I am a finicky shopper. I avoid sales, detest the Buy-five-get-one-FREE offers and prefer single-brand outlets to departmental stores (the choice is more). But in Thailand, all these long-standing rules to shop by were forgotten. Impulse trumped cold reasoning. It was temporary insanity, and I confess, I'm happier for it.
There are broadly two kinds of places where you can shop in Thailand — street markets and malls. I visited both during a recent trip that included Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket on the itinerary.
In Bangkok, I was taken to Central World, which is considered the biggest mall in Thailand. I realised that there’s practically no difference in prices between India and Thailand when it comes to big brands. But what will make your head spin is the number of brands available, both local and international.
Two local brands especially caught my eye. Naraya makes exquisitely-styled bags and other accessories using material like denim. Bags start from as little as 200 Thai baht (about Rs360). Another local brand worth buying is Jim Thompson, named after the American entrepreneur credited with reviving the Thai silk industry in the ’50s. From clothes to accessories to home linen, Jim Thompson products aren’t as inexpensive as Naraya but they marry Thai traditions with the contemporary stylishly.
Of course, when it comes to bargains, nothing beats Thailand’s night markets. But no matter how familiar you are with the night markets, it’s a bit weird to head to Bangkok’s red-light district with the intention of buying T-shirts. Don’t pay attention to your inner moral policeman. There’s much more in Patpong than skimpily-clad PYTs. Knock-offs of every item imaginable are available in Patpong’s stalls: T-shirts, sunglasses, watches, shoes and, of course, bags.
From Tod’s to Mont Blanc, you can can get excellently-crafted, fake designer bags for a ‘bargain’ price. The shopkeeper will tell you a bag costs 4,000 baht and if you haggle hard enough, the number will come down to 2,400 baht (approximately Rs4,500).
Patpong has several stores that tempt gadget lovers with their cheap electronics, but don’t give in. Buy electronics from regular stores. There is a small, but significant difference between Indian and Thai prices of cameras, phones and laptops. The iPhone 5, for instance, was for 22,900 baht, which means you’d save about Rs5,000. But the real bargain is in television sets — 40 to 42 inch LED TVs sell for as little as 18,490 baht (Rs33,000). That’s Rs 7,000 less than in India.
I managed to resist the TV. But the proof of my shopaholic episode can be found in the bills that came out of my suitcase.