Shopping at the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai Thailand

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When shopping at the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai, Thailand, you can save a lot of money if you know how to bargain Thai-style. There is a wrong way and a right way, so know before you go.

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When it comes to the open markets of Chiang Mai, most newly arrived foreigners are steered directly either by guidebooks, travel agencies, hotel desk clerks, and even tuk-tuk drivers to the Night Bazaar on Changklan Road between Tha Phae and Loi Kroh Roads. This sizeable market, with a gigantic, well-lit sign in English and surrounded by many familiar food chains of the West, is no doubt most oriented to foreign tourists. It's here where most Western visitors get their first taste of a traditional Northern Thai shopping experience. Once amongst the tightly packed stalls, visitors very soon become acquainted with the bargaining game.

When it comes to bargaining, there are a few things to remember. Asians do not like to lose face, which is very important; however, they don’t want you to lose face either. Here is how to bargain so no one loses face.

You first ask, “How much?” for an item. The vendor will come back with a price and you say, “Too much,” and they will come back with a 20% lower price. You offer about 50% lower than the second price they gave you. They will smile and probably say nothing. This means they know what you are doing. After a few seconds, they will come back with a price around 20% lower again. You then put out a price 40% lower. They come back with maybe 25% lower. You go 30% lower and hold. They will most likely sell it to you. This way, you can get the item at the 50% discount you wanted, but they do not lose face - and neither do you.

Try to make purchases all from the same shop or vendor and you can get the price even lower. Do not pay for your items one at a time. Set your first purchase aside, then bargain for a few more items. Put all your items together and ask, “How much for all these?” When the salesperson gives you a price, make an offer for 10% lower. If they say no, start taking items off your pile and act like you just want to purchase just the first item you bargained for. Nine times out of ten they will say okay to your 10% additional discount.

There is everything available here, including handicrafts, food stuffs, clothing and shoes, jewelry, ceramic knickknacks, and more. Many of the items sold at shops inside the Night Bazaar building are of good quality and handmade.

The vendors on the street sell cheap copied products made in China or Burma and not true Thai handicrafts. One example is lacquer ware. The high-quality lacquer-ware houses of Chiang Mai today still apply at least seven coats of lacquer to each piece and allow approximately 1 week between coatings for drying. The lacquer ware sold by vendors is very cheap and painted with sprayed-on lacquer ware paint.

Remember, you get what you pay for. If you want T-shirts, knockoff designer brands, or imitation handicrafts, the Night Bazaar vendors have what you need. For high-quality handicrafts, textiles, shoes, and clothing at great prices compared to prices in your home country, go to the shops inside the Night Bazaar building.

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