraft centre selling items from all parts of the country.
Chitralada Shops: Outlets for Her Majesty Queen Sirikits SUPPORT Foundation, which encourages the production of traditional Thai handicrafts. Chitralada shops can be found in Bangkok and other major travel destinations such as Pattaya and Chiang Mai.
Pratunam Market, one of Bangkok's garment districts, is the place to go for low-priced clothing of all kinds.
:: Bang Lamphu
Close to the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bang Lamphu has a lively market where clothing is a popular buy.
:: Beyond Bangkok
The main city for shopping outside the capital is Chiang Mai, which ranks as one of the world's largest centres for handicrafts and cottage industries. The extensive range of local products includes cotton and silk, hilltribe clothing, Burmese tapestries, hand-painted umbrellas and lacquerware, and many such items can be found at its fascinating Night Bazaar. Pattaya also offers plentiful shopping for Thai goods while
virtually all other cities and resorts provide ample opportunity for buying gifts and
souvenirs, as well as local specialties.
Fixed prices are the norm in department stores and a number of shops in Bangkok, but at most other places bargaining is acceptable and expected. Generally, shopping in Thailand is easy, fun and very rewarding, but the following advice is useful especially when making gem and jewellery purchases :
₪ Shop around to compare prices - this is especially important with gems and jewellery.
₪ Obtain a receipt for goods bought and check if is correct before leaving the shop.
₪ Never let a tout or new found friend take you shopping.
Stores give commission to these people, and the cost is reflected in the price you pay.
₪ In general, jewellery items cannot be returned. If refunds are allowed, then often 25-30% of the selling price will be deducted as costs of damages. More reputable companies may offer a full refund although usually only within a certain time limit, such as 30 days. Do not believe any claims by shop owners that purchases can be refunded at Thai embassies, consulates or other government offices overseas.
|:: Buyer Beware :: |
The Tourism Authority of Thailand receives over 1,000 complaints a year about fake jewellery purchases. To avoid being a statistic, you must stay alert to the warning signs of a swindle at work. Heeding the Tourism Authority of Thailand warning could help you stave off unpleasent surprises and make your vacation what it should be - full of sparkle
The following are valuable pointers for your protection :
- Be wary of any encounter that ends up requiring your presence in a gem shop. Most probably it is a scam.
- Buying gems or jewellery to resell at double or triple the purchase prices is an impossible proposition under any circumstances. Buy jewellery only for personal satisfaction for your own use or for loved ones.
- Make price comparisons in various shops before deciding to buy. Never be in a hurry.
- Never mail sapphires or other precious stones. Carry valuable items with you.
- Do not believe special (jewellery) sales of any kind. Reputable dealers hardly ever offer sales and never send touts to lure tourists to their stores.
- There are no promotions, shows or special sales on jewelry authorized by the government or any official agencies at any time of the year.
- The government does not own, operate, subsidize, or authorize any jewellery stores.
- As far as you can, take time to verify all claims. Words, promises, personal guarantees, unchecked documents, unauthorized verbal or written statements, casual references, encounters and the like do not constitute verification. Remember, you are your own best protection.
- All Thai embassies, consulates or any delegations abroad are neither bound nor responsible for refunding goods that are bought in Thailand.
When in doubt about a gem shop, check it with the Tourism Authorities at:
|Tourist Assistance Centre |
|Tourism Authority of Thailand|
Le Concorde Building
202 Ratchadapisek Road Bangkok 10310
Tel: 694-1222 ext. 1090-1094