There are tons of shopping opportunities in Phuket — everything from real Thai crafts (silk, fabrics, wooden carvings, etc.) to upscale malls and giant supermarkets. You can get an expert, tailor made suit from scratch, made exactly to your specifications for $75-$150. Other Thai bargains are gold, silver, bronze, fabric, and wood carvings. Within 10 minutes of TMT (I’m from LA where we measure in drive minutes instead of miles) there is Tesco (a British chain like Target), Big C (a discount mega grocery store), and Central (a big mall and movie theater) We usually go to the mega-stores for groceries — I’ll cover the open-air grocery markets in a future blog.
I don’t have that gay shopping gene, and I really hate shopping for clothes, but I do love grocery shopping. If I’m bored at night in LA I go to Ralphs just for the bright lights and colors and aisle crawl. So it’s even more exciting for me to be in a place like Thailand, because even a grocery store provides thousands of crazy items waiting to be discovered. Grocery shopping is a great way to learn about a culture, and Thailand’s super low prices make it even more fun.
There are definitely some things to get used to with regard to groceries here… Trying to find some quality protein is almost impossible, because all they eat is pork pork pork… and fish. And they make everything into sausages and balls. Fish balls, pork balls, ham balls… I haven’t put so many balls in my mouth since–hey ho! Anyway. The meat aisles in the Thai supermarkets are rather shocking at first, because they’re set up like clearance racks at K-Mart. They just mound the raw meat into piles, and shoppers rifle through the meat, freely touching it with their hands, and tossing it into bags. You can practically feel the e coli in the air. Then there’s the package below, which Dan and I were convinced was frozen Golden Retriever.
There’s a lot of fish heads, random meat parts like knuckles and ears and other scary meat things, but overall the food choices are pretty great. The prepared food or “deli” sections are enormous and there is line after line and pile after pile of all kinds of delicious curries, pastes, noodles, sauces, cooked meats and rice dishes. The fruit is plentiful, fresh, and tropical, with loads of bananas and pineapple and mangosteen and my all-time favorite, pomelo, which is like a giant sweet grapefruit — I eat it every day. Wine is all imported, so it’s pretty expensive — I haven’t bought any while I’m here. They have a seemingly endless selection of snack foods like chips and puffs and crackers, but almost all of them are flavored with fish, or shrimp… or fish and shrimp. Or lobster and shrimp and fish. And what the hell is “pork floss?” Let’s take a look, shall we?