Hua Hin Shopping
Shopping in Thailand can be a very rewarding activity, not only because of the variety of interesting and unusual items on sale and the sights, smells and sounds, but also the sense of fun that Thais bring to everyday or mundane activities, and the attractive prices for many products such as clothing. Shopping in Thailand has its own distinct charms and quirks so whether you’re shopping at a mall or trying to bargain with a market trader, it´s often a memorable and even entertaining experience.
Talk The Talk
When shopping it can be advantageous to speak a little Thai, but in the tourist towns and large cities you´ll find that almost everyone understands at least some basic English and will certainly be familiar with key phrases such as “how much?”. When trying to find a specific item, it can help to have an idea of the Thai name or carry a dictionary, otherwise you could spend ten minutes fruitlessly trying to explain what you´re looking for. Alternatively, you can always resort to pointing at the item in question, but knowing a few Thai words certainly goes a long way and might even impress the locals.
A few common phrases are as follows. Also consider a good phrasebook that will have more details and a guide to the correct pronunciation.
“Kor doo dai mai” Can I take a look?
“Tow-rai” How much is it?
“Mee eek mai” Do you have any others?
“Mai ow” I don´t want it!
“Pairng mahk” That´s very expensive!
“Lot rah-kah dai mai” Can you lower the price?
Shopping In Hua Hin
Hua Hin cannot rival the range of shops and goods in Bangkok, but it does provide a decent enough choice that most ordinary items and luxury goods can be found locally. However, it´s worthwhile visiting the capital occasionally for hard to find items and simply for the sheer choice available. Hua Hin isn´t really known as a shopper´s paradise, but there´s enough variety here to satisfy most needs, and there´s even a few unique surprises.
Hua Hin has a couple of large shopping malls (see our related article) with a wide selection of restaurants, supermarkets, clothes shops, bookstores, jewellers, tailors, electrical stores, and IT and mobile phone shops. Market Village is the largest and most popular mall in town and has a variety of entertainment options including a cinema and bowling alley.
Countless other shops are scattered all over Hua Hin on nearly every street and corner, many of which in the downtown area are aimed at tourists (especially tailors, massage shops, and art galleries), but there are also many local stores selling just about everything imaginable for life in Thailand. Let´s not forget the ubiquitous 7-11 which has a well established presence in every town, and Hua Hin certainly has its fair share of them (it´s not uncommon to see two 7-11 stores on the same street or next door to each other).
How some shops manage to stay in business is quite remarkable considering the lack of customers in certain stores. If you have ever walked past an opticians in Hua Hin you will have noticed that as well as an overabundance for an average sized town, there is rarely anyone inside! In Thai stores, it’s quite common to have so many staff that the customers are outnumbered. This can seem quite daunting and they have a tendency to follow you around, but it´s usually just because they want to help especially when they see a foreigner wandering around the store.
Wooden Frog, Anyone?
As a visitor to Hua Hin, you´ll almost certainly be hassled around the downtown area to buy tailor-made suits, DVD´s, woolly hats, toy helicopters, and many other items which are best described as nonessential purchases. The touts try their best and need to make a living, so smile and bargain hard if you decide that you really do need a carved wooden frog or colourful hill tribe knitted hat. Some visitors might be surprised to see young children selling flowers around the bars until midnight or later, which unfortunately is a common sight in tourist hot spots. They are quite persistent and the flowers are overpriced, but you might just give in and buy a whole bunch.
Cheap items and souvenirs can be found everywhere in the local markets. As well as the day markets which sell typical everyday items (such as kitchenware, electrical goods, motorbike parts, clothes and food) mainly to Thais, the famous Hua Hin night market is an entertaining shopping experience aimed squarely at visitors. Here you can pick up cheap clothing and branded copies, intricately carved handicrafts, souvenirs of Hua Hin, and finish off with a good meal in one of the many seafood restaurants lining the street.
Please also see our related article on Hua Hin markets.
The Art of Haggling
To get the best price in the markets it´s essential to negotiate and remember that the universal haggling principles also apply in Thailand. Remember to smile politely and attempt to get the seller to like you, which might increase your chances of a knockout deal especially if you´re buying several items together. When the price is discussed, the vendor always brings out the oversized calculator and the bargaining begins. It´s worth knowing that many of the products can be bought cheaper elsewhere. For example, many of the wood carvings which are sold all over Thailand are made in factories just outside Chiang Mai, and large discounts can be had by buying closer to the source. It´s even possible to visit those factories and obtain the very best price, especially when buying in bulk.
In Thailand, it´s quite often possible to get massive discounts on products either by buying in bulk, bargaining hard, or by simply waiting for special deals and sales to appear. In the low tourist season when times are harder, consumers have much greater buying power and quite considerable savings are possible on certain types of goods. Many of the clothes stores hold regular sales with 50% discounts and “buy one get one free” specials. End of line promotions are also common. Most tailor shops are quite empty in the low season, so a great deal on custom-made clothes can be struck by wise and savvy customers.
In electrical and home improvement outlets it´s worth asking for a discount especially on more costly items, although some stores stick hard to their prices but will offer free delivery or a gift of varying quality instead.
Ultimately, customers should seek discounts in Thailand whenever possible, especially when the items can be obtained more cheaply in another store. It doesnÕt hurt to ask, and with a smile in the right place you might go home with a bargain.