Since I moved to Thailand a decade ago, I’ve collected Thai lacquerware. Lacquerware is one of Thailand’s most popular handicrafts and consists of wood or bamboo pieces coated with a shiny, hard lacquer for protection and design. Sought by collectors from all over the world, lacquerware has been made in Thailand for more than 400 years with the best pieces from Ayutthaya in the 17th century.
In the 21st century, most lacquered products are made in Chiang Mai and other northern areas of the country, but are easily purchased in Bangkok, where thousands of department stores, handicraft shops and market stalls sell them.
If you’ll be shopping for lacquerware in Bangkok, it’s not difficult to find. But, if you want to browse in stores with a large selection and cheap prices, these are the places you should go.
Chatuchak Weekend Market – I always send people to Chatuchak Weekend Market first, if they’re looking for good quality lacquerware at an affordable price. The beauty of shopping at Chatuchak is, not only do they have many stalls selling new lacquerware products, in traditional and modern designs, they also have a large number of antique stalls where you can often pick up pieces of antique Thai lacquer at a reasonable cost.
Unlike many other products, there really isn’t one section of the market where all the lacquer stalls are located. In fact, you’ll find them dotted all over Chatuchak but, as there are so many places, they’re easy to find. Expect to pay no more than 300 baht ($10) for a lacquered box and for a modern-style lacquered box containing six lacquered drink coasters, no more than 200 baht ($6.7). Bargain too. You’ll get a much better price if you do.
Don’t miss the lacquerware furniture stalls either. Breathtakingly beautiful and, of course, as the workmanship is so detailed pieces sell for a high price. However that price at Chatuchak is a fraction of what you’d expect to pay at other Bangkok stores.
Travel to Chatuchak on the BTS sky train to Mo Chit station. The market is next to the station.
Narai Phand Handicraft Center – Narai Phand is a government-sponsored handicraft center in Bangkok, and is the largest in the city. Prices here are more expensive than at Chatuchak but the selection of lacquerware is huge. Look for lacquered trays, jewelry boxes, bowls, photograph frames and vases. The most popular pieces are the traditional ones with a pattern of gold leaf on a black background. But, you’ll also find beautiful pieces inlaid with mother-of-pearl, pieces of eggshell and other more modern styles.
Of course, here there’s no bargaining, so expect to pay sticker price.
Narai Phand is on the ground floor of President Tower next to Gaysorn Plaza. Take the sky train to Chidlom station and the sky bridge will take you there.
Mahboonkrong Mall (MBK) – MBK is the largest budget mall in Bangkok and has a huge area of Thai handicraft stalls where you can get excellent bargains on lacquer ware. You’ll find the handicraft area on the 6th floor of the mall. Called the Paco Zone (although I’ve never seen any signs for it), there are many stalls selling lacquer products — boxes, trays, bowls, plates, even lacquer ornaments.
Prices here are higher than at Chatuchak, as it’s mainly tourists who shop here, but lower than Narai Phand for most things, and there is a good selection of products. Don’t forget, you can bargain a little if you buy a few pieces, although prices won’t come down as much as they would at Chatuchak.
Mahboonkrong (MBK) is right next to National Stadium sky train station, so easy to get to.