Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Bangkok Bag

The most important product of my weekend trip to the Thai capital was making the acquaintance of 'the Bangkok bag.'
Let me explain. My wife was asked by a colleague to bring her a dark blue bag from Thailand. The brand she mentioned was Nantita, but when we started looking around in Bangkok, we soon found out that that company was apparently imitating a far more popular brand known as NaRaYa.
Its trademark 'Bangkok Bag' - known as such by its Taiwanese fans - has already achieved quite some popularity here in Taipei, and I know I've seen it around a lot, even though I didn't know it was imported from Thailand.
The NaRaYa bags are made of cloth, not leather, and have a big butterfly knot. They come in various colors, from dark blue over shiny sky blue to wine red, and even pink and grass green. Unfortunately, the model my wife's colleague wanted was no longer available. Another thing about the bags: they cost next to nothing. No 20,000 to 50,000 baht Gucci-style prices here, but only a bare 175 baht and up. Yes, that's 5 US dollars or about 150 New Taiwan dollars and up.
The two NaRaYa stores we found were located on the corner of Sukhumvit Road Soi 24 behind the Emporium (Phrom Phong Skytrain station), and inside the Central World shopping mall (between Siam and Chitlom stations).
By the way, the Central World mall shows a seemingly typical Bangkok phenomenon: the mall is officially opened to the public way before construction work is finished. The side close to Sukhumvit still looked like a construction site, so much so that they put up boards telling you that, yes, Central World is open. But even inside the half that is finished, lots of stores are still boarded up and waiting for their occupants. That'll be something for my next visit.
I did find two expensive - by Thai standards - shirts for myself at the Siam Center mall, at a place called 'Dapper.' The shirts cost more than 1,000 baht each, one has white and blue stripes with a flowery design down below, while the other one fades from harsh red at the top, over pink to near white at the bottom. Both shirts have short sleeves, which is the only kind of sleeve you want in Thailand.
Remember: if you buy sufficient items in Thailand, you can get a VAT (Value Added Tax) refund at the airport. There are several conditions though. You have to get a PP10 form from the shops where you bought the goods - and not all stores are in on the VAT scheme - my 'Dapper' shirt store wasn't - and you have to spend at least 2,000 baht at each store for a total of at least 5,000 baht.
And at the airport you have to remember to have the forms stamped after you check in your luggage but before you pass the customs check. Finally, after the customs check, you can get your refunds. In our case, the normal refund desk was closed and we had to rush over to an office at departure gate D1. The last surprise was that they take a 100 baht handling fee from your refund, so if your total VAT sum was only around 100 baht, just don't bother with the whole procedure. All in all, Bangkok is still a great shopping destination for both clothing, cultural artifacts, and design.


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