As with most places in Thailand, there is some great value shopping to be done on Koh Samui, and Thai silk products make some of the most popular souvenirs. While Samui might be a little more expensive than other places in Thailand, it is still great value and you will pay a fraction of the prices than back home.
Thailand is famous for its silk and Thai silk is respected as being among the best in the world, due to the high fibre ply and quality of weave. Thai silk is rich in colour as the coarse silk here is able to withstand heavier dyeing.
These days, most silk is woven on a mechanized loom, which tends to be more efficient and leads to cheaper products. Unlike other places around the world, though, much of the silk in Thailand is still hand-woven by traditional methods, resulting in a really high quality end product. So, bear in mind the painstaking work that may have gone into making such items when you start bartering for them!
There are different types of silk in Samui, depending on the weaving and dyeing technique. Mudmee, or Khit silk, is the silk traditionally produced from Thailand’s northeast, while Pum Riang silk is produced by the Muslim villages in the south. There is also synthetic silk, so called ‘Chinese silk’, which is much cheaper and also quite appealing but the quality is poor and it is restricted to use in cheap clothing. Chinese silk has no two-tone and produces a plastic-like residue when burnt.
The best shopping in Samui tends to focus around Chaweng, Lamai, and Na Thon Market. There are smaller shopping areas at the other beaches and sometimes these places can be good for picking up bargains. Chaweng is the busiest shopping area, and there are many skilled tailors here who can quickly produce you made to measure silk items; a genuinely unique souvenir to take home.
There are plenty of shops on Samui selling silk products and clothing and the best option is to browse and find the styles and quality that you are most happy with. The Rawadee shop, between Lamai and Chaweng, has a good reputation for its high quality silk. On some of the smaller stalls, you may see ‘100% silk’ labels at what appears to be amazing value, you will probably be able to feel the difference in quality. A general rule is that if the prices seem too good to be true, then it probably isn’t 100 per cent silk.
Some of the island’s top resorts have exclusive boutiques selling high quality silk products. For example, there are Jim Thompson retail outlets in both the Centara Grand Beach Resort and Baan Taling Ngam Resort.