Bangkok is renowned for being a shopper's mecca, and visitors to the kingdom almost always leave a few days free at the end of their itinerary just to hit up its famous glitzy, futuristic shopping malls, led by designer paradise Siam Paragon and Central World.
While Bangkokians celebrate Christmas as a shopping and partying holiday pretty much like anywhere else, and while all the usual clothing, electronics and other gifts that one might choose back home are available here, why not go for something a bit creative? Pick out some traditional Thai items to take home, which you can find at the local and interesting markets.
Amulets for sale at the Amulet Market in Bangkok — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
First and foremost are Thai textiles and silks, which are gorgeously colorful, painstakingly crafted and certainly one of the most traditional and representative souvenirs you can bring home from the country.
Thai sericulture (the process of silk making) is some of the best in the world, and it includes the famed Mut Mee silk, which is tie-dyed to produce geometric patterns.
The Naj Collection and the Jim Thompson shops are some of the better known and trustworthy dealers, but there are hundreds of venues to choose from.
Thai silk threads hung up to dry — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
You can find not only silk but everything under the sun at Chatuchak Market, a weekend affair that is quite legendary, with everything from silks to wood carvings to shoes of every make and assortment. You can shop until you drop here, not to mention the place is an amazing people-watching spot.
Just remember to go early, as it gets extremely hot and crowded here.
Aside from the more commonly bought items like pillow and cushion coverings, carved elephants and Buddha figurines, consider some alternative options. Amulets are highly prized by Thais; they're worn for good luck and protection.
While some may scoff at their supposed powers, the amulets themselves can be eye-catching and make for good keepsakes. As interesting as the amulets are themselves, so is a visit to the Amulet Market, where the largest collection in Bangkok can be found.
An entire street sets up shop near the Grand Palace every day, and it's a very photogenic slice of real Bangkok life. You might not want to think of your amulet as a purchase, though.
As one amulet seller says, "Nobody owns an amulet: they are just power that is being gifted, and we are just merely renting out these charms."
Traditional textiles in Bangkok — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
Another unique holiday gift to search out would be products from OTOP shops. OTOP, which stands for One Tambon One Product (A tambon is an administrative sub-district.) is a local entrepreneurship program, which seeks to showcase locally made specialties from different regions of Thailand.
From traditional handicrafts to pottery to food, you can find some great representatives of Thai culture as gifts here. There is a big OTOP Center in the Pratunam Center Mall in Bangkok.
Just make sure you have enough extra suitcases to bring all your purchases home!