Buying Thai Silk in Bangkok

Thai silk for sale at the Silk Zone in Bangkok
A Thai silk shop at the Silk Zone in Bangkok. The “Silk Zone” has many different silk shops all offering authentic Thai silk at market prices.

I’m asked where to buy Thai silk in Bangkok more than any other question about this legendary fabric.

Over the decades, I have come and gone from this confusing megalopolis countless times, but I rarely purchased Thai silk fabric there. That’s because I buy almost all my silk where it’s woven, either Esaan (Northeastern Thailand) or Lamphun Province.

But I understand that many of you cannot travel to the rural villages that produce Thai silk. Many of you are travelling to Thailand for the first time and will spend a few days seeing the sights in Bangkok and then head south to the dazzling beaches of Phuket, Krabi or Samui.

You need a silk shop in Bangkok that you can trust for authenticity and a fair price.

Buying Silk in Bangkok
When buying silk you need to spread out the fabric and closely look at it. I only buy Thai silk from shops that specialize in it and have a large inventory.

So recently I posed the question to my wife’s niece who has lived in Bangkok for 30 years, “where’s the best place to buy good quality Thai silk in Bangkok at a fair price?

And I must add that my wife’s niece is not a debutante with fabrics, especially Thai fabrics. She started her own apparel company in Bangkok 25 years ago making school uniforms and has been quite successful. She knows Bangkok and its fabric shops and loves Thai silk.

She first took me to a couple of underwhelming silk shops that were conveniently located near the hotel my wife and I were staying. Their silk stock was old and the shop owners even older and quite gruff. They didn’t want anyone touching and inspecting the fabric unless they were assured you’d buy. Not the kind of place I’d buy from and certainly not the kind of silk shop I’d recommend to anyone.

Shopping for Thai silk
Photo Left: Mudmee Silk. Photo Right: Brocaded Thai silk. At Bangkok’s Silk Zone, the botique owners will allow you to touch and feel their fabrics. That’s crucial for you to develop an expertise in how authentic Thai silk feels. Hint-it’s not a soft, lightweight fabric.

I described to my wife’s niece in more detail exactly what I was looking for. Silk shops that I could recommend to my blog readers who may be looking to buy the fabric for the first time. I wanted to recommend a Bangkok silk source where they could not only purchase with confidence that they were buying authentic Thai silk at a reasonable price, but where they could also learn and develop their own expertise about the fabric.

We drove to mid-town Bangkok and struck gold. While I’m sure there are many fine silk shops scattered across Bangkok, I enthusiastically recommend the following:

The Silk Zone in Bangkok

The Silk Zone
2nd Floor, Old Siam Plaza
Parurad Rd., Wang Burapha Phirom
Pra Nakhon, Bangkok

The Silk Zone is actually a couple dozen independent silk shops located on the 2nd floor of the Old Siam Plaza. It’s the largest concentration of silk shops in a single location that I’m aware of in Bangkok.

But my recommendation is based on more than just the quantity of silk shops in near proximity to each other. Every silk shop at the Silk Zone offers a modern selection of quality brocades, mudmees, dupioni, and plain weave Thai silk fabrics. I inspected their inventories closely and all shops offered authentic Thai silk at market rates.

Plain Woven Thai silks in Bangkok
Always buy Thai silk from a vendor that specializes in the fabric. A large inventory is a clue that the vendor is legitimate.

I spent the afternoon talking to different silk shop owners and they all happily allowed me to closely inspect their inventory. This includes spreading out the fabric, touching it, and comparing bolts. This is exactly how I shop for silk in the rural villages of Esaan.

A fabric store in the "Silk Zone" in Bangkok. The owner onced worked as a sericulturist for Jim Thompson in Korat. I purchased the bolt of mudmee silk that's being displayed for $90. A decent price.
Tim Thai Silk at the Silk Zone. They own silk shops in Korat and Bangkok. I purchased this bolt of mudmee silk the owner is holding up for about $90 (US). A pretty decent price.

Here’s a few specific recommendations of silk shops at The Silk Zone:

  • Tim Thai Silk: Room S-206. Phone: +66 (0)84658 8887 or +66 (0)2623 9898. A small but very good silk shop. The owner used to be a sericulturist for Jim Thompson in Korat.
  • The Queen of Thai Silk: Room 203-4. Owner: Vannipa Ponata. Phone: 02-2212244. Very good quality silks, and also some cotton fabrics. The owner specializes in Praewa Silk from Kalasin.
  • Chalong Thai Silk: Room S-208. Phone: (Cell) 061-51788867/Store: 092-7142952. A great silk shop for plain weave silk. Every color of the rainbow. A decent selection of mudmee.
  • Mai Tho Goen: Room S-214. Phone: 091-029-1193/081-492-9877. Very high-end brocades. Top quality silk fabric and a very friendly owner who loves to show her wares and talk silk.

Tips for Avoiding Ripoffs!

fake-silk-1
Almost all alleged “Thai Silk” found at tourist markets or souviener shops are fake. This fabric is 100% polyester, eventhough it has a sewn label claiming to be 100% Thai silk.

I wrote a comprehensive buying guide for Thai silk entitled “Thai Silk: A Buyer’s Guide“. I highly recommend you read that blog entry to educate yourself about Thai silk in general and specifically how to distinguish between authentic Thai silk and counterfeits. Knowledge is power.

Let me just mention a few important facts about buying Thai silk fabric:

  • Thai silk is not sold at night bazzars, tourist markets, or “walking streets”. Ninety-nine percent of alleged Thai silk at these locations are polyester ripoffs. At best you’ll find something called “noi silk” or “raw silk” (a misnomer) which is the cheapest, lowest quality silk in The Kingdom and shouldn’t even be confused with real Thai silk.
  • The Golden Rule-know your silk vendor. You may be a novice at buying Thai silk, but that shouldn’t stop you from making a wise purchase. The best way to protect yourself from buying a counterfeit or paying way too much is to know your seller. Only buy from vendors who appear legitimate (Example: A vendor that has a dedicated silk shop and a large inventory of silk fabric is probably legit.) Never buy from a guy at a night market whose total inventory is on a card table or spread on the ground. Yikes!
  • The Price Test. Thai silk is an expensive fabric. There are no bargains with Thai silk, only fair deals. Prices can easily range from $100 (US) for a 1.5 meter bolt of mudmee silk all the way to $3,000 for a bolt of the finest brocaded silk. You can’t buy a bolt of Thai silk for $10-$20. (That wouldn’t even pay for the silk yarns needed to weave it.) That’s why it’s never sold at tourist markets. (If you went to a tourist market and bought a “Rolex” for $50, do you think its authentic?”) The price test is nothing more than using common sense.
  • Authentic Thai silk is rarely bargained for, and even then the price reduction is usually less than 5%. If a “silk” vendor first offers a bolt at $100 (US), but when he sees you heading for the door, lowers his price to $75, run, don’t walk out the door. If you buy from this type of vendor, you’re going to get ripped off and end up with a pile of polyester.
The owner of Queen of Thai Silk in Bangkok
The owner of “Queen of Thai Silk” at her shop in the silk zone. She offers excellent Thai silk and cotton fabrics along with a selection of Praewa Silk.
Praewa Silk for sale
Praewa silk displayed at the “Queen of Thai Silk” silk shop. Praewa silk is legendary. These large bolts sell for $1,000 – $3,000 (US). Only legitimate Thai silk shops will carry this high-end fabric. You can know a silk vendor by the inventory she keeps.
Silk Dressmaker's Shop in Bangkok
A Thai silk dressmaker’s shop on the 1st floor of the Old Siam Plaza. These shops will offer you a decent selection of quality Thai silk and make whatever apparel from it you like for one single price. The costs for the outfits seen in this photo start at about $700 (US) depending on the silk chosen.

For more info about Thai silk and other Thai fabrics, please peruse “The Thai Fabric Chronicles”. And remember, Thai silk is a gateway to an old-style Thailand that’s quickly disappearing. In the world of Thai silk, the journey is always as rewarding as the destination.

The Thai Fabric Chronicles

 

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