Thailand has a worldwide reputation as an international shopper’s paradise. The variety and styles of products is staggering, and goods range from durable, high quality handcrafts to fire-sale bargains are found in shops in Thailand. Shoppers can head for open-air markets, tightly crammed stalls or luxurious boutiques and top-end department stores, with a niche for every type of customer.
Locally-made handicrafts are probably the most popular product for international shoppers in Thailand. The mawn saam liam pillow is a triangular cushion traditionally upholstered in Thai silk. Easily found in all parts of the country, this is a great take-home gift that may even come in handy on the long flight home. These shops are mostly small stalls in night markets.
Beautiful pieces of nielloware originate in Nakhon Si Thammarat province. This ancient craft involves etched silver and gold ornaments that are polished with a black metal alloy imparting a deep, lustrous shine. Lacquerware is an equally beautiful but less expensive decoration made from hand-painted, lacquered bamboo. A broad range of knick-knacks in traditional styles are made in this fashion. Also found in souvenir and handicraft markets, Nielloware is common in gift shops in Thailand.
Wickerwork is employed in everything from baskets to furniture, and most Thailand shops can arrange to ship large items abroad. Intricately beaten and brushed silverware is a lovely northern Thai craft, available in Chiang Mai. Ceramics and traditional hilltribe artifacts round out the gamut of local handcrafts.
International antique dealers have long-known that Thailand is a virtual goldmine of ancient artefacts and many keep shops in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Actually, this fact has become so well-known that a significant amount of valuable heritage has crossed the country’s borders and prompting customs officials enforce stricter export laws. All the same, Thailand is home to fantastic antique shops as well as inexpensive and remarkable fakes that would fool anyone but an expert.