Thailand is the proud producer of several traditional, authentic items unique to Thailand’s rich culture and history. If you are looking to buy something truly unique as a treasured souvenir from your holiday to Thailand we’d recommend keeping an eye out for the following pieces:
Thai silk is a beautifully bright fabric that comes in single bold colours and a variety of traditional and modern patterns. Some of the best Thai silks come from Jim Thompson, either from his former home (now a museum that is worth a visit) or an official outlet, complete with his signature label. Try to learn the difference between genuine and synthetic silk so you’re not fooled at Thai markets into buying the cheaper option. Whether you’re after a classic Thai silk scarf, handkerchief, tie, throw, cushion, table runner or something more modern like a make-up bag, purse or handbag even, there is something for everyone to bring back in this special fabric. Or why not have something tailor made?
There are 100’s of tailor shops across Thailand, especially in popular cities and resorts, open day and evening, ready to make suits, trousers, jackets, dresses and so on. Having tailor-made clothes made in Thailand is very popular as it is affordable and quick. The best advice is to head to your chosen tailor on day one or two of your holiday allowing time for fittings before you head home with the finished garment.
It’s best to know what you want in advance – either take a photo, drawing or a magazine clipping – and also have some idea of what fabric and colours you’re after. If you choose a tailor close to where you’re staying then going back for a fitting will be easy. Some tailors even offer the service of bringing the garments to you, for fittings and delivery, in the price, or will send a car to bring you to/from fittings.
In Bangkok, the area between Sois 20 and 2 on the Sukhumvit Road is known as Asia’s ‘Savile Row’. In shopping malls such as MBK there are shops that offer made to measure jeans. Simply pick your denim (or take in a pair of your own from home) which they can turn into any style of jeans. Fed-up with flares? Turn them into skinny jeans!
If you are getting married in Thailand you could even have your wedding dress made. Legalities mean you have to be in Bangkok for five days to arrange official paperwork which is the ideal amount of time to have your dream dress made. Vera Wang inspired perhaps, for a fraction of the cost.
Markets and shops are awash with a variety of traditional Thai handicrafts to remind you or your amazing time in Thailand. Popular pieces to look out for include colourful paper umbrellas, fans, lanterns, triangular Thai cushions (as seen in spas), woven baskets (often by hilltribes), pottery and lacquerware and wooden carvings (avoid ivory and buddha images/statues). Coconut based gifts are popular too such as painted coconut bowls, salad spoons, wind chimes etc. Thai orchids also make a beautiful gift.
Coconut oil and other essential oils native to Thailand as well as herbal compresses (as used in spas) are popular. Then of course there is an endless menu of authentic food produce from spices, pastes, coconut milk and dried fruits such as durian, rambutan and mango to tea, coffee, honey and much, much, more.
Look out for OTOP products wherever you are in Thailand, especially if you’re travelling off the beaten track. It stands for One Tambon (town) One Product and the initiative was set up to support local hill-tribes, farmers, producers and trade. OTOP branded products can include anything from food, drinks, textiles, clothing, woven handicrafts, art, decorative items, herbal and spa products. The key to any OTOP product is that it is traditional and unique to the village community from which it came and has been lovingly crafted or made.
Love shopping? Check out some of the Best Market Experiences in Thailand or Vintage Shopping Experiences.