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The best places to shop for antiques in Thailand are Chiang Mai and Bangkok. But if you’re desperate to have a look in Phuket, you can find some good shops at the entrance to Laguna resort complex and by walking around the older parts of Phuket Town.
If you are looking for very good copies of the masters, the Artist Studio Gallery in Patong and Kathu has a team of artists working on all types of paintings that includes some original works – they say most of the artists on the island have passed through here at one time or another. The two outlets are definitely worth checking out for good pieces that won’t break the bank. For works by Chinese and Vietnamese artists, as well as specials such as genuine Warhol prints or Dali bronzes, a trip to Soul of Asia (Rassada Road) is also recommended. If you’re looking for something more original, you should venture into Phuket Town, where the Phuket Art Gallery resides. This small gallery was opened by a local art-loving family who also own a small guesthouse across the road.
There is a revolving exhibit in the front of the shop that changes every month and displays all original work by local artists. A static display inside includes paintings, sculptures, mixed-media works and photographs. This should be the first place you look for art if you are interested in something original and not made for tourists.
Just north of town, in the Royal Phuket Marina, D Gallery specialises in top Thai artists and also has a good range of work by Vietnamese painters. Finally, Galeria 346 (on Phuket Road) showcases work by top Thai artists, and also has a good cafe and three very nice guest rooms upstairs.
Bags and Accessories
Knock-off handbags are available in Patong but you’ll find the real deal in Central Festival and Robinson. Styles are modern, trendy and quite appealing.
New books on Thailand and other popular subjects, as well as the latest in fiction, are available at B2S (3rd floor, Central Festival), SE-ED Books (Big C and Lotus), and The Books on Phuket Road. There are also numerous second hand bookstores scattered about in the various tourist areas, yet despite their good selection of ‘beach reads’, they aren’t terribly ‘second hand’ in price. Some better value ones are found in Phuket Town.
CDs and DVDs
Pirated CDs, DVDs and computer games are plentiful at Patong Beach, although quality isn’t always guaranteed. Local movie distributors have responded with competitive prices and genuine shops in the malls have a decent selection of DVDs for around 250-900 baht, and VCDs for 120 baht. However, these mostly cover Thai tastes – preferences for action, ghost and shallow subject movies. If you buy a VCD, make sure you check the language is in English, or ask the shopkeeper.
Ceramics of Phuket is well worth a mention for its stunning and original pottery. Created with local clays and ingredients that reflect the spirit of Phuket and the colours of the sea, all the pieces are incredibly beautiful and unusual. You can find tea sets, incense burners, vases, dishes that are all made in pleasing and modern styles. it’s in Baan Manik, on the road from the Heroines Monument to Cherng Talay.
You can find plenty of cute and trendy clothes at cheap prices and cheap quality at the markets and small shops around the island.
Most are in smaller sizes though. If you are looking for quality, Western sizes, shop at Central Festival, which offers plenty of brand name selections. There are good sales at the end of the high season and even standard prices are good. Shops in Patong, too, have adjusted to the fact that tourists need larger sizes. Very much worth a visit for cheap by genuine brand-name clothing is Premium Outlet, which has dozens of shops selling the real thing. Tailors are plentiful in Patong and Kata beaches and they can knock together a suit or dress for you in 24 hours; you can even bring a photo of something you like and they will replicate it.
Laptops and other electronics can be bought at various shops in Phuket Town, but if you don’t know where you’re going, it’s best to shop in Central Festival at the few computer shops on the second floor.
There are few deals to be had here, but you can find a good choice of cameras in the small camera shops in Central Festival, Big C, and Lotus, and particularly Big Camera.
Regulators, BCDs, dive computers and other imported equipment is not cheap in Thailand due to the import duties. However, Thai-made wetsuits can be a good bargain and are generally of good quality. While individual dive shops have some supplies, Dive Supply in Patong is the best place to shop.
It’s quite popular for Thais to take a gift of food back home when they visit a place and every region of Thailand is famed for particular foods. In Phuket, you’ll find cashew nuts, dried squid and shrimp paste are readily available and packaged for gift-giving. There’s a cashew nut factory and outlet in Chalong for those who want to take their nut knowledge to the next level. The daily food markets around the island are a good place to see some foods you might not be used to. On the road to the airport is Mae Joo, which is famed for its variety of dried food.
Thailand has some lovely gem shops but buyers should know what they are doing or go to a reputable shop. We recommend Wang Talang for those wishing to buy loose gems and jewellery. Custom-made jewellery is beautifully and tastefully done at DD Jewel Design, but make sure you have some time to wait for it to be completed. Don’t be scammed into buying cheap, smuggled Burmese gems, because they are invariably fake and by the time you discover this, the shop would’ve closed and moved! Pearls grown in the waters off Phuket are high quality and good value. To make sure you get the real thing as opposed to plastic, go to Phuket Pearl Factory in Sapam or to Wang Talang Jewellery.
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