The shopping in Thailand is the best in the world. Quality is superb, the choice is amazing and prices are cheap. If you come on a trip to Thailand though, what should you buy? And what things are usually the best deals?
Not only am I an expert shopper in any country, but I have lived in Thailand for 15 years, so I know the best things to buy here and where to buy them.
Here are the top things you should consider buying when you are next in Thailand and why.
1. Thai Silk – Thai silk is known world-wide as the best in the world. The quality of Thai silk is excellent, the weave is beautiful and the colors and designs are gorgeous.
In Thailand, you can buy silks in either plain colors or hand-painted. You can buy silk shirts, silk jackets, silk skirts, silk scarves, silk shawls, silk purses, silk wallets, silk bags, silk pajamas, silk cushion covers, silk tablecloths – you name it, it’s available in silk.
One of the best places for silk is the Jim Thompson House chain of exclusive stores.
Jim Thompson House sells top-quality silk products, at a higher price than most other places in Thailand, but still much cheaper than in the USA or Europe. There are several Jim Thompson House branches, but most of the large malls have one so they are easy to find.
For cheaper silks but that are still good quality, check out Mahboonkrong Mall, Chatuchak Market or any of the silk shops scattered all over Bangkok, where you can find silk scarves and ties for as cheap as 100 baht ($3). You can also have clothing made to measure in silk at any Thai tailor, in any color and in any design.
2. Orchids – Thailand is world-famous for its orchids. Orchids are shipped all over the world from Bangkok and Chiang Mai and many other towns in Thailand. In the West, orchids are expensive. In Thailand, they are cheap. Last week, I bought a bunch of orchids at the supermarket for 20 baht (around 65 cents!).
You can buy orchids and arrange to have them shipped to your own country from any florist in Thailand. You can also order orchids from the orchid farms near Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
It is also interesting to visit the orchid farms, as you can see how they are grown and the enormous number of orchid varieties they have.
If you buy orchids, they will usually be shipped out the next day, although you can choose what day they will be mailed. The orchids or orchid plant will be packed perfectly and will arrive in your home country within 48 hours, looking just as perfect and beautiful as they did in Thailand.
3. Carved Wood Furniture – There are carved wood furniture factories in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. They have the most beautiful carved wood furniture you have ever seen and at a fraction of the cost of the US or Europe.
Every piece of carved wood furniture you could require is available and most factories will also make anything to your specifications.
An intricately carved wooden cabinet, which opens out to become a full bar, will cost less than $1,000. In the US, these pieces of carved furniture are retailing at between $5,000 and $15,000.
Even paying the shipping from Thailand, you can still buy a gorgeous piece of unusual made-to-order furniture for much less than in the US. Shipping will take from between 4 to 8 weeks.
You can also buy wooden garden furniture, dining room tables, statues, clocks, decorative panels, screens, chairs, coffee tables – you name it, it is available and if you don’t see what you want, ask them to make it for you.
4. Lacquer Products – Lacquer ware is all over Thailand and beautiful. These products are usually made of bamboo or teak wood and then lacquered through a long process that creates brightly colored, shiny objects that shimmer in the light. You can buy lacquered trays, boxes, table mats, bowls, cups, vases, ornaments, even candlestick holders.
There are many lacquer factories in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Bangkok.
You can also buy lacquer ware at Chatuchak Market, and of the night bazaars in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and department stores and shops all over Thailand.
The highest priced items are usually at the factories and department stores, but the quality is impeccable. These places will also ship anything you buy back to your home country, so you don’t have to worry about excess baggage costs or struggling with them on the plane.
5. Gold, Jewelry and Gems – Thailand has become one of the world hubs for gold, jewelry and gem stones.
Kanchanaburi, near Bangkok, is known for its gem mines, especially for rubies, and Thailand is now a world supplier of jade and sapphire.
There are also gold shops all over Thailand, even in the very small towns, as Thais prefer to keep their money in gold, feeling like it is more secure and a better investment.
The quality of much of the gold and jewelry is superb and, because Thai craftsmen are experts but paid a lower salary than their Western counterparts, they can sell the gold and jewelry cheaper.
Friends have bought intricately designed gold and ruby or jade bracelets in Thailand for under $200, and then had the bracelet valued in the US for more than $500.
If you buy gold, jewelry or gems though, make sure you buy from a reputable dealer. There are scams in Thailand, like anywhere else, especially with gems.
You will also have market stall owners trying to sell you rubies or jade, if they know you are interested but, in many cases, these will not be the genuine product. Buy from a reputable dealer and make sure you get a certificate of authenticity ,and the agreement you can return it if it is not what they say it is.
Thailand doesn’t charge export or import duties on gem stones, so much of the world’s gems are cut in Thailand, which opens up the availability. For gold, almost all gold shops in Thailand are reputable. Prices differ slightly at each shop so shop around for the best deal before you buy.
There are many gorgeous, beautifully-crafted items available to buy in Thailand. For best price and quality though, you cannot go wrong buying silk, orchids, carved wooden furniture, lacquer ware or gold, jewelry and gems.