When two “almost” shopaholic women travel to Thailand, it is impossible to return without buying things. With flocks of tourists running to Thailand for vacation, most people talk about Chatuchak market, Asiatic riverfront market, Platinum fashion mall and Pratunam market, which are suitable for buying modern fashion accessories at lower prices. But, let us say you want to shop for unique things authentic to Thailand for a lesser price; the things may get tricky if you haven’t researched enough. This post is all about shopping in Thailand for original Thai stuff and where to find them.
- General tips and hacks to shop in Thailand
- List of authentic things you can buy from Thailand
Tips For Market Shopping In Thailand
Towns that are famous among tourists will have a weekly night market. Most of them are Sunday night markets, while the rest are on Fridays. Check with your host for the day.
These flea markets and night markets are the best places to grab souvenirs and street food.
The night markets are the most happening places for shopping. Don’t get over-excited, as the rain may spoil the entire scene if you travel in the monsoon!
One good news is, though it may pour for 30 minutes, the shops don’t shut. Shoppers wait inside the shops, along with the sellers waiting for the rain to stop. Once it stops, the shopping spirit gets back on track.
7/11 shops are not only meant for buying food items, but also for buying some made in Thailand souvenirs. Fruit bars, chocolates, noodles like Mama noodles, playing cards with Thai motifs, etc. Don’t forget to check out 7/11 at least once.
Say no to plastic bags while shopping in Thailand. Even if you buy a small piece of earrings or neckpiece, Thais tend to pack it in a plastic bag! They get shocked when you say,” I don’t need a plastic bag; I got my own.” As a result, Thailand landfill and garbage management problem is rising. As tourists, this is the least we can do.
Cute little handmade things at Chiang Mai Sunday market – Even if you buy just one of these, the seller packs it in a plastic bag!
Carry hard cash in Baht to shop at flea markets and make sure you store it in your bag safely. Beware of pickpocketers
Haggling or Bargaining is a must! Bargaining to an extent is acceptable in Thailand and local sellers are used to it. But, don’t take it to Istanbul or India’s extent. When we asked for half price, we got nasty looks from the sellers. So maybe asking for 30% less price is better. Don’t get agitated when they say no. Be friendly and talk politely. Your angry frown face and rude words may trigger an unpleasant conversation.
The price of street food is lower in the markets. So don’t go on haggling for the food.
Buying big labels for dirt low prices is everyone’s dream. I saw many such luxury label brands in one of the malls of Bangkok for less than 10 USD. They look exactly like the original ones, even with good quality. So unless you are pro in recognising the fake and real ones, don’t pay more than 500 Bahts for any big label things in Thailand’s local shops. The most famous place is the MBK Mall.
Instead of spending on usual luxury brands, I recommend shopping for Jim Thompsons. – The luxury label of Thailand. Their contemporary designs depict Thai heritage differently. From bags to scarf, their silk items are irresistible. It isn’t as expensive as Louis Vuitton or Fendy. But expensive. I now regret not buying it from Jim Thompson’s house in Bangkok as I thought I would run out of my budget if I bought one.
Purchasing precious gems: Unless you know how to determine the quality of gemstones, don’t choose random places or places suggested by tuk-tuk drivers. They all get commission after you purchase from the jewellers.
Beware of fake silk fabrics at night markets and other touristy markets.
Don’t buy Durian fruits to take it home! Many airports have signboards that say” No Durians allowed” A small leak from the fruit can make your luggage and the luggage next to you stink. When I say stink, it is worse than stinking garbage. While many Thais and Malaysians love it, I could not take even a bit of it at a local market.
We Indians are familiar with Tiger balms. Those who don’t know what Tiger balm is are pain-relieving balms made with herbs and other natural chemicals. As a layman, all I can recognise by the smell is -Camphor. You get these balms in India too, but not all the products. The variety of Tiger balm products in Thailand is like a buffet spread at a star hotel. Though its origin lies in China, Tiger Balm has manufacturing units in many countries across south-east Asia. Red Balm, white balm, light balm, inhaler, pain relief strip, neck and shoulder rub, mosquito repellant and so on!
You can’t buy a better souvenir than this for your friends and relatives back home – Cheap, healthy and most helpful thing to cure headaches. We purchased almost 10 inhalers and a few tiny boxes of red balm. It was better if we had bought ten more inhalers and the pain relief strips as most of my family members wanted them! Where to buy – Any 7/11, pharmacy and supermarkets. Even souvenir shops at a few heritage and monument sites sell these.
We purchased 3m fabric prints depicting “Life of Thai people” to get a kurta stitched. The other black soft fabric with floral patterns that don’t need pressing was perfect for a Kaftan.
Indian ladies can never say no to silk! That too, when you can go to a silk-making factory to witness how they make it from scratch. (Seeing those worms getting killed is painful, though). Mom and I can make out if the silk is real or fake, but we are no silk experts to explain to you the difference between Thai silk and Indian or any other silk. For sure, the Thai material’s motifs, colours, and silkiness are unique from what we get in India.
Few silk fabrics are shining and slippery, while the other ones are matt and smooth. Whether you want to make traditional Thai wrap, “Pha Chung Hang,” or a top/shirt/ kurta – Thai silk is your material. The running fabrics can be cut as per your requirements or buy the ready-made shirts available in the shops.
Where to buy – Thai silk village, Chiang Mai. The prices here are higher than what you get elsewhere. However, as a regular silk user, I strongly feel that what we paid for this silk is worth it.
Umbrellas are an essential part of Buddhist symbolism. You often see Buddhist monks walk with an umbrella in Thailand. These handcrafted paper Umbrellas are unique to the Chiang Mai region. The story of the origin of the umbrella is still ambiguous if it was taught to villagers by a monk or an elderly citizen of the Chiang Mai region. The umbrellas made using Sa tree with bamboo sticks for holding and reinforcing are the authentic souvenirs of Northern Thailand.
From the traditional Buddhist motifs to floral and elephant motifs, you get them in multiple colours. If you are confident enough to carry the umbrellas without damaging them in your flight, buy bigger ones (almost 4′ diameter). Those who are like us can opt for mini umbrellas (2′ diameter) as souvenirs. If the artists are available, you can request motifs you would love to have. Where to buy – Bor Sang village, Chiang Mai
Thai motif paintings and wall hangings
Buddhism involves lots of symbolism. Whether it is a monastery in Sikkim or a cave temple at Dambulla, the wall and ceiling paintings are what you get attracted to most. With 95% of the population following Buddhism, it is obvious to see the wall hangings with Buddhist and motifs in Thailand. Thai folk stories are filled with weird mythical creatures, and the monster with its mouth opened is one of them. Few motifs are meant for good luck, and the rest are for the evil eye. Where to Buy – Any craft villages in Bangkok and Chiang Mai
Thai traditional dancer’s accessories
I highly recommend you buy this, but I am not sure what you will do with it! The costumes artists wear at Traditional dance performances like Khons are beyond attractive. The glittering artificial gold ornaments around the waist and headdresses add more glam to the pretty dancer’s face. As an Indian woman, I tend to buy these ornaments. Waist belts, big bracelets, braid accessories are essential for our bridal attire. If you are a fashion enthusiast who knows how to mix and match different accessories together, these accessories are a must-have. Where to buy – Chakkarphet Road near Gurudwara, Bangkok. This road is filled with markets selling accessories and imitation jewellery.
Handwoven scarves and hand made souvenirs for Karen village
There are many ambiguities if the women living here are real Karen tribes or arranged by the Thailand government to attract tourists. There are other issues too – Tourism treating the real tribe like a human zoo! Irrespective of all these, it is fascinating to see women wearing brass rings to make their necks look longer.
Their main occupation is weaving scarves and shawls. Miniature wooden carving, colourful headwear and bags are the other things you can buy. The quality isn’t that great, but this is the only means of earning. If you want to contribute to the development of the tribal village, buying things from here is one way. There are a few Karen tribe villages in Northern Thailand. We went to the one near Chiang Rai.
Wooden cutlery and sticky rice pots
The wooden kitchenware of Thailand is as impressive as Thai food. Using a wooden spatula, spoons are common in rural India, but in Thailand, it is common even in the city. Many streetside food kiosks, carts use wooden kitchenware. I am not sure of the type of wood used, but the quality is excellent. We bought a cup and saucer, spoons, forks, spatula, water cups and bowls.
If you love Mango sticky rice and want to make it in the traditional Thai way, the first thing you need is their wooden steamer basket. Even if you don’t know how to make sticky rice, these wooden steamers can be used for cooking other things like momos.
Where to buy – Or tor kor Market of Bangkok ( This is a non-touristy market. This is local Thai’s “go-to” market. Hence you get quality products) The Old Phuket Town, Phuket. ( This is a touristy place to shop for wooden kitchenware as the stalls here target tourists more than the locals. Still, the quality is excellent)
Call them artsy, cool or creepy: The wooden masks with sexy lips are the first thing you notice when you walk into Old Phuket. Vibing with the Bohemian scenes, these artsy masks are inspired by mythical creatures of Thailand folk stories. Most of them are wall decors, while the smaller ones can be creepy decor for your car seat’s headrest. Where to find – Little Elephant, Yaowarad road, The Old town of Phuket near Harmonic Musics.
Footwear made of coir
South Indians may be familiar with chappals made of Laavamcha roots. Thais take it one step ahead to make the footwear prettier by adding colours, better quality fibre and coir. You can’t find even one coir footwear that isn’t colourful. The bows, bubbles and balls made of light fabric are Thai’s favourite. I have seen many lady hosts wearing these indoor. However, you need to know that those aren’t made for water and heavy-duty; use them strictly indoors. Where to buy – Chiang Mai Sunday market.
Huge neckpieces with floral motifs
You find these neckpieces “too extra” if you are a minimalist. However, if you are a fashionista, these bead necklaces are your perfect accessory to get the “Boho Chic” look. Each tiny bead is intricately placed to create an asymmetrical floral pattern that will enhance your appearance when paired with plain and solid colour outfits. You find shells with the mother of pearl appearance along with the beads. Though the seller says it is a real mother of pearl, remember you aren’t going to get a certificate for purity for these. Make sure to bargain before settling on one price. Where to find – Opposite Rush cafe, Romanee road Old town of Phuket.
Animal-themed toys & lamps
I am sure most of you are tired of plastic toys for your kids, niece and nephews. These cute fabric stuffed toys are a good replacement for plastic toys and are handmade. The material is not dyed with natural colours, but still way better than the plastic ones.
Where to find – Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market.
High-quality bohemian style cotton outfits.
Cotton fabrics are great for most of the seasons. The thin ones are made for summers, while thick ones warm you in the cold. The flowing loose skirts and dresses with hand-painted patterns are best to buy for Tropical summers. The soft quality and sober colours can attract every woman. The peach colour dress I bought stays the same even after multiple washes. Where to find – Talang road, Old Phuket.
Coconut stuff – coconut oil, coconut paste and bowls made of coconut shells
Thai food is incomplete without coconut. They make ice cream, cook rice with coconut milk, serve coconut paste with sticky rice, pour coconut milk on seafood and fry seafood in coconut oil. As south Indians, none of these coconut products excites us as we regularly use coconut oil in cooking and head massages. If you arent someone familiar with coconut cooking products, these things are a must-have in your kitchen. What excited us more was the coconut shells painted to use as storage boxes. Where to buy – Coconut cooking products – 7/11 and other grocery stores. Check with your local host to know their preferred brand.
Soft quality, colourful kids wear
There is nothing unique or authentic to this kidswear, but the price is super low! The quality is good, and the price is as half as you get in the branded shops of India and western countries. Of course, if you buy in bulk, the price goes down further. Whatever is the price, don’t forget to bargain.
Soft fabrics for bed spreads, towel and everything else
As tourists, we constantly search for unique and authentic things and forget to observe if any household items are available for a lesser price. We happened to be roaming on Chakkarpet road near Gurudwara after watching Khons Performance. This shopping road isn’t famous among tourists, but super renowned among locals. Thais living in old town come here to pick their usuals. So the prices are lower than in the tourist area. From the window curtains to bath towels, you can buy household items for low prices here. Their bath towels, in particular, are velvety soft and durable.
Where to buy – Streetside shops at Chakkarpet road and Old Siam Plaza.
What was your favourite thing you picked from Thailand? Let us know in the comment section below.