Shop Till You Drop!

I will likely post more than once about shopping. I spend a lot of time here doing it.  Buying special, unique items for the Green Gecko is how I finance my love for travel.  For many people shopping is fun.  And it is for me too.  But there is always an element of work.  It is my job to get a good price for a valuable product that customers at home will want. It's a much different mind set than browsing around looking for that new pair of shoes that catches your eye.

I spend a lot of time in local markets.  Filled with local people (merchants & shoppers) it's often shopping and adventure rolled into one. 

The largest, and likely most popular, market in Bangkok is Chatuchak Market.  It is open only on Sat and Sun which has earned it the name of 'Weekend Market'.  It is huge - 35 acres with more than 8000 market stalls and aways bustling with people.

I try to get there early before the crowds have grown too much and before the heat of the day.  When it's 35C and a humidity of 90% it can feel pretty hot in a crowded place!
 
This is mid-afternoon at the market.  I can always keep track of Peter because his head is well above all of the Thais!

You can buy almost anything at Chatuchuk. Literally. From clothing (new & used), shoes & jewelry to pets (from tiny fish to endangered species (sadly).  From home appliances, bedding & table wear to souvenirs & hand-made silk.  And pretty much anything in between.   
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Dried fish

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A crocodile skull

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Chilies

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Old masks

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Although Thais far outnumber tourists at the market there are still stalls with flashy, tacky souvenirs.

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Leather goods

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Some unscrupulous sellers have ivory products.

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Cd's and dvd's (many pirated)

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Buddhist symbolism is very prevalent.

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Although many stalls are haphazard stacks of goods, there is a section that has recently developed into a more fashion forward area where you can find displays looking more upscale, Thai's are very good at mixing the antique Buddhist elements with modern decor for a very unique, pleasing look.

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 Testing a large singing bowl.

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A large (3 feet across) gong.

PictureAn immigrant from Afghanistan selling imported gems.

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'Hamming it up' with with the local sales man.
Buying here is alot different than buying at home.  Making a good choice of product is only the start, negotiating a good price is part of the process. Bargaining is a part of the culture.  The first price is never the price you pay.  This is where the skills I have learned over time need to come in.
   - Find something that catches my eye.
- Examine, make sure it is of a quality that I could resell.  Think "I like it - but will customers at home want to buy it?"
- Price,  calculate a price I can pay based on:  What will customers at home be willing to pay for this?  What will taxes and import duties be (based on product/material).  Will shipping be expensive (is it heavy?) Is it made of a natural product that will need to be fumigated?  Is it something I will need to pay for it to be correctly labeled for Canadian import?
- Ask the vendor the price, then start the back and forth negotiations to try to get to price I have roughed in my mind that I want to pay.  Often the first line of 'attack' is 'mock' shock at the price stated.  This usually gets a smile from the seller. Price bargaining can sometimes take along time!  The vendor wants to get as much as he can from the sale, I want to get the best price possible to pass on to my customers.  The best strategy is to always maintain a sense of humour.  Thai's are good business people but above all 'loosing face' by getting upset in public is never acceptable.  Sometimes, there can be hours spent with a single vendor, going back and forth with prices, other products I may be interested in appearing from a back storeroom, tea/cold water offered, taking items in and out of my purchase choices based on how the price is coming along.... slowly working towards an agreeable price. 

Exhausting - sometimes, yes.  A lot of fun - also usually yes.


Some things I actually purchased this year:
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A young man counts out my choices of some fun brass & bead jewelry.

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Fabulous! bo-ho purses

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A yearly friend, this woman always has beautiful purses.

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Hand-bound leather books

PictureAn 'old friend' Charl who hand makes clothing with accents of traditional tribal fabric.

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More jewelry
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In a moment of lapsed judgement (?), I fell in love with the cutest little pottery piece, likely paid too much...but I do love it!
Shoppers need fuel!

 

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 Food choices are pretty much as unlimited as shopping choices.  Much of it available in small dishes 'on the go'.  Who has time to sit down??

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A 'refreshing' cafe - a very light cool mist is sprayed over the crowd, the air is so hot that as the mist lands on your skin, it immediately evaporated and has a wonderful cool feeling. 
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Bowls at the back are for pounding out traditional Som Tom (green papaya salad) the earthen urns at the front hold juices and sweet ice tea which is ladled over ice.
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The Thai's commitment to their religion permeates here too.  Often sellers will have small shrines set up at the entrance of their stall.  Here a larger shrine has been setup in the walkway.  It appears to be Chinese with offerings of candles, fruit, food and a bottle of whiskey. Obviously many prayers of good sales today were made.


If you haven't been sated by the 8000+ stalls inside, a flea market atmosphere is in the streets surrounding the market.
A full day!  Some purchases will be forwarded to the export office, but many we will lug back on our own.  Getting a taxi at reasonable price is the last challenge of the day.  Taxi drivers spot a couple of 'tourists' with more purchases than they can carry and suddenly the price goes up!  A few words in Thai let them know this isn't our first time at this game and after a few negotiations we're on our way.  My last entry finished with sore feet and a full stomach....which is the same way I feel after a day at Chatuchak.  A good feeling!

 


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