Topics:  bangkok, bartering, shopping, thailand, travel, travelling

Barter be prepared for shop 'n' drop

JIMMY Choo, perfume, make-up, Dolce and Gabbana, Christian Louboutin, sunglasses, Gucci and nail polish.

My ticket to Bangkok is booked and my shopping list steadily growing.

I am heading to Thailand with a girlfriend for a 10-day long shopping trip and shopping I plan to do.

Having never been to Thailand, or out of the country for that matter (I have been to New Zealand but I am told this doesn't count), I do my research beforehand.

Bartering, I am told, is a way of life in Thailand and my reliable shopping sources say the trick to bartering and, more importantly, to not getting ripped off is to offer the vendor half of the asking price. With this valuable nugget of information in one hand and a wad of Thai baht in the other (at the time the Australian dollar is buying 32 baht), we are ready to roll

Terminal 21

FIRST cab off the rank is one of the new centres, Terminal 21 in the heart of Sukhmvit. It happens to be conveniently located directly beneath our five-star accommodation, Grand Centre Point.

An elevator ride down to the sixth floor of the hotel, a nip through the staff-only entrance and we are in shopping heaven: nine levels, 600-plus shops selling clothes, shoes, bags, cosmetics, food, jewellery and so much more.

On our first run around the centre, it is soon apparent that bartering isn't acceptable here. This is something else my shopping experts warned me about. While bartering is expected in some places, Terminal 21, being new and upmarket, is an exception.

But that doesn't stop me shopping up a storm. Instead of bartering, I look for specials and sale items.

Terminal 21 stocks top brands and quality products. You wouldn't go there if you were chasing bargain knock-off Louis Vuitton. You'd go here for real Guess, big-name cosmetics and international and local fashion.

What is also cool is that each level is a different world-famous city. On the ground floor is Rome where you will find fashion labels such as Kipling Fox, Guess, Nike, adidas and Jaspal.

An escalator ride up and you're in Paris, complete with a mini Eiffel Tower replica and more fashion brands.

The first to third floors are home to local independent labels. Tokyo, on the first floor, houses women's fashion while men's fashion can be found on the second level (London) and gifts, toys, cosmetics, jewellery and fashion accessories on Istanbul, the third floor.

The fourth and fifth floors belong to San Francisco. This is where more than 50 cafes and restaurants can be found, including Pier 21 which sells delicious sticky rice with mango.

One thing to be mindful of when eating out at centres such as this is that the majority of sit-down restaurants add a service tax. But try some take-away food outlets on the basement level of Terminal 21. I ate delicious curry from one vendor three nights in a row and each meal cost about $A3.

MBK

THIS is where you go if you want bargain knock-offs of Jimmy Choo handbags, Gucci sunglasses and Christian Louboutin peep-toes.

MBK is in Patumwan. We caught a meter taxi there. This is another valuable piece of information experts gave me: catch meter taxis. They have a sign on top advertising that they use a meter whereas others just give you a price and have a reputation for overcharging. Arriving at MBK, we are greeted by rows of stalls all sandwiched in side-by-side with merchandise spilling out into the corridor. And in the middle, more stalls. It looks more like a market than a shopping centre. Every second stall is selling knock-off bags, wallets, shoes, DVDs, phone cases and sunglasses and every vendor is vying for your business.

I talk a bag holder way down on a Jimmy Choo knock-off. They're not impressed but accept the offer and then proceed to whack every bag in the shop with the notes I have just given them. Apparently, they are spreading the good luck.

Five hours and 10 shopping bags later, we're beat. Our shopping scores have us jubilant and as such, we feel daring enough to catch a tuk-tuk.

This is my first tuk-tuk ride and I think I am going to die. The driver cuts across traffic, pulls out in front of cars going 100kmh and seems to purposely drive over every pothole. But it is an experience like no other and I get back to the hotel to find my face hurts from smiling the whole way.

>> Read more travel stories.



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