One thing I really admire about Thailand is how rich and genuine their culture is. I’ve seen a glimpse of their intricate customs from the years past but I never knew how deep it is until watching the acclaimed cultural show, Siam Naramit. And as a tourist visiting their shores, I can’t help but want to bring a piece of that tradition back to the Philippines with me.
The simplest, most uncomplicated way in doing this is through the souvenir shops lining the tourist traps in Phuket and Phang Nga. It may not be as deep as what “travelers” are supposed to bring back home, but it’s enough for me; a simple reminder, a memento, of my first trip to Thailand.
When do we shop? is a phrase I often hear from my companions in the Tigerair Philippines tour bus. And our tour guide, giving in to pressure, always brings us to souvenir stores at the end of the tour day. The first store she brought us to was the T-Shirt Factory in Phuket’s Patong City.
Twenty minutes she said, we still have a show to watch later! She sternly warned through a strained smile.
Everyone scrambled down, counting their bahts as they went along.
It’s the first souvenir store I’ve seen where a staff briefs the tourists first before letting them loose inside the store. He explained how this is where the cheapest Thai souvenir shirts can be bought and how much more it costs in Patong Beach. He then went on how the store is laid out; where to get your key chains, bags and everything else. Very efficient!
I got myself a couple of ref magnets and a few monk bags.
I’m a t-shirt person, but out of the hundreds of designs I saw framed on their wall, I just can’t find one that I liked. I really don’t dig the usual I Love Insert-Name-of-Place shirts, looking instead for simple but clever designs or those printed with funny local phrases.
I saw one from the stalls along Patong Beach that has this printed on its back: No, I Don’t Want a F*ckin’ Tuk Tuk, Suit or Massage, Thank You Very Much. It comes complete with a Thai translation in front which would really serves its purpose.
I would’ve instantly bought it if not for the profanity included; my mom would probably faint if she ever sees me wearing that. Besides, the typography left much to be desired.
For foodstuff, you can snack non-stop on Phuket’s cashew nuts.
We visited one of the stores specializing in this particular snack, Phuket’s Cashewy. They have these nuts in all the flavors possible; sweet, salty, garlicky, buttered, roasted, plain, chocolate, honey, coffee, fried, herbed, peppered, curried, spicy, really spicy, and wasabi spicy.
And the best thing? You’re free to taste them all without spending a single baht. I had not a few helpings of the spicy one.
For those wanting to bring home a piece of art, Patong City is replete with shops selling canvasses painted with all the usual Thai motifs like elephants, tigers and mythical creatures standing side by side with paintings of Bob Marley and Scarface.
If you’re worried about the shipping cost, there are also smaller suitcase-friendly versions of these masterpieces.
And I of course couldn’t leave Phuket without getting myself the requisite Starbucks Global Icon mugs from Starbucks.
The Phuket mug is printed with the traditional Thai long-tail boat, Ruea Hang Yao. And the Thailand mug is stamped with a jamine garland or Phuang Malai, which is commonly given as offerings or good luck.
It just sucked that I wasn’t able to buy the full-sized mugs, there being no more stocks until after I left back for Manila. I made do with the demitasse versions.