One of the most popular things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand is to visit the many handmade furniture factories in the town. Chiang Mai is world-famous for its beautiful, top-quality handmade furniture that is still sold at cheap prices. Many tourists spend days scouring the furniture factories then purchasing Thai handmade furniture to ship home to their own countries.
With so many factories to choose from and shipping overseas seeming like a nightmare, make sure you follow these tips first, before you buy furniture in Chiang Mai, and you’ll have no problem getting exactly what you want.
Types of Furniture Available in Chiang Mai – Chiang Mai is Thailand’s major center for furniture making. It’s famous for hand-carved teak, rattan and rosewood furniture; furniture which is extremely solid and first-rate quality. Most factories sell a variety of traditional Thai furniture (beautiful but very elaborately carved – not for every taste) and Thai modern furniture (simpler and plainer).
Decide Which Style And What Furniture Pieces You Want – Once you get to your first Chiang Mai hand-carved furniture factory, you will be overwhelmed. Each factory has enormous spaces packed full of handmade furniture in every style imaginable. So, before you head out to your first factory, decide if you want traditional or modern.
Also decide which furniture pieces you are looking for (tables, beds, cocktail bars, garden benches etc) as, if you don’t have a set list, everything is so beautiful it’s easy to find yourself purchases furniture pieces you didn’t come for. You can always get a catalog and a price quote and order other pieces via phone or internet later. The factory will ship to you once you’re back in your home country.
Tour Several Chiang Mai Furniture Factories – Before you even consider buying furniture in Chiang Mai, you should visit at least five or six factories, possibly more. Each factory has different prices, different styles of handmade furniture and different quality. Don’t just choose furniture from the first factory you visit. There’s far too many choices all over Chiang Mai to take the chance the first factory is offering you the best deal.
Get Price Quotes, Measurements and Photographs – You’ll see so many pieces of furniture in Chiang Mai, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If something looks remotely like what you’re looking for, take a photograph (they allow this), get measurements, and a price quote. Do this at every factory you visit. Once back in your hotel, you can spend time away from all the pressure and massive amounts of furniture looking carefully at pieces and seeing if they will fit back home.
Order, Payment and Shipping – Once you’ve made your decision, go back to the factory or factories selling the furniture you want. Remember though, it’s best to choose furniture from one factory if possible as the shipment fee will usually be cheaper, the more you ship.
Check the pieces you want to make sure there are no scratches, scrapes etc. If you’re having furniture custom-made, make sure they have the correct measurements, correct finish and style as you don’t want to have to ship it back to Thailand if it’s wrong.
Place your order at the order department. Every factory has someone who speaks excellent English, so ordering should never be a problem. Payment can be made by cash or credit card (most factories won’t take traveler’s checks, get those cashed before you go), along with payment for shipping.
The factory will take care of shipping the furniture for you. They’ll quote you the cost, giving you several options of shipping service and several time frames. Choose which one is best for you. Do remember though, ‘Thai time’ is often different than ‘western time’, which means an initial statement of shipping ‘tomorrow’ might be next week before it actually leaves.
They will however ship to you usually within a few days of their initial time estimate, just not always the same day they state.
Remember to get your receipt and any tax refund forms (tourists get tax refunds in Thailand on large purchases, and you can claim the refund at the airport on your way out of Thailand. You must have the tax paperwork completed at the factory though on the same day as you make your purchase.