| Shopping / Clothes & Cloths|
For most items of dress including footwear, Thailand in general and Bangkok in particular offers great shopping bargains . Because of this, it is recommended that temporary visitors travel light with as few clothes as possible but with empty bags packed in their luggage. On the first or second day in the Thai capital one should shop in the many large department stores for clothing required in Thailand and beyond. The savings in clothes when compared to what they would cost in Europe or the US pay part of the Thailand holiday.
One of the most convenient places to buy clothes in Thailand is Bangkok’s Central Department Store on Ploenchit Rd. Of course, one may find even cheaper clothes in purely Thai shopping areas, for example at the Pratunam Market near the Indra Hotel or at Phrakanong down at Soi 71 Sukhumvit Rd where there are several department stores.
However, the Central Department Store on Ploenchit Rd is best prepared for foreign visitors who usually require larger sizes than the locals (large sizes are difficult to find in shopping areas which cater exclusively to Thais). Furthermore, the Central Department Store is a one stop shopping place where one can buy clothes, footwear, toiletries and other items for daily needs, and it’s a pleasant air-conditioned place where much of the staff speaks at least some English - enough for the talk that is needed to buy items of the kind to be found there.
Alternatively, one may try the Robinson’s branches on Sukhumvit Rd , corner Soi 19, or at the intersection of Silom Rd and Rama IV Rd. Both Robinson’s branches are smaller than the Central Department Store, so there is less selection, but each of them is just a walking distance from the tourist areas in Sukhumvit Rd and Silom Rd.
Those whose taste for exclusive items cannot be satisfied by the department stores will find hundreds of boutiques and specialty shops around Siam Square, just a walking distance from Central Department Store. At Siam Square are additional department stores, some of them Japanese such as Sogo and Tokyo. However, the Japanese department stores are generally a bit more expensive than the local ones, and the merchandize the Japanese department stores carry is also mostly Thai.
Some boutiques frequented regularly by foreigners are:
9 Surawong Road, corner Rama IV
one of the best established silk trading houses in Thailand; silk and cotton dresses, Thai silk ties, men’s and women’s suits, table accessories including table mats and napkins
304 Silom Road
next to Central Department Store
cotton and silk dresses and shirts
opposite the Tawana Ramada Hotel
quality clothing of Thai silk and cotton; wide range of garments of traditional Thai fabrics
From Siam with Love
1328 New Road (Charoen Krung)
near Oriental Lane, Tel 235-4513
Silom Road corner Convent Road
T-shirts with original screen print designs
Siam Center; casual and sports wear
136 Soi 23, Sukhumvit, branch Soi Suan Phlu cor Sathorn Tai Road
one of the older cotton and silk weaving companies in Bangkok, major exporter
Fake designer clothes abound in Bangkok. Sidewalk vendors along Sukhumvit Road and near the Oriental Hotel offer shirts, T-shirts and other items of dress with the most expensive labels - made in Thailand, and of course not under license. Among other fake products commonly offered are Rolex and Cartier watches.
As far as garments are concerned, friends and neighbors back home are unlikely to be able to tell whether a T-shirt or other piece of clothes is original or fake - and the fake probably just costs 10 percent. Several years back, a good friend of the author accidentally came across some cloth printed all over with the Givenchy logo at an ordinary Thai market. He bought some of the material and by a market tailor, he had quickly made a shirt. The tailoring was lousy. Nevertheless, the author’s friend’s girlfriend back home was very impressed by the purchase, and in spite of the lousy fit, she and other acquaintances considered it a piece of haute couture.
Anybody who prefers his clothes tailor-made will have no problem in Bangkok. Tailors, most of them Indian or Thai Indian, abound. Most first class hotels have at least one tailor shop in their shopping arcades. If not, at least one tailor will have set up his shop in the vicinity. And when walking along streets in tourist areas, it won’t be long until an Indian or Thai Indian shop keeper or tout will offer the passer-by suits and shirts made in 24 hours or less. Furthermore, numerous free tourist magazines lying in every better hotel room always contain a large number of advertisements of usually Indian tailors.
Tailoring prices are low, certainly much lower than for example in Hong Kong. Tailors advertising in tourist magazines usually offer gents?and ladies?packages. One tailor, for example, offered in October 1991 for ladies 2 suits, 3 dresses, 5 blouses, 5 extra skirts, 3 trousers, 1 Kimono and 4m silk for 137 US Dollars, and for gents 3 dress suits, 1 dinner suit, 2 jackets, 3 trousers, 6 silk shirts, 5 silk ties and 1 silk kimono for 147 US Dollars. The tendency over the last few years has been for tailors trying to outdo each other with the largest packages.
The market is highly competitive and not all practices are ethical. A result has been that now, ads of tailors are plastered with re-assuring messages: "No Gimmick", "Genuine Deals", "Prices Include Material and Stitching". A foreigner who walks around with a tourist magazine opened at a page with a tailor ad will be told by touts or tailors standing in front of their shops that he can get exactly the same deal, or even that, yes, this or that particular shop is a branch of the one advertised in the magazines.
Those tailors who do advertise of course don’t want to do so for others who just claim to be connected with them. No Branch, therefore, glares in big bold letters out of many ads. Fact is that most tailors will offer just the same conditions as advertised (if they are real in the first place). Anyway, the buyer should beware and make every part of the deal clear: material and stitching included, no charges for alterations, free fitting at the customers hotel room (if requested), free delivery, etc.
All tailors stock material, and most have European fashion catalogues from which one can chose the style of suits, skirts, blouses, etc. Those who prefer to buy their own fabric find a good selection in Sampheng Lane in Chinatown and at the Indian Pahurat Market nearby.
Several friends of this author had clothes tailor-made at Emerald Cloth at City Court, 93 Soi 38, Sukhumvit Road, Tel 392-9248, Fax 391-2253. According to their judgement, the tailoring was as good as anywhere and they were charged lower prices than anywhere else for tailored silk garments. The shop is about 500m off Sukhumvit Road, and it is advisable to do a phone inquiry before going there.
The footwear industry is very well established in Thailand, and shoes are a major industrial export article. Shoes are very much cheaper in Thailand than in most countries of the West, and much cheaper, too, than in Singapore or Hong Kong, both by now overrated shopping cities as far as prices are concerned. Ordinary Western sizes are easy to find in places which are accustomed to foreign shoppers.
Thailand is a major producer of crocodile leather and snake skin. Crocodile and snake farms have sprung up all over Thailand and they usually serve at least two purposes: entertaining tourists and providing for the hides.
Crocodile leather and snake skin are not everybody’s idea of footwear in good taste, and accordingly, the selection of snake skin or crocodile leather shoes isn’t particularly large in department stores. The two hides are also more expensive than ordinary leather though shoes with both kinds of material are available at less than 50 US Dollars a pair.
There are far less shops for made-to-order shoes than there are for made-to-order clothes, though a number is found in tourist areas. Typically, one can select a style from catalogues, usually of European or American mail order houses. Made-to-order shoes are considerably more expensive than those ready made. Snake skin and crocodile leather is much more prominent in made-to-order shoes than in those bought ready made. Most made-to-order shoes wear down fairly quickly.
Having shoes made-to-order is probably not such a good idea, but having shoes repaired is exceptionally cheap in Bangkok. Shoe repair men often set up their little work places on side walks near bus stops or around markets. More modern Mr. Minit style shoe repair stalls are found in many department stores.
Some cultures discriminate against sexual contact outside of marriage although it is widely practiced.