Now, I’m not exactly much of a shopaholic. Back in Canada, I’d actually gotten quite good at avoiding this activity, especially considering I basically go to school in one of the biggest malls in Toronto, the Eaton Centre. Not like I have anything against consumerism (as a business student, I don’t think that’s even allowed), I just don’t like buying things I don’t need. I’ve always had a soft spot for markets, vintage shopping, garage sales, basically anything with a crazy amount of random selection where prices are up for negotiation. In these places, you’re not scurrying around like a mall rat, you’re a treasure hunter, searching for your equivalent of a chest of gold buried under shelves and racks of comparative trash. When you find your prize, it’s a full-blown accomplishment!
For me, this basically made Bangkok Treasure Island. Entire streets are lined with stalls selling items that are “same same but different”, which is a popular Thai saying used to describe knock-offs. It’s such a famous phrase; they sell shirts that say it (not like that means a lot, they also sell used batteries)!
My first treasure chest was a pair of Thai fishing pants. I’d first seen the puffy mid-length pants years ago in a shop in Toronto, but resisted the temptation to buy them, telling myself “oh, I’ll just get a pair when I’m in Thailand, it’ll be so much more authentic”. Now, this was a really unreasonable excuse as I had absolutely no plans to go anywhere near Thailand at that point, but that was all I needed to back out of the sale (there’s a reason I’m not usually a shopaholic). However, now that I was actually in Thailand, my excuse was now void, and I decided it would be worthwhile to get the pants.
In western malls, I can easily see that my shopping indecisiveness tends to irritate sales people; I’ll spend an hour in a store and walk out with nothing. In Thai markets, I use this to my advantage like there’s no tomorrow. I waffled over which pants to buy like I was at a breakfast buffet and even changed my mind and began walking away from a store once the vendor had began bagging the pants (just before I paid). He ended up yelling after me and flicking me with an elastic band as I walked down the street to get me to come back and knocked the price down again, which I eventually agreed to. I had officially found my first piece of treasure!
For my first find, the treasure-pants were a pretty good score! Since they were a longer length, they make for acceptable temple-garb (many don’t allow you to enter if your knees are exposed) AND since they’re flow-y and made of a ridiculously light material, it also means that I don’t sweat myself into a puddle! PLUS they’re perfectly comfortable for long plane/bus rides when you’re back and forth between freezing AC and sweltering humidity. Basically, the perfect piece of clothing for travel since it works in virtually every scenario. I will now be referring to them as the Jack Sparrow’s compass of market purchases, because they me anywhere I want to go (and because Jack Sparrow is awesome, but that should be a given).