- Chatuchak Weekend Market (Bangkok, Thailand): You can easily get lost and certainly spend hours wandering this labyrinth. Don't buy anything until you spend at least a half-day wandering down the endless aisles eyeballing the multitude of merchandise available.
- Night Bazaar (Chiang Mai, Thailand): Most of those gorgeous handicrafts you find all over Thailand are made in the north, and at Chiang Mai's sprawling Night Bazaar, you'll find the widest selection and best quality.
- Morning Market (Vientiane, Laos): Laos's famous market is three huge buildings with traditional tiered roofs. Silver handicrafts, fabrics, jewelry, electronics, books, and more occupy each building's several floors. The proprietors are friendly, gentle bargainers.
- Central Market (Hoi An, Vietnam): On the banks of the busy Perfume River lies this entire city block of narrow, roofed aisles. Products of every description are for sale inside: handicrafts, household items, and services such as facials and massages. On the outskirts, an entire warehouse is devoted to silk and silk tailoring.
- Central Market (Phnom Penh, Cambodia): This is where it all happens in Phnom Penh. The main building is a massive Art Deco rotunda with wings extending in all directions. It's an anthill of activity on any given day, and you can get some interesting bargains and unique finds.
- Arab Street (Singapore): Sure, Singapore is a shopper's paradise, but it needs more places like Arab Street, where small shops lining the street sell everything from textiles to handicrafts. Bargaining is welcome.
- Central Market (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia): This is one-stop shopping for all the rich arts and handicrafts Malaysia produces -- and it's air-conditioned, too.
Tip: Everything Has a Price: Haggling
Prices are never marked in the small shops and at street vendors in Southeast Asia. You must bargain. The most important thing to remember when bargaining is to keep a friendly, good-natured banter between you and the seller. Before you start out, it's good to have some idea of how much your purchase is worth, to give you a base point for negotiation. A simple "How much?" is the place to start, to which the vendor will reply with the top price. Check at a few vendors before negotiating, and never accept the first price. Try a smile and ask, "Is that your best price?" Vendors will laughingly ask for your counteroffer. Knock the price down about 50% -- they'll look shocked, but it's a starting point for bidding. Just remember to smile and be friendly, and remain willing to walk away (or fake it). Caveat: If it's a larger, more expensive item, don't get into major bargaining unless you're serious about buying. If the shopkeeper agrees on what you say you're willing to pay, it's considered rude not to make the purchase.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.