Thailand is well established as a premier destination for shopaholics. We take a closer look at the best shopping zones in its world renowned holiday hotspots, Koh Samui and Phuket
Phuket’s Central Festival mall is home to department stores, plus an expansive selection of independent boutiques
Shopping in Thailand provides a delightful experience for the most seasoned of spenders, whether you’re after designer goods or quirky souvenirs to take home to friends and family. While the high-end malls and bustling markets of Bangkok are probably the first venues that spring to mind when you visualise shopping in Thailand, idyllic islands like Phuket and Koh Samui are also home to more than their fair share of malls, markets and boutiques.
Thanks to the broad choice in terms of retail venues, it’s possible for shoppers in Samui and Phuket to get their hands on just about anything – from fine Thai silks to electronic gadgets. If you’re in the mood to splash some Baht, there’s a selection of opportunities to choose from – some of which will offer an insight into local Thai life, too. We’ve rounded up a variety of the best malls, markets and shopping areas in Phuket and Samui to get you started.
Situated in Patong, the Jungceylon shopping mall is home to more than 200 stores
For those in the mood to splash some cash on a Phuket shopping spree, Patong’s Jungceylon mall should certainly be on your list of places to visit. Situated in the downtown area opposite Bangla Road, this complex is home to over 200 retailers, from larger department stores to independent boutiques. Shoppers can browse an eclectic array of goods, including designer clothing, shoes, sunglasses, beauty goodies, electronics and perfumes. Big C supermarket and the Robinson department store are the largest shops at Jungceylon, but the downstairs shopping arcade is home to a plethora of independently-run boutiques where you can pick up everything from a new mobile phone case to home furnishings. There’s also plenty of restaurants for when you need to re-fuel between shops, plus the SF Cinema City complex, a bowling alley and the Shell Word Museum to entertain little ones.
Located just outside Phuket Town, Central Festival is the second of Phuket’s big malls. This gleaming complex provides a one-stop-shop for all your shopping needs, offering everything from designer jeans to laptop computers. There are more than 120 stores within the shining network of air-conditioned shops, so leave yourself plenty of time to browse if you want to get a full sense of the range of goods for sale. Like Patong’s Jungceylon, Central Festival is also home to a selection of eateries, in addition to a cinema to catch the latest Hollywood blockbusters.
Old Town treasures
Held every Sunday from 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., the Phuket Old Town walking street market is a must-visit destination for serious shoppers
If you’d prefer to stroll through Thailand’s colourful backstreets, window-shopping the diverse range of goods available, head straight to Phuket Old Town. The historical district of Phuket Old Town was constructed in the mid-19th century during the island’s tin mining boom, and many of the pastel-hued Chinese shophouses remain – making this one of the Kingdom’s most aesthetically-pleasing shopping destinations. The core of the Old Town comprises five main streets and several interconnecting sois, centred around Rasada, Phang Nga, Thalang, Dibuk and Krabi roads. A stroll through this network of streets and alleyways will unveil a selection of independent, often family-run boutiques, selling everything from raw silk and cotton goods to gardening equipment. Ban Boran Textiles is well worth a visit, as it sells a range of vividly-hued silk and cotton creations, plus silver jewellery hand-crafted by the Ka Riang people of Northern Thailand.
However, if you don’t want to spend precious sun-bathing hours browsing the local shops, make time to visit Phuket Old Town’s walking street market. Every Sunday evening from about 4 p.m. onwards, street vendors set up shop along the beautiful Thalang Road, selling everything from local handicrafts to creative souvenirs. The market – also known as ‘Lard Yai (Big Market) – is also a great place to sample the best of Phuket’s culinary offerings at enticing street food stands.
The best of Chaweng
Samui’s uniquely-designed Central Festival mall takes inspiration from the exotic island setting
For Koh Samui shopping sprees, Chaweng is one of the best destinations on the island. As well as being home to its own mall – Central Festival – there’s also a number of independent retailers to browse, particularly along the town’s beach road. Shops here stay open from the morning right up until late evening, so it’s easy to get your hands on everything from swimming suits to souvenirs whenever you want. Whether or not you want to splash your cash, Chaweng Beach Road is also a fun place to browse locally-made goods, including silks, textiles and handicrafts.
Divided into four distinct zones, Central Festival Samui is perhaps the island’s most stylish shopping venue. Also situated in Chaweng, this mall was designed to reflect its island setting, and each of the zones takes inspiration from Samui itself. The sections include Chaweng Port, Bird Cage, Fisherman Village and Beach Town Market. In addition to the independent shops and boutiques, there’s also a number of well-known names including Jim Thompson, Uniqlo, Adidas and Esprit. Plus, there’s more than 20 cafes and restaurants for shoppers that want to take a break between spending sessions.
Bophut’s Walking Street market is held every Friday
Situated on the northern coast of Koh Samui, the quiet town of Bophut provides a peaceful haven for many families on holiday. It’s also a favourite destination for shoppers – particularly every Friday when the beach road transforms into a walking street market. Of course, Bophut is already home to a wide selection of shops and boutiques, many of which simply extend out into the street for the walking market. From 5 p.m. until 11 p.m., local vendors set up stalls selling clothing, jewellery, handbags and other souvenirs. A number of unusual items are available, too, including fragrant herbs and spices and Thai musical instruments.
In addition to the market’s various opportunities to splurge on souvenirs, there are often displays of Muay Thai and traditional Thai dancing to entertain visitors. Like many other Thai markets, Bophut’s weekly Walking Street is a fantastic place to sample a selection of delectable street food dishes, from crunchy spring rolls to grilled chicken and pork satay. Thanks to the popularity of the market amongst locals and visitors, you can look forward to a lively atmosphere and an enjoyable Friday evening.
Situated at the heart of bustling Bangkok, Siam Paragon is home to a multitude of designer shops
Bangkok is the main gateway for the majority of travellers heading to Thailand on holiday – and it’s home to countless shopping opportunities, ranging from scenic floating markets to chic, high-end malls. If it’s designer gear you’re after, Siam Paragon, Emporium and the architecturally-striking EmQuatier mall are key destinations. This is where you’ll find the likes of Prada, Hermes, Chanel and Dolce and Gabbana. At the other end of the spectrum, Chatuchak Market in the north of the city provides a labyrinthine network of stalls and shops, selling everything from toys and electronics to clothing.
If you’re keen to pick up some Thai souvenirs for loved ones back at home, here are a few ideas:
- Thanks to its high quality, Thai silk is a highly-sought after souvenir. Jim Thompson’s boutiques are one of the best places to purchase silk by the metre, or silk accessories including bags and scarfs.
- Wood-carved handicrafts can be a fabulous item to have out on show at home, and will forever remind you of your wonderful holiday in Thailand.
- Picking up some sumptuous spa goodies will help remind you of all the pamper sessions you had whilst on holiday. Siam Botanicals, Pañpuri, Erbb and Thann are some of the best retailers for all of your fragrant lotions and potions.