Some people go to Thailand for the temples.  Some go for the gardens and canals.   All this paled after we discovered the shopping.

Simply put, Thailand is like Hong Kong of the 1960s.  It is a place where good workmanship can be startlingly cheap, where you can still find an incredible bargain and where, also, you can be royally ripped off.  It is a shopper's paradise but it is also no place for the timid or easily tricked.

Shopping here is multilevel, meaning really, really cheap (as in market trinkets), moderately priced (as in hand made clothing) or breathtakingly expensive (as in good gold jewelry).

The favorites here are handicrafts, silk, gems, jewelry, and carving.  As for where to go ... that depends on what you want.

Hats, anyone?
a floating vendor at Damnoen Saduak

You can't beat any town's street market for bargains on handicrafts.  Silver bracelets, carved bone necklaces, exquisite metal pins, you name it.  But look carefully at the quality.  Oddly, sometimes the workmanship far exceeds the quality of the material.  You can find intricate "silver" jewelry that is actually silver plated.  But, frankly, who cares?  In this case, it's the beautiful patterns of the metal that count.

Top on the list of handicraft spots is Bangkok's Chatuchak (Weekend) market.  This is truly, as one guidebook put it, the Disneyland of markets.  More than 8,000 vendor stalls serve nearly a quarter million shoppers on Saturday and Sunday.

The stalls run in rows and tend to be grouped in specialized sections ... jewelry here, pottery there, carvings here, household goods there and clothing, flowers, antiques and food all in their own separate areas.

You name it, you can probably find it here.  On one Saturday morning, our busload of 20 visitors descended and after three hours, each person came back with huge bags of goodies.  There was not a single duplication.

Among the purchases:  handmade note paper for $1 a packet, exquisitely carved bone necklaces for $3, silk scarves for $4, silk dresses for $4, metal temple dancers for $6 (they were $20 at the airport) and an endless pile of hand carved kitchenware, T-shirts, wood statues, hill tribe bracelets, lacquerware and much, much more.

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