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We’re going to Thailand and Hong Kong!

[image: cat at Wat Chaimongkol by mookE]

As the relentless Winter rain begins to soak into our bones (and our basement), we’re taking the opportunity to go somewhere much warmer.

Next month, we’ll be taking a trip first to Hong Kong, then to Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Thailand has long been on my list of must-visit places, and I am over the moon about finally getting to see it. It will actually be my first trip to Asia (but I’m sure it won’t be the last).

We’ve gotten a lot of tips from a friend who lived in Bangkok for several years, but I am certain you all have your own tips to pass along. You were so helpful with recommendations on our last trips to Sweden, Denmark, and Buenos Aires.

All thoughts and suggestions are welcome (though fabric shopping ideas are especially helpful)!

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On , Jo Roulson said:

How funny, yesterday I booked a 2 week trip to Thailand for my husband and I in February! We are going to Koh Samui and spending a few days in Bangkok. I will keep a keen eye on the suggestions that come in – I can make good use of them too!
Jo

On , karen said: | welovesewing-manila.blogspot.com

Bangkok: Jim Thompson outlet store ( 153 Sukhumvit Soi 93, Bangkok) both garments and upholstery silks and cottons, beautiful and much cheaper than in their mall shops. They also have cute gift items (frames, cosmetic bags, jewellery rolls) made out of their fabrics. Ask the hotel for directions how to get there. If I remember its about a 15min train ride plus 5 mins by taxi from where I stayed last time I went. Anita Silk 298/2 Silom Road, Bangkok: Thai silk in a beautiful store, lots of gift items too. Hongkong: Sham Shui Po Fabric Market – haven’t been there myself yet but its’ supposed to be fabricolics heaven! Check out http://apair-andaspare.blogspot.com/2011/04/rummaging-at-sham-shui-po-fabric-market.html. Have fun!

On , Joanne said: | stitchandwitter.com

Chiang mai is wonderful! There are numerous fabulous tours out of the city to meet some of the hillside tribes and there is also a fantastic elephant sanctuary where you can go and look after rescue elephants. Such a lovely place and so very different from the madness of bangkok! Have a wonderful time!

On , Pennie said:

Hi Sarai!
I just got back from Hong Kong, and it is so cool to get a suit made- you’re a sewist, so you’ll appreciate how quickly they pull it together and how they do the fit. May I recommend Tommy Wong? He’s nestled in a mall across from the Holiday Inn on Nathan Road.
My husband and I went to an outlying island for a day in Hong Kong too- Cheung Chau- just a ferry ride away. It was wonderful. Enjoy!!!

On , Laura said:

Hi Sarai,

My Daughter lives in China, so I’ve been to Hong Kong as well as Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I recommend you go to the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok. Incredible! An interesting mix of textiles, antiquities, and mid-century design. Absolutely inspiring as well as beautiful. I bought the book, “The House on the Klong” and it inspires me often.

Also, if you have the opportunity, and you want to spend the time and money, go have tea at The Oriental. It’s Old Bangkok and is served in the old wing of the hotel (circa 1860s). Have the Thai tea, which is delicious. The service is stunning and the dress is gorgeous. In Hong Kong, again, if you have the time, go up Victoria Mountain, and down to Stanley. Beautiful! The architecture in Stanley is really interesting (at least to me). Visit The Peninsula, another old established hotel and, again, have tea. I love how they serve iced tea with simple syrup.

In Chiang Mai we visited a silk factory and learnt about the history of Thai silk production and watched how silk is hand woven. Fascinating! It took me about two hours to buy what I wanted, the choices were so vast. We were with Thai friends, so I am sorry I cannot help you with where we were; but if you ask around, I am sure you can be directed. The mountains were such a contrast to Bangkok.

I am sure you will be visiting the Buddhist Temple in Bangkok. Dress conservatively: long ankle-length pants/skirt, shoulders and décolleté covered to the elbow IIRC. Sandals are fine. When we went there with my Family, my Grandson, 18-months old at the time, was in a stroller wearing shorts. It took three monks to finally decide he was okay in his shorts! Local custom and respect for the Emerald Buddha (which is a must-see).

Enjoy your holiday! I found all three places to be absolutely delightful and I am looking forward to returning.

On , christine said: | christinehaynes.blogspot.com

fun! I have no advice as I’ve never been, but I’m excited for you guys! have a blast and I can’t wait to see photos (and fabric)!!!

On , Rebecca said:

My beautiful children gave me a trip to Bangkok for my 50th birthday and arranged for a friend from Switzerland to meet me there (all in secret and a bit tricky to line up from Sydney). I bought fabric from the Chinese quarter – lots of fabric shops both in malls and street stalls. Very cheap and lots of choice ie cheap cottons, slight more exy laces and silks. Very few fabrics labelled with content so you need to guess by feel. Also, agree with recommendation for Jim Thompson’s house. Lovely spot to shop and also nice place to sit and have a cold drink in attached cafe. Don’t forget the highlight there which is looking through his house. The book is also a great read. Chatuchak weekend markets are also fantastic. Huge huge huge. Didn’t see any fabric but only touched on a tiny bit. Lots of ideas for clothing and beautiful bits and pieces like little coins to add to clothes etc.

On , SarahZip said:

I have been to Thailand and would highly recommend the Chatuchak weekend market. It’s huge and overwhelming but divided into sections for all the various wares and animals. There are lots of silk vendors there. Plan to spend the whole day and just take it all in.

I’m traveling to HKG in a couple weeks (as well as Taipei, Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo) and am eager to read suggestions for fabric stores in HKG. Enjoy your trip!

On , Miss Crayola Creepy said: | misscrayolacreepy.blogspot.com

When you told me about this in Oakland I was super jealous :) I can’t wait to hear about your adventures!

On , Aesoon Lee said:

Dear Sarai,
I am a follower of your blog and have bought and sewn some of your patterns. I currently live in Hong Kong and would like to suggest that you visit Sham Shui Po on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. Depending on when you’ll be here, I would love to give you a tour of Sham Shui Po as it’s a difficult place to navigate by yourself the first time. SSP is known for for fabrics and notions.
Please let me know,
Aesoon Lee
p.s. Ken may recognize my name because he very kindly sent me a pdf file of a collar for the anis jacket because I misplaced the original pattern.

On , Liz said: | busylizzieinbrizzy.blogspot.com.au

In Thailand – agree the Chatachuk markets are fabulous – a little overwhelming as they are huge however they are kind of organised into types of wares. Near Chang Mai is a place called Lampang which is an elephant sanctuary that you can either visit or even stay at and volunteeer if you have time. It is an amazing experience, although a little sad as many elephants have been injured in the landmines and are being nursed to recovery. Also visit Kanchanaburi (about 2 hours from Bangkok) for the Tiger Sanctuary where you can spend time up close with the tigers. Day tours to here also include the Bridge over the River Kwai which is fascinating from a history perspective.
In Hong Kong there are so many wonderful markets to visit and the food is amazing. Definitely take the Star Ferry at night to get a view of the Harbour etc, Victoria Peak is also great for views but of course these are all standard touristy destinations.
Have a wonderful trip!

On , Cherie said:

Bangkok is wonderful! The people are friendly, the food is wonderful and the culture is amazing (although the drivers are crazy).We hired a licensed tour guide at the Grand Royal Palace. Mr. Boonsang was worth every Baht. For about $15.00 we had our very own cultural guide, a history lesson and he watched our shoes “to secure from loss” while we were in the temples. Our trip also included bringing home our son so it was one I will always rememer with a smile.

On , Mirza said: | letstweedagain.blogspot.hk

I live in Hong Kong, and I would absolutely most definitely recommend going to Sham Shui Po. It’s an amazing place where you have all the shops “linked” to the factories in China. So basically, any fabric, button, ribbon which is made in China (which is a lot!) will be available for sale in a shop in Sham Shui Po. It’s really sewing paradise! You have to know though that not all shops have good prices. For buttons, you can buy as many as you want, they will always label it as “sample” and make you pay around HKD30 (if it’s more, you should bargain). For fabric, if you buy it on the streets, it should cost between HKD12 and HKD30 (for wool) a yard. And zippers cost HKD1 a piece (yup, that’s true)!
You can also go to the Western Market in Sheung Wan, the building is beautiful, the fabric is a lot more expensive, but if you’re looking for high quality wool/cashmere, you can find it there!
I’d also recommend having drinks at the red bar or the G bar in the IFC, for the amazing view; or/and at the wooloomooloo in Wan Chai, they have a rooftop bar with one of the best views; or/and at the Salon de Ning at the basement of the Peninsula, they have live music in a really cool old school setting.
Oh, and Hong kong in one month is going to be freezing!

On , Anne Sharkey said: | tulleandtweed.com

Its over 20 years since I was in Hong Kong and it was British colony at the time. I toured with a Ballet company so spent quite a bit of time there. I recall Stanley Market was the “go to” place and it sold everything. I bought a 12ft long damask tablecloth and 24 matching napkins – I was in my twenties at the time and getting married, I was obviously envisaging lavish dinner parties! So be prepared to buy things you never knew you needed!
Its a place of wonder a real culture shock, a time of your life trip.

On , Anne said: | schnitzelbahn.com

I lived in Bangkok for a few years and HIGHLY recommend the Jim Thompson outlet Karen mentioned. They have fine silks and damasks and tons of great gifts.

Sampeng Lane in Chinatown is kind of the fabric district. There’s a good map and detailed info at http://bkkquilt.com/sampeng/. She focuses on cotton, but there’s a wide variety.

For a good variety of fabrics (including cottons, silks, linen, and even suit fabrics), there’s a great fabric store at the SW corner of Sukhumvit and Asok. I don’t know the name of it, but it’s right at the corner and is next to the stairs of Exit 4 on the map (http://www.bangkok.com/images/bts/bts-E4-asok.gif) from the Asok skytrain station. I haven’t been in a couple of years but usually stock up on fabrics there.

Other than that, definitely try the pomelo salad at Baan Khanitha (and the red duck curry, the beef massamun curry, the wing bean salad…it’s all great there) and get some Khao Soi in Chiang Mai.

Have a great trip!

On , Francesca said:

What fun! I went to HK years ago. Stanley Market was great for cashmere sweaters – they lasted so well too. I bought great silk and heavy cashmere for a coat, and very fine linen for summer dresses, all from the same shop – there are loads of great fabric shops. Be prepared for an extremely different concept of personal space it was a huge culture shock for me – like in Spain, people kind of relaxed into you on the train….
You really should try to take in the islands – we went to Macao, which was totally difrerent with great food – Portuguese/Asian fusion. And some of the smaller ones, a couple of which you could actually drive on to.

On , Anita said:

Look up Nightlight International before you go. They are an NGO that rescues women from human trafficking situations in the sex industry and they make beautiful Jewelry. You may want to make a stop. Annie Dieselberg, the founder and director is the sweetest lady that you could ever meet!

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

I want to thank everyone for the wonderful recommendations! I’m even more excited now.

On , Claire said:

Others have already recommended it, but I want to add to the chorus: don’t miss Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong!!! It is heaven. You’ll find so many beautiful things there to use in your sewing. The button shops are my favourite – incredible!

On , Vicki said: | anothersewingscientist.blogspot.com

Hi Sarai – It’s been to both HK territories and Thailand, and the first recommendation I have is EAT EAT EAT! The best food on earth! I second the recommendation for Chatuchak (sp?) market in Bangkok, but leave lots of time – it’s huge. HK was colder than I expected in January, so be sure to bring a windbreaker or extra layer.

If you are going to be in the northeast, I would highly recommend crossing over into Laos for at least a few days. I loved the area around Vientiane and bought many, many beautiful fabrics at the markets, and you can visit the silk weaving factories and the showrooms. The markets always have gorgeous cotton batik sarongs for sale for a few dollars.

If not, then the beaches are some of the best on earth.

On , WP said: | willowpear.com

Second and third and fourth the recommendation to go to Sham Shui Po in HK. People and sellers are nice, but don’t be afraid to bargain (you can use a calculator). It can be extremely overwhelming, but absolutely worth it. If they don’t have it, it is not available. So much so that it might help to have a general plan so you don’t have to get an extra suitcase. They sell those there, too, though, when needed. : ) Also, yes, EAT in HK. Go for dim sum…pick a place that looks big and loud and busy and go there. Just point at what you want. HK is also very good for vegetarians…lots of veggie Indian food and vegan dim sum. I have also been to the Dessert Buffet at the Grand Hyatt Wan Chai more times than I would like to admit. Agree that Macao makes a lovely day trip; very easy to catch the ferry/hydrofoil from Sheung Wan (very close to Western Market…they do have nice fabric there, but SSP is better and less touristy), plus you get an extra cool passport stamp. If you like biking and the weather is cooperating, rent bikes and go around Sai Kung; off the beaten track, but oh so lovely. I would avoid the recommendation in tour books to go to the Ladies Market: used to be nice but now just junk. Finally, the secret (shhhh!!) to excellent HK shopping, or anything for that matter, is to “look up.” So many incredible stores and wholesale places are located in non-descript high-rises with only small signs.

On , Johanna said:

I was just in HK last week for a family reunion/wedding — I also recommend Sham Shui Po! FYI there is a very brief article in the Fall 2009 issue of Stitch magazine on fabrics/notions shopping in HK, but you can probably find all you need on the internet.

This website gives a good visual rundown on markets (scroll down for Western Market and Sham Shui Po):
http://www.hongkongextras.com/markets.html

In Sham Shui Po there is a ramshackle but absolutely packed fabric market which I believe is across the street from the police station — you can see the address (and get an idea of what it’s like) in this Flickr set:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/hongkongviews/sets/72157632103290139/with/8220226605/

Lastly non-fabric related, be sure to go up to Victoria Peak if you’re there on a clear day — the view is amazing! And if you have time take a ride on the HK Island trolley– it’s slow but if you sit on the top you get a terrific visual tour – all for about 25 cents. You could get on in the Sheung Wan area (where Western Market is) and ride to Causeway Bay, a teeming shopping area which also has lots of places to eat.

Enjoy!

On , Christine Nielsen said:

I hope you have a lovely time in Asia. Next month will be our tenth trip to Asia so it shows how much we love the area. Thank you to all your tips for Thailand. This trip we are visiting Thailand and Cambodia.

On , Karen said:

Was in Thailand in October and everything others have said about Chatuchak (overwhelming & huge weekend market), Jim Thompson outlets store (and don’t forget to visit his antique-filled home which also has a great restaurant and watch the express ferry boats skim by). The stores around the Oriental hotel are filled with stainless , sterling, silk and gold pieces that are reasonable. Don’t forget to get a few massages–foot massages are my favorite as they include legs and shoulders, too. All the temples are amazing-so many to see. Queen Sirikut(sp?) has a display of her lovely gowns and Thai handicrafts at the Palace museum. And the lovely karsts & special islands can be viewed from day boat trips out of Phuket–we loved http://www.phuketsailtours.com/. Wear layers as the buildings and metro are freezing compared to the outside temps. ENJOY!!

On , ms. modiste said: | msmodiste.blogspot.com

I just arrived home from a two week trip to Thailand, the last five days of which we spent in Chiang Mai. Here are my best suggestions (and no, for the record I don’t work with/for any of them!):

1. Buy yourself a copy of the Nancy Chandler map of Chiang Mai. You can order it in advance online (http://www.nancychandler.net/product.asp?pId=12) and the price (including shipping) is almost identical to the price we paid to pick it up in the airport gift shop. The map is gorgeous to look at and SO much more helpful than a traditional map. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

2. Take a cooking class at A Lot of Thai (http://www.alotofthai.com/). Yui is an amazing teacher and chef and the food is so delicious and easy to make. The cost includes both pick up and drop off at your hotel/guest house. The class is taught at her home, which is simply and efficiently set up for this purpose (max class size is 9 people, which was perfect.) Try to sign up for a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday class – the menu is great. (Have fun checking out the simple snapshots on her wall of her cooking with Gordon Ramsay and Michael Smith. No big deal.)

3. If you are inclined to do animal-related activities, I really do recommend doing a lot of research ahead of time. The one thing that consistently made me sad in Thailand were animals, particularly the situation with elephants and tigers. We ended up visiting Elephant Nature Park (http://www.elephantnaturepark.org), which is, as far as I could tell through my research, the one true elephant rescue/sanctuary that doesn’t exploit the animals in any way. There is no show, no riding/trekking, etc. But, there is a LOT of up-close experience. You get to feed them, walk the grounds with them, even go to the river with them and “help” them bathe. All their training is done with positive reinforcement/food treats, so basically the elephants just get to munch on bananas and pumpkins all day long. The trip includes an amazing vegetarian buffet lunch and transportation to/from your hotel (about 3 hours round trip). All the elephants have been rescued from severely abusive and traumatic circumstances and it’s wonderful to see them so content. They even have an unexpected 3 week old baby there, which was possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. (There are some moving documentaries on this park, including one by National Geographic, which they show you during your ride out. They can probably be found online, though I’m not sure.)

Have an amazing time!

On , ms. modiste said: | msmodiste.blogspot.com

Oh – and when I was in Hong Kong in 2008 we spent a night on Lamma Island and loved it. If you get a chance, do it! It’s only a 20 minute ferry ride away from downtown but it feels totally remote – there are no cars, only footpaths, and there’s even a swimming beach and some excellent seafood restaurants. Loved it!

On , Carole said:

I have traveled to Thailand about 10 times. The most important tip I can give you is to never touch anyone’s head (as in patting a cute child on the head). It is most sacred to them. Conversely, the foot is the least sacred and should never be pointed at anyone. It is a great insult. Resist the impulse to cross your legs as your foot may be pointing at someone or you will reveal the bottom of your foot to a Thai…..a big insult. Have a wonderful trip. Please make time to see the floating market………..you can arrange a tour and you will be picked up about 4 a.m. It is a sight to see like nothing else in the world!

On , dnunda said:

HI
I have just returned from Chaing Mai and found the most wonderful Thai silk there 350 Thai bart per meter for 2 ply silk and 400 Thai bart for 4 ply silk. If you find the street where the night markets are held everyday the street that the Royal Princess Hotel is in . I can give you directions from there. when you walk out of the motel entry turn left and Go to the end of this street cross at the lights and turn left then you take the 1st street on your right and there are numerous silk shops in this street the cheapest one is about the 4th silk shop on your right they don’t sell anything but silk. and if you walk towards the next intersection and turn right there are numerous other fabric shops they don’t sell silk but sell woolen suiting and laces and every other kind of fabric you can think of. This is where the locals go to purchase their fabrics including the local tailors. Hope this helps it is like going to heaven when you find the shopsfabfic is unbelievably cheap. If you buy from the tourist stops to see silk made you pay 4 times the price that you pay at the little shop I found