Take On a Thai Market
How to Shop and Bargain like a Pro
The temperatures are tropical but the sting has gone out of the heat of the day. The light has changed, too—smokier, duskier, and hit with bright neons at intervals. Before you lays row after row of treasures, crammed side-by-side or strung up like streamers, or piled into careful pyramids. And it’s yours to explore. The rapid-fire of colour, noise and smell in a Thai market can be overwhelming, especially if you have to fight through the throng to get to your place at the front. Armed with this list of tips and where to go for what, shopping in Thailand will be a breeze—you’re sure to come out on top with a bagful of bargains and an experience you won’t forget!
While your kitten heels or killer new suit might look fabulous, the throbbing Thai heat and bustling, twisted streets will have you wishing you’d worn something slightly more practical. Think cute but comfortable shoes, loose clothing, and a backpack to stash your purchases and the all-important bottle of water. Learn a few key phrases beforehand to make transactions smoother and more fun—the Thais will appreciate your effort and you may get a better discount to boot. Thai numbers are always handy, as is ‘peng mak’ (too expensive) and ‘lot dai mai’ (can you discount). Speaking of discounts, there are currency conversion apps you can download to use offline, so you know just how much of a bargain you’re getting in real time.
BRING THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
Thailand isn’t called the Land of Smiles for no reason. Match the positive vibe and you’re sure to get along with the locals. A smile can be one of your best bargaining tools in a Thai market, while negative comments about the quality of the goods will get you nowhere. On the other hand, be aware that for some hawkers emotional blackmail is an easy way to get a quick tourist buck.
BRUSH UP ON YOUR BARGAINING SKILLS
Don’t like bargaining? Then be prepared to pay almost double for your silk scarves and Thai curios. Bargaining is inescapable in a market, so treat it like a game. The cheeky back-and-forth can be fun if you know the rules, from the obvious—never accept the first offer—to the tactical walk-away. Make your first offer around 40% less than the asking price and go from there. Fake disinterest is your friend, and the walk-away technique is great as long as you’re not overly-attached to the item. If the vendor still has some room to budge, they’ll beg you back to renegotiate. If the price was fair they won’t, and you’ll have to commit to that walk. Remember, you’ll get a bigger discount the more items you buy, so pair up to bring on the bargains.
Make sure that one-of-a-kind handbag or rare artwork you fall in love with doesn’t have an identical twin a couple of stalls over before you part with your cold hard cash. Make the most of your browsing time, get a feel for prices and keep an eye out for what the locals are paying. With the abundance of markets and street hawkers in Thailand you never know what’s just around the corner. Places like Phuket are a shopping paradise, from huge night markets like Naka Weekend Market just outside Phuket Town, to tourist trade boutiques at Patong Beach. Try Old Town for a dose of historical charm and unique, high-quality local fashion and antiques far from the flashy malls and chain stores. You’ll tick everything off your luxury list from silver amulets to mosaic art at reasonable prices. Or get the whole experience at OTOP Patong Beach, where the Aussie bars are buzzing late into the night. Shop for traditional handicrafts and gorgeous textiles alongside designer knock-offs and steamy street food.
At the end of a busy day bartering, flashing smiles, tasting local delicacies and pocketing bargains, get above it all when you stay at The Pavilions Phuket, with its own spa and wellness centre and views for days. Contact our experts for more information or to book now!
Post by Alana Eising
Alana is a writer and a wanderer who almost always wishes she were somewhere else.
That’s why she writes about the fabulous places she’s been and all the destinations left on her bucket list!