Before our trip to Thailand I did my homework. Along with the family choices of 'must visit' and 'must do', I also made a 'must buy' list and budgeted for each.
The first draft of my 'must buy' looked and sounded wonderful but since I am traveling with 3 kids and a ' I am not shopping all day ' better half, I had to narrow down to my most wanted.
Likewise, because I was traveling to where I have never been before, I had to include inexpensive but highly 'exotic' items. Those that make great gifts and that can purchased quickly when my family is distress and wants to go back to the pool. My 'must buy' it's not just a list but a fine tuned personal souvenir success plan!
TEXTILES - It's my favorite thing to shop for. I usually have pillows made. Sometimes I frame a sample of it and/or make little bags to hold small items, like jewerly.
During a rainy afternoon in Chang Mai we went for a fun tuk-tuk ride to Sop Moei Arts Store. There I found not only fabric bolts, but ready made textile hangings and all kinds of fabric goods. They also have wonderful home decor items made from handmade baskets. A 'must see' and 'must buy'!
**"Sop Moei Arts is a non-profit organization, which has been working with the Pwo Karen in Sop Moei district of Mae Hong Son Province, Thailand for the last 30 years. We collaborate with local villagers to create unique, limited edition and one off products, employing their expertise in weaving and basket making. This provides not only a sustainable source of income for the Pwo Karen but also helps keep alive their traditional craft skills, which are rapidly disappearing"
I purchased more handspun fabric from the Long Neck Karen tribe village in Mae Rim. The quality is quite inferior but it is neat to own something that you have seen done right in front of your eyes and support the women of the tribe at the same time.
SILVERWARE - This is a tip I picked up on Internet.The bamboo set for 12 people cost us $100 even. We purchased at the Chang Mai Warorot Market ( Kad Luang ) . I really like the bamboo details, the fork 'spoon' shape and shine. Plus it's nice and heavy but not too heavy. I would guess it is a 18/8.
Be ready to haggle!
JADE - My mom advised me on that. Jade is quite cheaper in Thailand as Myanmar supplies the vast majority of world's jade. Although I love jewerly it wasn't a must on my list, I always rather buy for my house or my business...but that was until I saw the jade at the Warorot Market !
I bought pendants rather than ready made earrings. Knowing nothing about jade quality I chose shapes and carvings that spoke to me and enjoyed the hunt. I even bought few extra pieces.
BUDDHA - !FAIL! - As much as I wanted a Buddha head and I was granted a hand for transportation from hubby, this was a mission fail. I caressed the idea to purchase a painting in Chang Mai from artist this instead , but I didn't make a decision quick enough and lost my opportunity for one and the other. Sad sad day. If I'll ever get another chance I would buy from Sanguan1968 Art Gallery .
JIM THOMPSON STORE- One of my good girlfriends asked me to buy something for her here. Only once I visited the store in Phuket, and found so many things I liked, I looked into the brand identity. Jim Thompson is more of a cultural legacy than just a store. He was an American who revived the thai silk industry in the 50's and transformed what was a domestic weaving tradition into a world export business.
Today his home is a museum in Bangkok and a collection of stories of an interesting man, elegant parties, a dream and even a mystery!
I bought two handkerchief I am planning to frame and a beautiful pillow.
***" the craft of silk weaving was in steep decline, threatened by machine-made fabrics and the advent of synthetic yarns. Yet Jim Thompson believed Thai silk would appeal to textile lovers in America and Europe, whose patronage could support local weavers and silk farmers, in an era when economic opportunities were limited in a developing country such as Thailand.."
QUICK BUYS - This was so much fun! Thailand has so many fun things at bargan prices. Keratine hair masks was high on my list. Less than $10 for a big tub! Face masks are $1 each and make great gifts. I bought 3 colorful big bags for the summer and pretty makeup pouches. Tiger balm and Siang pure oils for a lot of different uses, like relief from insect bites, headache, muscle pain and dizziness. Aromatic traditional thai medicine candy called Mowaan's; they taste horrible! But it claims to help with circulation, digestion and "leaves you feeling light and refreshed",and I am buying it all!
I bought colorful tassels for my daughter room and wide band trimmings for decor. At the airport I found the cutest stuffed elephants for little kid's gifts.
FREE - As a family we always bring back shells and beach glass but in Thailand we could not get enough of the coral found in almost any beach.
Thailand is our favorite family vacation so far.