Thailand is probably better known today as a producer of hard drives, frozen shrimp and chicken, and automobiles rather than handicrafts. At last count, Thailand was number 1 in hard drives and frozen shrimp, high in frozen chicken and number 1 in SEAsia in automobiles. Not as well-known is that there are more 7/11’s in Thailand than the US, so there is probably a record rate of over-priced junk food consumed here. This is not to say however, that nice handicrafts cannot be found. The One Tambon (village), One Product OTOPS Project was started several years ago to promote small businesses in villages, and shops selling OTOPS products are not difficult to find. There are many handicraft shops on Soi 61 between the Hagi Restaurant and the beach.
This old shop in the Hua Hin Bazaar has a wide variety of products of Thailand. They have everything from beach supplies for the kids to mobiles made from sea shells, hats and caps, umbrellas from northern Thailand, throw pillows and cases, placemats, lacquer ware boxes and cases, bells,wood carvings and on and on.
Many of the newer shops at places like the floating markets tend to carry plastic junk from Thailand’s large neighbor to the north such as noisy plastic chickens, laser key chains, and cell phone cases. The older shops near the Bazaar and on the road to the beach offer items that will probably please your friends more and the profits go to Thai villagers.
Thai silk is available everywhere, in many styles, weights, and colors. Many tailors can make garments of Thai silk and cotton in a day or so. When purchasing silk, it is best to buy from well-known shops as sometimes Thai “silk” interwoven with synthetics are passed off as the real thing.
Thai silk has become popular worldwide. Few tourists can resist leaving Thailand without a piece of this fabric. Thai silk was originally used for dresses and clothing but today has become a popular material for upholstery, draperies and household furnishing.
Mudmee, a kind of Thai silk produced in the Northeast, is a popular variation of Thai silk.
Thai cotton is not as internationally well know as silk but is equally worth consideration. Many shops now feature contemporary and stylish outfits for men and women using only hand-woven Thai cotton. Heavier samples are also often used for decorating; for upholstery, pillows and cushions.
Kom Ma Phat is a cotton print that Hua Hin is known for. This cloth is available in many local shops and the large Kommaphat shop near the Villa Supermarket sells fabric and ready-made clothes and bags made from this cloth.
Jewelry and Gemstones
The high quality of both Thai gems and jewelry is becoming increasingly well-known. Sapphires and rubies are the best buys here and Thai styles are quite distinct, both the contemporary and traditional styles. Thai gold is considerably cheaper than in Europe or the US and available in Chinese gold shops everywhere. ONLY buy gold from a large, busy gold shop. DO NOT BUY gold, gems or just about anything from a place recommended by a tuk-tuk or taxi driver, or some really-nice-gentleman you meet on the street. If it’s not fake, it’s at the least over-priced. Silver sold in Thailand must be no less than 92.5 percent. Traditional and contemporary designs are available.
There are a variety of dolls and toys in Thailand. Among the most unusual are dolls dressed in costumes of Thai classical dance, hill tribe people, regional farmers, as well as those in the costumes of the main characters of the mythical Ramayana. Thai dolls are generally produced with rigid workmanship and high quality and safety standards.
There is much woodcarving in Thailand and much is very nice, especially if all you want is a pair of Thai characters doing the traditional Wai. Much is not that nice though, especially compared to what used to be produced in Ubud in Bali–though that might not be that good anymore.
Many areas of Thailand are known for their pottery, each with very distinctive styles. Though Hua Hin in not known for pottery making, examples of this craft are available here in many shops.
Celadon was originally made in Thailand during the Sukhothai period but went out of favor until recently. There are many shops that specialize in this and there are good buys on tableware and other items.