The major villages of Chaweng, Nathon, Lamai and Maenam all have central commercial districts. Nathon is ideal for daytime shopping with a very wide variety of stores and a market. Chaweng has many high street shops and also at night, open late, a street market, and the newly opened Tesco Lotus superstore where you can many well known branded items.
Many souvenirs, clothes, jewelry etc. are produced on mainland Thailand and brought to Samui. By comparison to Bangkok or Chiang Mai some products may not seem like the bargains you had hoped they would be. But they are still likely to be less expensive than they are where you live! Try to make the best purchase possible by getting a fair price.
A bargaining tip: Smile when you say "That seems a little expensive!" Thai merchants do not respond well to aggressive, loud, or insistent tactics. You may consider yourself a good negotiator, but remember that in the Land of Smiles, the friendlier and calmer you remain, the better deal you are likely to get.
Here are a selection of handicrafts and souvenirs that are available on Koh Samui.
Colourful, small flowers, carved skillfully from soap, and placed in nice lacqered boxes, can be brought from many roadside stalls. With a bit of luck you can watch how such a delicate flower is carved from an ordinary bar of soap.
Wall hangings can be bought in so many styles and fabrics that it will be easy to find soemthing you like. The example in the photo shows; Elephants on cloth, heaverly embroidered with gold thread and imitation gems.
There is a large variety of items available; ranging from a small bag to large piece of furnitire. The prices are not too high, and large items can easily shipped overseas.
A wide selection of skillfully crafted jewellery is found on Koh Samui. You can buy Thai gold that contains a much higher percentage of gold and is therefore much softer than 18 and 24 karat gold associated with the west.
A number of gem stones, like rubies and sapphires are mined in Thailand, other are imported places such as Cambodia and Vietnam. Bangkok is one of the biggest gem trading centres in the world.
Unless you are an expert, it is good advise to purchase jewellery only in established shops. This way you may avoid adding one more complaint to the Tourist Authourity of Thailand about jewellery scams.
Ceramics have been produced in Thailand for hundreds of years. Many styles show a Chinese influence. Bue there are some types that are distinctively Thai. One of them is Celadon; easily recognizable by its characteristic cracked patina over a very light green glaze. A second one is Bencharong, with its colourful enamelled surface. You can buy a small pot or a complete dinner set.
You can buy many high quality hand carved items from figurines to furniture. Items made from coconut wood are a produced locally on Samui and can be found at Hin Ta Hin Yai (Granfather and Grandmother Rocks) as well as at many roadside stalls.
Handwoven Thai silk is famous all over the world. Silk production in Thailand dates back to ancient times. It was beginning to die out when Jim Thompson, after the Second World War put all his effort in reviving the ancient tradition of silk production, centered mostly in the North and North-East of Thailand, it has become a booming export business. The uneven and slightly rough texture of Thai silk is not a sign of poor quality, it means that the cloth was made without artificial processesing.
A great variety of silk items, such as ties, shirts, dresses, cushions are available, you can also have your clothes tailored to your measurements.
Masks and puppets have traditionally been used for dance performances and puppet shows in Thailand. Although performances have become rare, masks and puppets are still sold as souvenirs. You can buy shadow puppets, skillfully cut out from buffalo skin. Furthermore there ia a wide selection of marionettes, rod puppets, masks of ancient gods and demons.
The production of lacquerware consists of applying several layers of lacquer on wood. Delicate, hand painted motives and patterns are then applied with either gold or coloured paint.
Beautiful, charming Thai antiques, ranging from ceramics, tapestries, statues, puppets to baskets, cabinets, doors and temple artifacts are available on the island. If you want to purchase a genuine Thai antique, be very careful. A whole industry has been setup to in order to produce first quality reproductions. Buy from a reputable shop. An export permit is required for every antique and buddha image. Some of the antique shops can arrange this for you.
Fake goods are widley available on Koh Samui. They can be of high quality. Do you fancy wearing a Rolex watch, Channel T-shirt or Quicksilver shorts? All that and much more can be purchased from market stalls. A wide selection of CDs, VCDs and DVDs are also for sale. One thing to keep in mind is do not overpay, Original VCDs can be bought for around 100 Baht, copies of new cinema movies usuallay are of very low quality, Its better to go for the master DVD copies (usually available 1-3 months after theatrical release), they always comes with an number of subtilte and spoken languages, and are all available in Dolby Digital / DTS with supperb widescreen picture, you should not pay more than 100 - 150 Baht for a DVD copy. Dont be worried that customs officers may confiscate fakes, this rarly ever happen.