It's no secret that Thailand is a shopper's paradise. The enormous range of beautifully hand-crafted items on offer everywhere, whether at fancy metropolitan shopping emporia or small provincial stalls, reflect an array of traditional artisan skills dating back hundreds of years. Many of the stunning handmade objects were originally created for temples and palaces, or for more practical purposes in the home. Nowadays, reproductions of these traditional items have become the coveted keepsakes of visitors and collectors from around the world. For dedicated shoppers on holiday in Thailand , a standard complaint is having too little baggage allowance for all their wonderful purchases!
Thailand is renowned worldwide for its handwoven silks and cottons, woodcarvings, lacquerware, ceramics, metalware, gems and jewelry. Traditionally each of the country's 76 provinces specialized in one particular type of product. For example, the best lacquerware came from Chiang Mai and the north of Thailand ; the southern city of Nakhon Si Thammarat was famous for its nielloware; Sukhothai-Si Satchanalai and central plains were renowned for the classic green-colored celadon pottery.
Regional specialization still flourishes, but tourists on tight schedules no longer have to travel from province to province in search of indigenous local handiwork. Major department store chains everywhere now have sections or sometimes entire floors devoted to showcasing Thai crafts. A few days spent shopping in Bangkok or Chiang Mai provides a comprehensive overview of the country's extremely varied regional styles and products. It's become almost as easy to find handwoven northern cotton clothing on the main road of Chaweng Beach in Ko Samui as in downtown Chiang Mai.
Not so long ago "Thai-style" meant the recognizably Thai objects that comprised the bulk of every visitor's souvenir purchases. Today the term connotes the increasingly sophisticated range of Thai-designed items sought after by international clients for homes and businesses all over the world. Young Thai designers are garnering international recognition for their innovative clothing, exclusive home furnishings and trendy accessories that express Thai elements in a minimalist context. The fashionable' new Thai aesthetic preserves many time honoured materials and techniques, yet is chic and contemporary.
Thai style harmoniously blends Eastern spirituality and attention to detail with Western sophistication and technology. Thailand 's rich heritage of diverse skills such as gold-leaf stencilling (originally used to decorate temple doors) and intricate rattan weaving (to make farm baskets) are reinterpreted into a cutting-edge 21st century context. Savvy Thai and overseas designers use gold-leaf stencils as decorative accents on a range of home furnishing items (wooden containers, picture frames, vases, etc.). Tightly woven rattan baskets which once held the pumpkin seeds of Karen hilltribe villagers now display wine bottles on international dining tables.
Meanwhile richly-hued Thai silks now come in a variety of weaves and thicknesses, suitable for everything from stylish apparel to sturdy upholstery fabric. Many traditional household items once served utilitarian purposes (for example the ubiquitous ceramic water jug used to catch rainwater runoff). Today, modem interpretations of these ordinary household objects (pottery, baskets, weavings etc.) are elegant design elements in hotels, resorts, restaurants, office buildings and private homes all over the world.
Along with breakthroughs in shapes and styles have come new uses for traditional materials. The country's many renewable natural resources (mulberry bark, bamboo, water hyacinth and mangowood) now travel the world as paper products, modish furniture and other stylish home products. Meanwhile as the world's leading gemstone cutting center, Thailand is perfectly positioned to adapt the latest design and technical innovations to its already world-famous silver and gold jewelry arts.
For the millions of visitors to the Kingdom, the exciting new trends in contemporary Thai I style mean a quantum leap in shopping opportunities. Along with the myriad traditional handicrafts available everywhere, shoppers now can choose from a rapidly expanding range of beautifully styled and crafted modem items. As retailers increasingly incorporate the new Thai aesthetic into their stores' layout and presentation, shopping in Thailand is not merely lots of fun, it's a sophisticated and stylish experience!
Products and styles go in and out of fashion, but the Thai heritage of creativity and attention to detail that comes from centuries of handcrafting tradition remain constant. Whatever you buy in Thailand, be it a traditional repousse (hand- hammered) silver bowl originally used to offer water to monks, or a set of matte-finished stainless steel cutlery, it will always be of the highest quality and of course the best possible price.
Welcome to Thailand , the shopping paradise. You'll treasure your shopping experiences here forever!