In olde worlde Englande touriste villagese and shoppes we get whicker basketefulles of pants craftework made by upper-middle pearl-wearing locals skimming a few quid out of unsuspecting tourists. Garbage like teddy bears wearing beefeater uniforms; lime marmalade boiled in Mrs Wistinoff’s Italian designed rural home kitchen; chunky cut mango chutney in daft pottery jars with waxed lids and labels knocked out on Mercedes’ colour laser printer. We buy this stuff in the mistaken belief we are propping up England’s buggered rural economies… while Mrs. Wistinoff merrily upgrades her double front loader dishwashing machine with steam jet sprays and triple-salco in the piked position spin dry action.
In Thailand we have OTOP. One Tambon One Product. And it knocks the knickers off woolly loo roll holders hand crocheted in Edith Weston, Rutland.
OTOP is about really helping the tambons (rough translation, rural district) get some cash in from the ever growing Bangkok economy and defend against the international thin cut golden shred in jelly marmalade conglomerates. What happens is that the tambon goes for producing something they are dead good at, and that most people actually want. Then they group together as a government supported co-operative to cut costs and find a viable economic route to market.
Usually the products are far better quality than the bland international m.s.g. loaded foods, or the available everywhere it-makes-your-skin-whiter creams. And your dosh gets out of Bangkok and funds the upcountry regions. Most of the big department stores have a section stocking OTOP products. Well worth a quick scan, and they do make very good souvenirs / small gifts for your rellies.
You can find top quality local thai handicrafts products here.
What to buy: Thai silk, souvenir items, buddha statuettes, etc etc. So many items to choose from you have to to be ready to pay excess baggage.
What to pay: Most of the items are very affordable and should i say cheap compare to other countries. Souvenir items cost around 20-100 Baht only.