Where to Shop
Shoppers in Bangkok have a wide choice of areas in which to pursue their search for bargains, most of them located within walking distance of major hotels. One such area, for example, is along Silom and Suriwongse Roads in the vicinity of the Dusit Thani, Montien, and Tawana Hotels. This includes Robinson's Department Store, Central Department Store, the Charn Issara Shopping Centre, dozens of silk shops, antique and decorative reproduction shops, boutiques of ready-to-wear women's clothes, men's tailors and shops selling leatherwear and other goods. From the Rajprasong intersection, near the Meridien President Hotel, it is but a short walk to the Amarin Plaza Shopping Centre and Central Department Store in one direction, to Rajadamri Arcade and Narayanaphand Store in another which is in opposite to World Trade Center, and to the Peninsula Arcade and Galleries Lafayette in a third. Shoppers should not overlook Bangkok's many department stores, which offer locally-made goods and feature alluring sales. Air-conditioned shopping centers outside areas previously mentioned include the Oriental Plaza, in an atmospheric old building that has been remodelled; the River City Shopping Complex, adjacent to the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel, where two floors are devoted to shops selling antiques and decorative items; Siam Centre, near the Siam Intercontinental Hotel, which contains numerous fashionable boutiques; and Mah Boon Krong, a teeming emporium that contains hundreds of shops as well as the Tokyu Department Store and that is a particular favourite with younger Thais. As comfortable as these centres are, any serious shopper will also want to explore some of the city's markets for their colourful atmosphere and generally lower prices. Pratunam, near the Indra Hotel, specialises in ready-to-wear clothing of all kinds. In the older section of town, at the corner of Pahurat and Chakraphet, is the Pahurat Cloth Market, where locals go for textile bargains, while Sarnpheng Lane and Yaowarat, both in Chinatown, have countless shops selling gold, jewellery, cooking utensils, and other items. The biggest market of all, and the most fascinating, is the Chatuchak Weekend Market, held on Saturday and Sunday at Chatuchak Park, not far from the Central Plaza Hotel. Here just about everything Thailand makes or grows is on sale, from blue-and-white porcelain to hybrid orchids, and huge crowds come to buy or just to enjoy the ambience. Outside Bangkok, the main city for shopping is Chiang Mai, the unquestioned center of traditional Thai handicrafts. The Night Bazaar, is a good place to sample the full range of local products such as cotton. lacquerware, silver, hilltribe clothing, Burmese tapestries, painted umbrellas, and woodcarvings. While in Chiang Mai, make a point of going to some of the factories that offer demonstrations of how these goods – – particularly lacquer, silk, silver, and paper umbrellas- -are actually made. Pattaya also has many shops selling Thai goods and a particularly wide selection of precious and semi-precious stones since the popular resort lies near Chanthaburi, where numerous gem mines are located.
What to Buy
Thai silks, cottons, nielloware, silverware, bronzeware, pottery and celadon, pewterware, precious stones and finished jewellery, and a dazzling range of folk handicrafts make memorable gifts and souvenirs; international standard readymade sports and leisurewear is inexpensive; and quality tailors and dressmakers offer reliable 24-hour services in Bangkok and major tourism destinations.
Department stores and a number of shops in Bangkok have fixed prices, but at most of the others bargaining is acceptable and expected; even some department stores will offer a discount on expensive items like jewellery and fine furniture. No fixed rules can be given on the process, depending as it does on the bargainer's skill and the shopkeeper's mood, but the final price may be reduced as much as 30 percent to that first quoted. An important point to keep in mind is that Thais admire good manners and a sense of humour and tend to be put off by loud voices and a loss of temper. Providing you have the time, a good general rule is to make a survey of several shops selling the sort of items you want before coming to a final decision.
Packing and Shipping Services
Thanks to the number of tourists coming to Thailand, most shops are experienced at shipping abroad and will attend to all the documents such as insurance, customs, and necessary permits. The Central Post Office also offers a parcel-wrapping service for those who want to make small shipments themselves. For larger items or bulk shipments, there are several Bangkok companies who specialise in such matters.
The Department of Export Promotion (DEP), Ministry of Commerce, Royal Thai Government, offers the Permanent Exhibition, One Stop Export Show- case whereby all manufactured Thai quality products are on display by more than 250 selected exhibitors with more than 10,000 items in the 3 exhibition halls of 4,000 square metres exhibition area. The same services are also available at DEP regional offices. You can browse to your content among top quality products ranging from gift items and handicrafts, all kinds of furniture, toys, leather products, artificial flowers, garments, food products, construction materials, auto-parts, hardware, tools and appliances, stationery and sporting equipment, to mention only some of the items on hand, all carefully selected for reliability and a high standard of workmanship. If you find products that suit your requirements, you may contact the manufacturers directly or DEP staff can provide a variety of services to help make things easy. For example, they will arrange appointments with any companies and also provide negotiating rooms with full office facilities. All of the Permanent Exhibition's services are free of charge. For more information please contact Thai Trade Centre or a Commercial Counsellors Office located in your own country, at the nearest Royal Thai Embassy, or at Department of Export Promotion, Ratchadapisek Road, Bangkok. Tel: 511-5066-77, Telex: 82354 DEPEP TH, Fax: 512-1075, 513-1917