On to the next most important thing:
I have so much to say about shopping. Thailand is abuzz with charming, have-to-buy souvenirs. There’s almost nothing that you wouldn’t want to get your hands on. From beautiful wood art to jewellery and even paintings, you would want to take everything home. Sadly, you cannot. Remember luggage limit?
So, you really need to be methodical about shopping. Bracelets are lovely, thoughtful gifts that do not weigh much. Try to look for the beachside vendors for buying bracelets from – they sell these for half the price of what brick-and-mortar shop owners do.
There’s another thing that caught my eye on our first morning on Chaweng beach. A decorative sheet of handwoven cloth that can be as versatile as you want it to be – it can be used as a bedsheet, a shawl, tapestry, table runner, throw-rug etc. It has elephants woven all over and can be used both ways. I’m not sure how long the threads will hold up but I knew I had to buy it for Maa.
Some other stuff I really liked: beautiful smoking pipes, wooden incense stick holders, notebooks with a fabric cover in elephant prints, decorative masks and wall-hangings. I bought some of these and brought back the memories of the rest – there’s no luggage limit for that. We also bought our customary wardrobe magnet and suitcase stickers.
What’s most important here is that you bargain – to your heart’s content. Every little piece of souvenir (except the stickers that we picked up from 7-11) is priced way too high than their cost price which leaves enough room for you to bargain without eating too much into the owners’ profits. Whatever price they throw at you, start your bargain with less than half of it. Bargain to even the tens of Bahts. Stand your ground and do not give in. As long as you are within the shopkeeper’s profit buffer, s/he will cave. I remember we started the bargain for the wood-carved Samui magnet at 50 Baht and went up gradually by 10 Baht till we got a deal at 70. The shopkeeper had initially priced it at 150!
9. Carry ‘small money’
Few people understand the value of change as much as Indians do. Remember when our country ran short of change and we had to buy them? Coins amounting to 80 INR for a note of 100 INR! That was a major crisis.
Even today, the problem of change persists. A change of one or two or a few more rupee is still paid back in candy. Surprisingly, we found ourselves in a similar situation in Lamai. We got a 10 Baht back at a restaurant back in two candies – a strawberry and an orange. They tasted fine nonetheless. But the money tastes sweeter.
The next day, we went back to the same restaurant and got paid back in exact change along with one candy. So, we’re not sure whether we were mistakenly paid back less the previous day or the candy was intentional.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is that international coins have zero value as soon as you land back in India. So, if you are carrying a lot of coins with you, they are all going to come back as souvenirs. Keep some as memories and use up the rest in Thailand. This can save you a lot of cash without you even realizing it.
Read Part 6 here.