Pattaya has a fabulous range of shops and markets catering for all tastes. From the very expensive to the incredibly cheap (particularly by Western standards), you can find it all here. While the quality of some of the goods can vary greatly from stall to stall and shop to shop, even those who usually hate shopping enjoy finding a bargain here.
It’s pretty difficult to leave Pattaya without some extra luggage, whether you’re looking for local handicrafts, precious gems or just a fake Rolex to show off at home. Remember, however, that you get what you pay for and the quality of goods here is far lower than you would expect at home. Money-back guarantee is a vague concept, so check the goods thoroughly first and avoid buying the cheapest models.
Pattaya’s geography as a seaside resort makes shopping particularly easy for the visitor and expat alike. Most of the tourist type shops are located on Beach Road, or the parallel Second Road, and on the many sois (lanes) in between, particularly in South and Central Pattaya. Here, you will find bewildering displays of local handicrafts: ceramics, carvings, Buddhist art, clothing for all tastes, and the occasional real antique. But be prepared to bargain; particularly in the tourist areas where the opening gambit is always several times more than you should be paying.
A good rule of thumb is to cut the vendor’s price at least in half and work up from there. For example, a 300-baht t-shirt can probably be bargained down to around 180-200 baht. Nonetheless, the vendor’s in the busy spots are charged big on their pitch and are trying to make a living, so don’t be silly with your bargaining to the point where you miss out on something that truly is value for money.
Running the entire block between Beach Road and Second Road are Mike Shopping Mall (next to Soi 11) and Royal Garden Plaza (between Soi Post Office and Soi Pattayaland, Soi 13/1), which both have free toilets and air-conditioning. In Royal Garden you’ll find a mixture of traditional craftwear, fashionable labels, clothes shops, two bookshops catering to the English-language market, camera stores, mobile phone vendors, and even a Boots pharmacy. Be warned, however, bus tours from Taiwan, China, Korea and Japan tend to descend on Mike Shopping Mall from 19:00 for an hour or two.
The latest shopping centre to open its doors is the Central Festival Pattaya Beach, which occupies a large area immediately south of Soi 9 (opposite the Soi 9 Police Station). It has quickly drawn an enormous amount of business away from many of the other tourist-oriented shopping centres, with practically everything a shopper would need being catered for. Iit even has a ladies-only carpark floor.
Regardless of what you’re shopping for, Thailand is very cheap, and this includes clothing, electronic goods and general household items, which is why the shopping malls are tourist attractions themselves. Big C is a large mall opposite Soi 3 on Second Road and consists of four air-conditioned floors with a multiscreen cinema, large two-floor supermarket downstairs (catering for Thai and foreign customers) and a large retail area with everything from the latest TVs to reasonably priced designer clothing. The rest of the complex is full of small and large shops and stalls full of clothes, cameras, mobile phones, handicrafts of all types, printers, pictures, good restaurants and pretty much everything ‘buyable’. It’s open until 23.00.
Tops is a small supermarket located at the corner of Second Road and Central Pattaya Road (Pattaya Klang). Relatively expensive, it is much used by tourists staying in the hotels nearby and those in sois 7 and 8.
Walking Street, more famous as the ‘International Meeting Place’ at night, transforms during the day to a quiet street with some very expensive shops catering for the more discerning antique lover, and has some lovely upmarket establishments full of exquisitely carved jade, Buddha statues, high class jewellers, delicate wooden ship models and more gold.
If you’re thinking of overhauling your business wardrobe, then Thailand is your answer, and you can get a tailor-made suit made up in less than 24 hours for knock-down prices. While the quality does vary, some of the best (and more expensive) tailors can be found in all the main tourist areas. They can make almost any style (even the famous labels) and offer a wide range of fabrics to choose from. Tailors here usually promote a set that includes three suits and a couple of tailored silk shirts, plus ties thrown in, for US$250-$300. Thai silk is not only good quality, but comparatively cheap. Thais are superb craftsmen, and this applies to clothes just as much as the more traditional skills. These tailors certainly are good value and can replicate any famous label design (chosen from a catalogue) within 24 hours. Don’t forget to bargain hard!
In Pattaya you’re rarely more than 100m from a 7-11. There are dozens of them here and more opening every day. This is convenient for grabbing a few beers for the beach, changing that 1,000 baht note, or picking up a quick snack.
The further you get away from the beach, the more you enter the real Thai community and the shops reflect this. Gift shops are replaced by gold shops, fake watch stalls replaced by dentists and cosmetic surgery clinics, McDonalds by 30-baht noodle shops and stalls, go-go bars by karaokes; although 7-11’s and Family Marts are now fast replacing the small owner-operated mini-marts.
Further away from the tourist area are the large department stores such as Big C (one entrance off South Pattaya Road with the main entrance on Sukhumvit) and Tesco-Lotus (on Sukhumvit Road and another on North Pattaya Road), which are very useful for long staying residents who need to stock up for their apartments and like to find some Western familiarity. A Makro bulk-buy supermarket opened on Sukhumvit in 2009, a few hundred metres south of the main entrance to Tesco-Lotus.
If you’re staying in Naklua or Jomtien, you will probably find that South and Central Pattaya have the best shopping.