the wake of unprecedented economic growth, Thailand has become one of Southeast
Asia's most popular shopping centres. With a host of department stores,
smart plazas, and exclusive shops, Bangkok has now joined Singapore and
Hong Kond as a mecca for the dedicated shopper.
With commodities as well as markets becoming more sophisticated, the serious shopper can expect to find not only Thailand's well-known host of handicrafts, but also a good choice of genuine luxury buys. Notably, Bangkok offers excellent opportunities for purchasing silk, gems and jewellery, and collector-quality Oriental antiques.
Thai silk is perhaps the country's best known quality product, available in an enormous range of colours, designs and widths. Not only does this fabulous material lend itself to haute couture, it is also ideal for curtains, wall coverings,and other interior design uses. Silk can be bought by the length, as tailor-made outfits, or in a huge variety of accessories and decorative items.
Even more dazzling than silk are gems and jewellery. Thailand is a major source of rubies and saphires, as well as an established cutting and setting centre for all kinds of precious stones. Moreover, jewellery-making facilities have expanded so rapidly in recent years that the country currently ranks as the world's second biggest jewellery exporter. Buyers have the choice of opting for individual gems, finished jewellery, or custom- made items.
Thai, Chinese, Burmese, and Khmer antiques are further excellent buys. If you spend the time to look around and shop wisely it is possible to find items of museum quality. There is an export ban on certain pieces, while some others require an export license, but any reputable dealer will advise on restrictions and any necessary documentation.
Bangkok is not, of course, all serious shopping, and on the fun side inveterate browsers will enjoy the city's numerous traditional markets. Pak Klong Talaat, for example, overflows in tropical fruits, fabulous flowers and fresh produce of all kinds. The Weekend Market, on the other hand, is packed with stalls selling just about everything from potted plants to pets, from yesterday's antiques to the latest pop T-shirts. Alternatively, street stalls mushroom nightly along Silom Road and other major thoroughfares to offer a colourful array of fun buys.
As a final note on shopping, bear in mind that while fixed prices are the norm in department stores and some of Bangkok's larger shops, bargaining is not only acceptable, but also expected at most other places. There are no hard-and-fast rules for bargaining, but patience and a broad smile will serve you well in enjoying shopping as an art.
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