It would be a pity if during your holiday in Phuket your only shopping experiences consisted of the air-conditioned environments of hotels, department stores and shops where your tour guide or tuk tuk drivers receive a percentage of any sale.
Going shopping is surely part of travelling and it has
developed into a form of relaxation for even the local people. Check out places where Phuket residents like to go to experience some of the real Thai lifestyle. And of course, take the opportunity to use your bargaining skills!
Street markets can be found throughout Thailand. They all have slightly different names depending on whether they are weekend, open, street or tent markets – and sometimes depending on specific days that they are held. People also sometimes call them ‘talad nad’ (literally means ‘meeting market’). At the largest weekend market in Phuket, Talad Nad Chaofa Variety, opposite to Naka Temple on the outskirts of Phuket city on Chaofa West road, you can expect to find a range of goods including: clothing, lingerie, office supplies,CDs, accessories, fruits, kitchenware, crafts, fishing gear, pets and collectables.
This market covers about 13 rai (1 rai is 1600sqm) of land including a parking area. There are more than a thousand canopied stalls divided by types of items. The best way to start your shopping excursion is to follow the narrow alleys that are surprisingly well numbered. The majority of goods seem to consist of brand name copies of casual clothes appealing to school girls and office workers in their late 20s. Prices can go for as low as 199 baht for a nice shirt or 100 baht for three pairs of socks.
Unlike the famous walking street in Chiang Mai, Phuket’s market lacks cultural performers to entertain along the stretch; however, it is still enjoyable to browse the stalls, mix with the locals, and soak in your own sweat. On a nice weekend, a disabled musician sets up his keyboard and plays music, or sometimes a blind beggar sings to strangers for spare change. At another corner, a bartender might be shaking a mixer for a special cocktail, capturing the attention of passing shoppers.
At the back, accessed directly from the parking lot, a concrete open-air building is used as a small flea market section where you can find sweaters, cowboy hats, boots and Buddha amulets. Look for the small foot massage parlour and give a treat to your tired feet after all the walking.
It’s good to compare prices when buying things in Thailand, but not really necessary here. You will find many stalls offer similar items and at the same prices. It is best to bargain lightly – but always with smile. If you come with a group, you have more opportunities for discounts as buying several pieces at the same time will get you a bargain. In this case, you can negotiate a discount of 10-30% off of the asking price. Remember, ill-tempered bargaining will get you nowhere. Before you make a final decision, it’s recommended to recheck the product quality, so as not to be disappointed when you unpack the item later.
Along the way, you’ll find cool beverage stalls snuggled between gift shops. But for a better selection, walk a little bit farther to the back of the market. This weekend market also holds some secrets of real Thai delicacies. Stalls offer a variety of foods from snacks to heavy cuisines like glass noodle salad, deep fried chicken, fried noodles, baked goods, rice and main dishes. It’s fun to explore adaptations of foreign food such as cheap fresh-made sushi at 5 baht a piece or Thai style yakisoba. This food zone is often fully packed. There are tables available to eat on but not many seats, as people normally take food back home.
Because of the heat (and rain), wear light clothing and comfy sandals, and drink lots of water. During the green season it is a good idea to take an umbrella or cheap plastic raincoat.
How to get there
If you take a local tuk tuk, just tell them that you would like to go to ‘Talad Nad Chaofa Variety’. From Patong, it should not take longer than half an hour.
With your own car or motorbike from Patong beach down the hill, take the Bypass road passing Central Festival Phuket (shopping center) and the t-junction on Chaofa West road. Make a left turn and the market is just opposite to the temple.
From Kata, Karon and Rawai beaches, just keep going straight from Chalong Circle to town. Make the right turn at the t-junction before the Central Festival intersection.
Opening hours Talad Nad Chaofa Variety is open every weekend from late afternoon. The best time to go there is from 18:00 when the weather is cooler and the sellers have all set up their stalls. Prime shopping time is from 18:00 until 21:30. However, you may expect it to be even more crowded the first and last weekends of the month.