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Bangkok

damnoen saduak floating market bangkok thailandBangkok offers a wealth of shopping opportunities -- as well as a chance to hone your haggling skills! In all but the largest malls and department stores, prices are subject to negotiation. (For bargaining tips, see Shopping Abroad: A Traveler's Guide.) A good souvenir is Thai silk, which has been a sought-after commodity ever since the first Western travelers made their way to Southeast Asia. Look for ties, scarves, robes and dresses. Many talented tailors are also available to custom-design clothing for you.

If you've got time on a Saturday or Sunday, take the Skytrain to the Mo Chit station, and head directly to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. This place throbs with action, as thousands of vendors hawk their wares to some 200,000 visitors each day. Spread across 25 acres, stalls are organized according to the merchandise sold -- housewares, clothing, ceramics, amulets and antique Buddhas, live animals, etc. Prices are fair, and bargaining is encouraged and expected. If you're looking for Thai crafts (bronzeware, lacquerware, silk items), you'll find them here. Chatuchak can be chaotic, so do yourself a favor and purchase Nancy Chandler's Map of Bangkok, which charts, stall by stall, each vendor at this market, as well as those on Sukhumvit Road and in Chinatown, Greater Bangkok, Central Bangkok and Banglamphu.

The Damnoen Saduak floating market is a must-visit for any newcomer to Bangkok. About an hour and a half outside of the city (in Ratchaburi Province), you'll find this busy khlong, clogged with long-tail boats piled high with every type of fruit and vegetable imaginable. This is mainly a produce market, but you'll also find typical souvenir items. Take a taxi or hire a private car, and spend a few hours exploring. It's a typical tourist trap, but you'll get some amazing photographs to show your friends and family back home.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a Bangkok visitor who hasn't stopped in at least one jewelry store. There, you'll find excellent deals on sapphires and rubies, and Thai jewelers are very adept at custom-designing or copying pieces of jewelry. Shop at reputable stores -- not those recommended by your tuk-tuk driver -- and know how much similar gems or gold would cost here at home. One favorite is Venus Jewelry.
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