Phuket shopping – markets and stalls
When it comes to Phuket shopping, PhuketSpace customers and visitors to Phuket have a lot more options to choose from today than they used to. What Phuket residents used to do at a twice-weekly local market (but still can if they want!) can now be enjoyed in several world-class malls with their associated businesses, with elegant boutiques selling antiques, brand-name clothes, artefacts, etc, plus all the essentials.
Add to that mix several supermarkets and speciality shops such as art galleries, large gem stores, Thai silk and textile stores, furniture shops, a huge duty-free shop and factory outlets and you’ll start to appreciate the variety of shopping opportunities in Phuket.
They say that if you really want to get to know a country, you should visit its local markets. In Thailand that’s certainly true; you can absorb plenty of local flavour (in more ways than one) just by walking around the local market. You will save yourself a far bit of cash too, as most goods at markets are much cheaper than elsewhere.
There are two types of markets in Phuket. The first type is known as a talad sod (fresh/wet market) which is essentially permanent, and open every day and in the same place. There are many of these all over the island, but Downtown Markets is the main fresh food market in Phuket. Located on Ranong Road in Phuket Town, the market open 24 hours a day but the produce available varies depending on the time of day. The best time to shop is actually early morning from 2am to 6am, when much of the produce is at its freshest straight from local farms or the airport. Many local restaurant owners and distributors come to do their shopping at this time.
On one side of the road is the open-air market selling mostly fruit and vegetables, and on the other side is the new indoor market, where you’ll find meat, seafood, fruit, vegetables and other food inside.
The second type of market is the talad nat (meeting market), similar to the kind of weekend markets you’ll find elsewhere, where farmers bring their produce into town to sell. They are everywhere; throughout Thailand almost every village, big or small, will have one. They usually open in the late afternoon and are finished by 8 or 9pm.
You shouldn’t have to travel far in Phuket to find one of these markets open; in fact the PhuketSpace apartments in Phuket Town have a market right next door. It’s open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, and is an excellent spot for inexpensive fruit and vegetables plus freshly-cooked Thai food. Local shoppers flock to these types of markets because the produce on sale is usually fresher and cheaper than in the supermarkets.
The exception to the rule for Phuket is Talad Tai Rot. One of the most famous markets in Phuket, it’s a weekend market on Chao Fa West Road near Central Festival Phuket. This is a typical Thai bazaar, featuring all sorts of items similar to those sold at the other two market types above. And it’s huge!
For the first time visitor, the initial introduction to Phuket shopping is often the beachside stalls. You can find all kinds of trinkets, fake designer labels, copied DVDs and CDs etc, though this is probably not the ideal place to do your shopping: the quality of the goods is variable and the prices can be higher than elsewhere. The beachside stallholders are paying high rents for these prime locations and these costs have to be passed on to their customers. Their opening price may well be triple or quadruple what they are willing to accept. Even if you haggle them down to their lowest price, you will probably be able to find the same product cheaper elsewhere.
Tourist Town Shops
You can find some good deals in the tourist towns but in general, prices are higher than elsewhere on the island. Land near the beach is very expensive. Rents are therefore expensive and this is passed on to the customer. The further you go from the beach the more likely you are to find good deals. There are many shops and stalls off Rat-U-Thit Road in Patong offering prices lower than the beachfront shops. These prices may seem cheap to most western visitors although in fact they are still high by Thai standards. Ocean Plaza in Bangla Road has some good deals for genuine goods.