The sheer number and variety of buying opportunities in Thailand is astonishing – department stores, shopping malls, boutiques, markets and even plastic tables on the roadside. But what is worth buying in Krabi, and what is best saved for a trip to the shopping capital of Bangkok?
You can often pick up genuine brand name clothes and accessories in the Vogue department store in town (e.g. Levi’s, Lacoste, Guy Laroche, Adidas) for up to half the price at home, as well as some good quality local brands. Of course, if quality or authenticity is not a problem, then even cheaper copies of top designer goods are widely available in the beach areas. For ‘real life’ clothing (as opposed to the casual beach wear found in Ao Nang) try the shopping malls of Premium Outlet Village or Tesco Lotus, located within a couple of kilometres of each other along the main highway route 4 to the airport.
Tailors should be avoided, unless they come specifically recommended by a previous (non-related!) customer, as the quality here is often poor and mark up is high – the actual work is done in sweat shop conditions a few km away in the village. Tour guides in particular are notorious for taking large commissions from tailors for bringing them clients.
Computer or electronic products are better bought in Bangkok, if you have the time. Ditto for gems and gold jewellry – but beware of scams, which are rife in the capital.
Choice and price of handicrafts (see below) tend to be similar all over the country, so it makes little difference where you buy. With cheap transport costs and the spread of tourism, you are as likely to find wood carvings from Chiang Mai as coconut shell jewellry from Krabi in local souvenir stores. Prices in the tourist beaches of Ao Nang and Railay do tend to be a bit higher than in town or other areas, so either make a day trip to Krabi Town, or be prepared to bargain.
Bargaining is acceptable in all small shops selling souvenirs, handicrafts and casual clothing. In larger stores it is not normal practice. Cash is the norm everywhere – credit card payments are generally only accepted in hotels and large restaurants – and that too at a surcharge of around 3%.
These are perhaps Thailand’s biggest value buy. Thousands of products, both contemporary and traditional are on offer, made from bamboo, cane, silk, wood, paper, ceramic etc. From things for the house, to bags and jewellry, all make great gifts, as well as unusual souvenirs of your trip.
To guarantee quality as well as support local cottage industries and traditional Thai craftsmen and women, always try to buy from genuine handicrafts shops, rather than those selling a generic range of ‘Thai’ products – many of which actually come from Indonesia or Nepal.
It is also possible to visit workshops directly under the government’s ‘One Tambon, One Product’ scheme. In Klong Haeng, there are centres for coconut shell products and batik work and in Ban Khao Klom, a women’s co-operative produces handmade paper objects from the leaves of pineapple plants.
A great place to buy handmade products, from recycled leather goods to jewellry and printed T-shirts is the weekend “Walking Street” market in Krabi Town. Held on (dry) Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, this is a wonderful place to visit with a huge range of goods on sale at bargain prices, as well as excellent street food and live street performances.
Visiting local markets in Krabi
Local markets, such as the “Walking Street” mentioned above, offer a wonderful insight into the life of Krabi people. There are also markets in almost every village, as well as the early morning and night markets in town, where you can spend an hour strolling around the stalls – there are genuine bargains to be had, especially on holiday footwear, and clothes as well if you are Thai-sized (i.e. very small). And, for a true flavour of Krabi, you should also sample some of the food on offer – it’s clean and cheap, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
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Last updated: July 24, 2014