BootsnAll Travel Network

Clothes shopping, yeaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!


I am not a big shopper. I don´t hate shopping, actually I do hate shopping, I just don´t mind going to the shopping mall, if it entails air conditioning, Dairy Queen softies, and pretty local girls. The necessity of going because you need something also makes it okay, as long as the aforementioned can be done quickly and efficiently while picking up the priorily mentioned and getting the hell out of there.

Shopping came up in Bangkok because, well, I am 1.5 steps off of being that homeless guy you try and not make eye contact with. I am still wearing some clothes that I had before this trip even started (one pair of socks, my swimming trunks) and others ranging up to a year ago (I purchased a t-shirt, shorts,and boxers, when I first arrived in Bangkok). Outside of that the clothes I have range from five to one years old (fleece jacket-Chile, s/s shirt-India, Jeans-Egypt, l/s shirt- Mozambique, socks-Nepal, sweat pants-Peru, boots/sandals-nepal, tank top- India.) In general, I am a bit rough and while traveling it is okay, but when you slow down and spend some time in a city or you want to go out, the roughness pervades. Riding by motorcycle creates an all new dirtiness and including the oil stains further reduces your respectability of coming from a first world country.

When I left on the trip, I shipped a couple of suits and pretty much nothing else clothes wise. If I went home one of my first stops would have to be a shopping mall and I don´t know if that would be psychologically prudent. The other reason for shopping in Bangkok is that supposedly this is a shopping Mecca as it is deep in the heart of the clothing import/export business and you are supposed to be able to get things cheap also with the benefits of getting knock offs as well.

Traveling I can do. Shopping I am horrible. On top of that I hate getting ripped off and shopping here involves visiting markets and malls where the price is very negotiable. Negotiating is fine if you know somethings value, but how much do you pay for something when you have no clue what the going price is. Usually when I am visiting markets it is fairly painless and I take a somewhat non-chalant perspective about all the going ons, but that is based on the fact that I don´t want anything. Needing to buy something and having to go to the market, find it, and negotiate a price is horrid.

What I needed was a complete new wardrobe. The plan was to buy pretty much all that I would need, box it, ship it home, and when I got home I would have a few outfits to wear and no further shopping needing to be done (outside of maybe going to Target (Target stain-proof plain front dark khaki pants are the ideal traveling pants)). As the previous post related, the first few days in Bangkok were relegated to computer repairs so the only clothes shopping things I did was to become familiar with the shopping area around the Prantip Mall.

The options were abundant. Basically, there are shopping areas set up throughout Bangkok. Modern skyscraper shopping malls, old school concrete shopping centers, day markets, night markets, weekend markets, stalls, department stores, and neighborhoods with a mix of all. Shopaholics reading this are probably getting amped. All of these categories are mixed throughout the city. Fortunately for me, having Amo made the transport somewhat easier although I was hesitant about driving around the city as I was so close to finishing Asia that it was almost guaranteed I would get run over by a bus.

As I am pretty good about finding deals, the only way to really get a handle on things was to visit a few of these market areas as well as to get a feel of how much things cost, the quality of goods, and where the best place was to buy everything I needed so that I would not need to make multiple trips. Once I got the computer thing situated I got out the old Lonely Planet which wrote about a lot of the different markets and what they specialized in. With that info I started making a few visits a day to different markets so I could get a feel of them. I think I hit about ten different areas.

Once I had the layout of the land, I needed to formally figure out what I needed to buy (shopping 101 make a list). I got out my trusty notebook and jotted down a list of my new wardrobe as well as quantity, trying to be as specific as possible.

With the list made out, I cross-referenced them with the visits I made to the different shopping centers. Once that was all finished, I had a set plan and was ready to implement it. In all, that took about four days of data crunching to come out with a solid plan.

Within all the clothes, I broke it down to three basic categories. Jeans, basics, and suits. These three categories I kept separate as they needed to be shopped for independently in order to get the best quality and deal. Of most importance were the jeans. Jeans are fashionable, long lasting, and range vastly in cost. While scouting around I particularly kept my eye out for the best places which sold specifically jeans. The best place I found was in the lower level of the Diamond Shopping Mall, a bit of a upper middle scale shopping center filled with boutique style stores and stalls. There was one shop that sold a nice selection of jeans all reasonably priced and they gave a buy more pay less price point. For the basics, which consist of everything else, the best place I found was the Pratunam Market which was a crazily packed place hidden off the main road by skyscraper hotels. This was like a import export buyer seller place where everything was sold by the piece or by crate. All of this stuff was cheap Chinese/asian mass produced, sweat shop clothes. Not great name brand quality, but pretty good priced basic staple goods. Here is where I bought all my shirts, shorts, and pants. Everything was buy one at regular price or three for a huge discount. Buy a thousand and its pennies on the dollar. There were a lot of Indian and African buyers shopping here for bulk items to ship back and sell. It is brutally hell getting around, but once I got the layout and got off the main paths, shops were a lot less rushed and it was easier to buy stuff. The main problem with the whole shopping thing was that there is no real order to the way the shops are lined up. Since so many places come and go, there is no way to organize it so to find a shop selling mens clothes, you have to walk every aisle in order to find them. On average I would say that it was 95% womens to 5% mens shops. Finding stuff for men was that much more difficult. The last category was suits. I had heard that getting a custom made suit made in Thailand or Asia is one of the things to do. On paper it sounds great. Seeing the signs out front the shops on tourist streets made it hard to pass up, “$100 for two suits, two shirts, and a tie”. The problem though, as I did some internet research was that like everything, you get what you pay for. In this case you get a suit that doesn´t fit and falls apart after the first wearing. Virtually all the tourist suit places were just fronts that sold sweat shop made suits with fake material. All of it is just crap. The other issue is that the tailors in Asia are geared for the mass produced cheap crap jobs so that even though there are thousands of tailors just in Bangkok, only a handful are capable of making an acceptable suit and those handful charge almost the same amount that you would pay for a better quality off the rack suit back home. The issue is that in order to get good material you have to bypass all the stuff sold in the shops and find someone who is importing material from Europe or America. The majority of material is cheap Chinese or Indian replicas that are falsely labeled. My plan was to go at it a bit differently. I bypassed all the tourist places (any place with English written signage) and visited the local tailors. Most again could make a suit but they were geared toward the every day Asian worker who needs a working suit rather than a quality suit. Most times a made to order suit requires minimally three or more fittings. Most of the local tailors were one and out. I finally found a guy that I was comfortable with and new the differences between what was normal and what I wanted. He was even up front enough to tell me that none of the fabrics that he had were of good enough quality. His recommendation was to try and go to his fabric suppliers as well as to visit the Sampeng Lane textile markets. Visiting his suppliers was also beneficial as they walked me through their fabrics and explained the differences. Out of all their fabrics they only had a handful of actual European made quality ones. They also explained that the price for the good stuff was probably the same as what I would find in America as they get no discount because they do not buy it in bulk. They also offered up the info that the goods in the market were 100% Chinese imitations. So, after a very educational process, I came to the determination that after all the time and effort as well as the risk of still not getting a good product, it was better to just buy off the rack as home. In regards to shoes, some more research relegated shoe buying to going to one of the Made in THailand specialized shoe stores (much like a Bata), and buying three sets of leather shoes. Shoes were similar to the suits in that Asia is not known for good quality, rather cheap is the norm. I didnt need anything fancy, but I did want something that would last so I paid probably slightly cheaper for the same quality shoes I would find at home.

The last and final part of the shopping spree turned out to be the easiest as the post office was just around the corner. I had stopped in to find out the procedure and costs and was happy to find out for 40B they would pack anything I brought in. The only negative was that the shipping cost turned out to be around 60 dollars.

Six days of running my ass off, a few hundred bucks and with the help of the traveling gods, the box makes it to my parents house, I will have a new set of clothes waiting for me when I get home, although I will be still wearing the same one pair of boxers as I forgot to buy those.

Now that its over, I still fucking hate shopping.

I forgot my notebook so later I will add the items and prices I paid so that you can get a jist of what I got.

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