When shopping at the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai, Thailand,
you can save a lot of money if you know how to bargain Thai-style. There
is a wrong way and a right way, so know before you go.
When it comes to the open markets of Chiang Mai, most newly arrived
foreigners are steered directly either by guidebooks, travel agencies,
hotel desk clerks, and even tuk-tuk drivers to the Night Bazaar on Changklan
Road between Tha Phae and Loi Kroh Roads. This sizeable market, with
a gigantic, well-lit sign in English and surrounded by many familiar
food chains of the West, is no doubt most oriented to foreign tourists.
It's here where most Western visitors get their first taste of a traditional
Northern Thai shopping experience. Once amongst the tightly packed stalls,
visitors very soon become acquainted with the bargaining game.
When it comes to bargaining, there are a few things to remember. Asians
do not like to lose face, which is very important; however, they don’t
want you to lose face either. Here is how to bargain so no one loses
You first ask, “How much?” for an item. The vendor will
come back with a price and you say, “Too much,” and they
will come back with a 20% lower price. You offer about 50% lower than
the second price they gave you. They will smile and probably say nothing.
This means they know what you are doing. After a few seconds, they will
come back with a price around 20% lower again. You then put out a price
40% lower. They come back with maybe 25% lower. You go 30% lower and
hold. They will most likely sell it to you. This way, you can get the
item at the 50% discount you wanted, but they do not lose face - and
neither do you.
Try to make purchases all from the same shop or vendor and you can get
the price even lower. Do not pay for your items one at a time. Set your
first purchase aside, then bargain for a few more items. Put all your
items together and ask, “How much for all these?” When the
salesperson gives you a price, make an offer for 10% lower. If they say
no, start taking items off your pile and act like you just want to purchase
just the first item you bargained for. Nine times out of ten they will
say okay to your 10% additional discount.
There is everything available here, including handicrafts, food stuffs,
clothing and shoes, jewelry, ceramic knickknacks, and more. Many of the
items sold at shops inside the Night Bazaar building are of good quality
The vendors on the street sell cheap copied products made in China or
Burma and not true Thai handicrafts. One example is lacquer ware. The
high-quality lacquer-ware houses of Chiang Mai today still apply at least
seven coats of lacquer to each piece and allow approximately 1 week between
coatings for drying. The lacquer ware sold by vendors is very cheap and
painted with sprayed-on lacquer ware paint.
Remember, you get what you pay for. If you want T-shirts, knockoff designer
brands, or imitation handicrafts, the Night Bazaar vendors have what
you need. For high-quality handicrafts, textiles, shoes, and clothing
at great prices compared to prices in your home country, go to the shops
inside the Night Bazaar building.