Thai Handicrafts have a worldwide reputation for elegant design,excellent qualityPhuket's Cottage Industry - A Treasure Trove For Bargain Hunters and functionality. Visitors should try to find time to visit handicraft shops to select these inexpensive items to take back home as gifts or mementos of your stay. The indigenous designs are based on centuries of experience in working with traditional material - skills which are not taught in schools or trade colleges but are passed on by craftsmen from generation to generation. Your purchases will also help to ensure that the process continues into the future.
The Thai Government has recognized the importance of this cultural heritage. Five years ago they set up a scheme which they called by the acronym OTOP - One Tambon (district) One Product to encourage small groups and companies. They put together a support administration to offer financing loans for development, gave advice to all concerned on good practices of management and supplied direct logistical support in the areas of marketing, packaging and distribution. This scheme after a somewhat sticky start is now proving extremely successful in combining the best of the past with the business skills of the 21st century.
Let's take a look at one product which has been developed here on Phuket Island. As you relax on the beach and perhaps need some shade it is as likely as not, that you will head for the nearest stand of coconut palms. Just to re-assure you, there has been no recorded case of anyone sustaining an injury from being hit by a falling coconut - lightning strikes are more common! Ever wondered how farmers harvest the crop? They can't afford to sit around waiting for nature to take its course so they train monkeys to climb the tall swaying trees and dislodge the nuts. Every part of the nut is utilized and (to reach the point, finally!), the villagers turned the husk shells into eating and drinking utensils. Someone had the bright idea of fashioning the shells into domestic ornaments, ash trays, lamp stands and the like - at prices which won't break the bank. To see these and other beautiful items visit Jansawang shop at Jungceylon Shopping Mall (Siam zone) in Patong. Tel: +66 (0)81 607 3138.
Another OTOP star is Thai Andaman, a manufacturer of stainless steel kitchenware, which is now manufactured to international standards. Our favourite is a steel condiment set decorated with shells. To see the full range go to the Souveno shop which is also in Patong's Jungceylon Shopping Mall (Siam zone). Tel: +66 (0)76 602137.
Decorative batiks - hand-painted fabrics themed often on aquatic subjects have always been a delightful way of brightening rooms in countries where the sun rarely shines. Originally mounted on simple frames the batik concept has now been incorporated into all sorts of products including handbags, handkerchieves, shawls, scarfs and many others. To see these visit Phuket Batik at 371/4 Yaowarat Road (Samkong). Tel: +66 (0)76 211849 or +66 (0)81 536 4422.
Loofah bath sponges are another great product which are produced here in Phuket. They remove dead skin and stimulate circulation - an ideal beauty treatment everytime you bathe. Shop for them at Akaliko Home Fragrance, Jungceylon shopping Mall (Siam zone) Patong. Call Khun Udomrat on +66 (0)89 205 4141.