All the pictures on this page were made with a Sony Mavica® FD71 digital camera.

Thailand

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Shopping in Thailand (Part 2)
(Part 1)

Thailand has numerous shopping opportunities. One of them are the markets. There is a separate set of pages dedicated to that. See the menu in the lower frame to find them. This page -and the one coupled to it- shows a few of the other possibilities. This page is mostly dedicated to "specialized" shopping, by which I mean shopping for particular articles.


(I apologize for the poor quality of some of the pictures on this page, especially when enlarged. They are not as good as you normally can expect from me, but the light is not very good in department stores and other shopping centers)



Narayana Phand Brass souvenirs in Narayana Phand

For good quality handicraft, souvenirs and Thai silk the place to visit anyway is Narayana Phand in Bangkok. Pronounce it as Narai phand (as you already know if you are a regular visitor to this site). It is Government owned and prices are fixed. On the left hand side picture you see the building and on the right hand side picture a small part of their brass department is shown. I truly believe that no visit to Bangkok is complete without a visit to Narayana Phand.

Please note:
Narai Phand moved to the nearby "President Tower Arcade" in 2008. At the moment i do not have a picture of the new shop.
It is on Ploenchit Road, near Mo Chit Skytrain station.

Handicraft Factory in Chiang Mai

Up country, in Chiang Mai, any tuk-tuk or taxi driver will gladly take you to some of the many handicraft factories near Chiang Mai. On the picture above you see an umbrella factory, but there also are furniture factories, wood carving factories etc. They are all worthwhile, but you have to bargain for the price. Generally speaking these factories are not cheap (for Thailand that is!). Your tuk-tuk or taxi driver gets a commission if he takes you there!

Night Bazaar in Chiuang Mai

Also in Chiang Mai you will find all the souvenirs you can ever dream of in the night bazaar. Just a glimpse of it can be seen on the picture above.

So, having seen this page so far, if you are in Bangkok as well as in Chiang Mai during your stay in Thailand, should you buy your handicraft at Narayana Phand in Bangkok or in the night bazaar in Chiang Mai? This question is difficult to answer, but roughly speaking the quality of the products will be better in Narayana Phand. On the other hand for some articles you will find a better choice in the night bazaar. You will especially find more wood carving articles there than anywhere else in Thailand. So if you see something that really gives you a kick, buy it at the place where you see it first. You may not see it again elsewhere!

Asia Books

Now returning to Bangkok: For Books visit one of the branches of Asia Books. They have the largest collection of English language books. You find them in many shopping areas and in some hotels. For instance: There are branches in the CentralWorld and in hotels like the Landmark Hotel at the beginning of Sukhumvit Road. My second choice for English language books are the large branches of Central Department Store. Some English Language books can only be found at the DK Book Stores, for instance on Siam Square. But their choice is not so extensive.

Chinese Gold shop

Everywhere in Thailand you will find gold shops, like the one on the picture above, They all look the same, so it does no tell you much if I say that the one above was photographed in Bangkok. You will find almost exactly the same type of shop far up country.
These gold shops are mostly driven by Chinese. You do not have to fear at all that they will sell you anything else than pure gold. 99.9% (22 carat) or 96% (21 carat), dependent on the articles. If you buy wedding rings they will sell them in 96% gold. If you buy a necklace or the like it will probably be 99.9% gold.
Why do you not have to fear that the article you buy is gold plated and not solid gold? The answer is quite simple: Every gold shop will also buy gold articles from you. So, if they sell something to you today, they can expect you to come back tomorrow to sell it back and they will buy it from you. On all these shops you will find a gold price for selling and one for buying. If you buy, you pay the gold price and a small fee for making the article. If you sell, you just get today's gold price back. This system explains why many Thais don't invest their money on the Stock Exchange, but they invest it in gold and hang it around their neck (or wherever). Look at the people in the streets and you will see that I am right here.



Pantip Plaza

For computers and computer supplies there is in fact just one place: Pantip Plaza on Petchaburi Road. The software you will find there is illegal for 90% (take a close look at the CD labels). Hardware is well assorted and legal. There are a few very large computer shops on the upper floors that only sell legal stuff. Since late 2000 there is an alternative after all: The fifth floor of PATA Department Store in Pinklao district, which is similar to Pantip Plaza as far as the legality of software is concerned.

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Now you have reached the part if this page that I would call "Extravaganza". I always say to my wife "There is a shop for everything in Thailand". The next few pictures show you what kind of shops I mean when I say this.

Sweet shop

This first example is not so very extravagant. It is a sweet shop. But they have a quite astonishing assortment. Take your pick and look for a dentist afterwards.

Bird shop

Now, this one is a bit more extravagant. A pet shop, specialized in birds. This one can be found upcountry, in Phitsanuloke. But you can find similar shops all over the country.

Coffins

If you plan to die in Thailand, don't forget to select your coffin first. The white one is the most popular one, but the round shaped ones look appealing to me too. Of course you have ever seen the shop of an undertaker in your own country, so what is so special about the ones in Thailand that I want to show them here? Well, if I see the business of an undertaker in my country, the shop looks very solemn (or unpleasant?) and I feel a sort of fear to enter (which I luckily do not have to do very often). In Thailand, however, these shops look just like any other shop. It is an honest business like any other business! That is what I feel as a difference.

Bhudda Images

And then I was surprised when I saw these large shops where they sell Buddha Images for the first time. The very large Buddha Images are meant to be donated to a Temple, and are not meant to be taken home by you as a souvenir. You even are not very welcome to buy a smaller one. A Buddha Image is a Holy object, and not some kind of souvenir for a Westerner to take home. Please keep that in mind. There a plenty of shops like this one, especially near Temples. In Bangkok you find a great number near Wat Suthat (the Temple next to the Giant Swing).



Finally some tips in random order:

- You can get a VAT refund in Thailand, but don't expect too much of it: You have to spend more than 5000 Baht before you can get a refund, then you have to fill in pages and pages of forms, when you arrive with your goods at the airport you have to show them there ("happy unpacking!") and when all this has been done, you have to search the whole airport for the right place to receive your money. You are being sent from one end of the departure hall to the other. (You may find it easier than I did if you start looking in the most unlikely places!) When you arrive there at last, they hold back 100 Baht of refundable VAT for "service". (I wonder what kind of service this is after all the trouble you have taken!) Anyway, decide for yourself if you find it worthwhile. I will never do it again after my first try!

- In department stores no bargaining is accepted. Prices are fixed there. The same for Narayana Phand and most "regular" shops, bookshops etc. In all shopping Plaza's you can bargain, but keep it reasonable! Don't bargain for a few Baht. Thai people never bargain for food (not even on markets).

- I have not given many hints here for buying specific articles or hints where the shopping centers are. Those hints can be found on several other pages on this site, like my FAQ page and my pages with a map of Bangkok and some "landmarks".
A few (repeated) tips here can be useful, however: For Thai silk -apart from Narayana Phand- go to Jim Thompson's at the World Trade Center or at Suriwong Road. Best quality, but certainly the most expensive. Other good (but expensive) general shopping centers are: Siam Center near the main station of the Skytrain, SOGO center and Gaysorn Plaza, both near the Erawan Shrine and World Trade Center. Good general shopping places are the Central Department Stores and -again- the World Trade Center. Guns and other firearms are available near Old Siam (better buy them not; they may bring you in trouble). For flowers and fruit don't go to shops, but buy them in the markets. For flowers the best place is Pak Klong Talad.


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