I am not a shopper, I cannot spend my day in a mall trying on clothes and walking around with numerous bags on my arms. That would make me extremely hot, cranky, and hungry. I am an avid online shopper because it kills time at work and it all arrives right to my door. BUT I AM ALSO SUPER FRUGAL. Obviously… one kinda has to be to go backpacking every year. This is why I am making this blog… all about the amazing things I found shopping on my adventures.
My first trip to Italy I was broke, like literally in high school and had hardly any money. I packed all nice things to travel with so I didn’t have much room in my bag to shop. I found the prices in Italy to be about the same as home as well, minus the guys that brought you into dark back alleys and tried to sell you knock off purses and watches… those were a good price. But overall I didn’t really “get my feet wet” in the shopping game until my next trip… THAILAND.
The obvious first real “backpackers” trip for any 18 year old that just graduated. I had packed some nice things in my pack, as I hadn’t really figured out my packing game yet, ( Read My Packing List Here ) but most things I purchased at home from a second hand store so I wasn’t too attached to it anyways. I traveled all down and back up Thailand, finding cute little markets that I would purchase the odd thing from like shirts, tank tops, thai pants (a must), but it wasn’t until we came back to Bangkok before flying home that I really understood the shopping.
First of all, the custom made suits and dresses…. Men could get full, pants, jacket, dress shirt, vest, the whole nine yards, CUSTOM made to fit them in whatever color, pattern, fabrics they wanted for like 200$ CAD. What a STEAL of a fricken deal. These shops are literally everywhere, people asking if you would like a new suit. They would bring you in, take your measurements and have the suit done in 1-2 days then do the final fine tuning. This was cool and all for the men on the trip, but I was like “what about me!?” Well ladies, let me tell you. We went to a fancier part of town one night for a show and it had numerous, beautiful shops that would custom make dresses and clothing for women. Then I thought…. WOW, one day (fingers crossed) I could bring back a really fancy design of a wedding dress (say brand name) that would cost like 8000$ back home, and get it exactly the way I want (adding or taking things out of the design), custom fit to my body for like 1/8th the price! WHY HASN’T THIS BEEN SPOKEN OF BEFORE!
Obviously that is just an idea for the future, I didn’t actually buy a custom made dress…. yet. But the Mall in Bangkok… MBK… 6 floors of pure bliss! Let me let you in on a little secret… the prices go down as you travel up… There are floors dedicated to a certain item such as electronics.. so I mean you can walk around to different booths and barter the price of what you want within this floor. We bought Bose speakers – OK side note, I don’t think that Thailand has copyright laws or they don’t enforce them because they sell knock of “brand” items for super cheap, so when I say BOSE speakers, I don’t actually believe they came from the maker of BOSE – for like 18$ CAD each. We purchased I think 12 all together to go home and give our friends. These speakers are amazing, they hook up to bluetooth and are great quality speakers… especially for only 18$.
The first time I went to MBK mall I started at the bottom and worked my way up, which was a mistake I know now. For clothing, jewelry, or anything that you would find on every floor the prices will go down as you go up because they assume most people stay on the main floors they enter the building on… makes sense. I loaded up my bag and purchased another bag (Fake brand Diesel dufflebag to be exact) to fill and bring home with me. I bought over 10 pairs of “brand” name jeans… True Religion, Diesel, Seven, Rock n Rebulic, for only 30$ a pair. I bought “Calvin Klein” underwear and sports bras, “brand name” shirts and tank tops, sweaters, a diffuser with essential oils, those new hair elastics that cost like 7$ each at Sephora for 10 cents each, a “Burberry” rain jacket (that is so cute!) and of course my favorite… purses. Purses are my all time favorite thing to buy on vacation. They have many to choose from, and some are almost identical to the real deal
Here are my hints for buying purses.
- I find a style I like (obviously) and if it has a “brand” name logo on it such as “Michael Kors” I make sure that the logo is on properly, straight, and spelt correctly. You don’t know how many times I find a beautiful purse but the logo is LOCO… looks a little drunk.
- Make sure all the zippers work. This goes for wallets as well. I have purchased these items before, so excited, only to discover the zipper doesn’t work… BOO!!
- Make sure it is real leather. Now you CAN find real leather purses for like 30-50$… I have had some of my purses for YEARS (going on 6 years now for my favorite purse that I use 90% of the year) and they have not cracked or broken at all. The way I make sure it is real leather is I ask the seller to light the purse on fire… with a lighter! If they refuse to hold a lighter up to the purse that means that it is probably not real, or is plastic. If the purse is plastic and they know it… it will melt under the lighter. Real leather will not melt.
- Barter barter barter. The more purses you buy the cheaper the price. So if you only want one, maybe your friend wants one and you can barter together for a cheaper price. The price they originally tell you is absurd.. I usually pay half or less than the original price they rattle off.
- To pack these bags for home I roll up my new clothes and fill the purses then shove them in my backpack.
The newest thing I recently found to purchase is makeup. THIS IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. Some people HATE knock off makeup.. and for good reason sometimes. If you have sensitive skin I would be careful with this one. I do not have sensitive skin, and I do not mind the lower quality of the makeup. They have booths filled with perfume (OK they have the same bottle and smell the exact same as the “real” perfume, and only cost like 10$ each, but beware these perfumes don’t last as long as the real deal), and “brand name” makeup. I purchased what would have cost me in Canada well over 2000$ in makeup for only 40$ at MBT…. The quality. I have had some HITS and some MISSES (I will only name a few). The hits I have found are the beauty blenders… they look the exact same, I paid 50 cents instead of 30$ each and they work amazing (note: some fake beauty blenders are crap, they don’t expand and they are hard as rock. I just got lucky I guess). Another hit for me was a “glow kit” (I won’t say the “brand” it was), this was the exact same as the real one that costs 60$ and I paid I think 7$. The biggest miss I had was a mascara I bought. I don’t remember the brand it was supposed to be but at home it was like 40$ and I paid 4$. This mascara was nothing like the real one, it was very runny and filled my entire eye with black! AHHHHHHH!!!!
The Jewelry. They have tons. I purchased a few “brand” name watches for like 10$ but I am not that into watches so I bought them for the look instead of the function. All the watches I purchased have since stopped working but I just move my arms really fast when I wear them ;). The Cartier bracelets that cost like 10,000$ each (you know… the ones Kylie has like 40 of on her arm) I purchased at MBK for 6$ each…
Asia definitely has some of the best shopping (if you are into everything I mentioned above… some people wouldn’t even entertain the idea of fake items), but I also found some good shopping in Turkey, mostly Istanbul.
The Grand Bazaar is amazing. They have everything! They even section it off so you can buy spices in one part, purses in another, anything leather in another, and clothes, then lamps. What a place to get lost in… seriously you will get lost. I purchased many purses here (same as above), and a few leather men’s wallets to give as gifts (my brother has been using his now for 4 years and I paid 30$). I also bought Turkish lamps for I think 30$ each. They have different plugs then us so I had to come home and rewire the lamp (not that hard) or you can just use a converter. But these lamps are absolutely beautiful, they look like stain glass (maybe they actually are), and you can get them in any color or style you want. I wrapped mine in tons of clothes and then in a purse and then in my backpack to come home and it made it just fine. I also bought 2 Turkish rugs in Cappadocia…. I was not into the Turkish rug thing before I came, but my parents asked me to find one for them. I spent an entire afternoon in this store that had thousands of rugs, they would bring out rugs for me while I sat drinking tea. I fell so in love with 2 rugs myself that I purchased them (500$ for both… DOH!) and they shipped them to my house for me.
I live for shopping in other countries, the different things you find and the funny knock offs (like Michael Doors) you will see make me smile. By no means am I endorsing spending all your money in other countries as I understand you must also support local (which I do for 99% of the things I buy daily). But for someone like myself who just graduated University and puts all my extra money into traveling, its nice to get a few special items for yourself at a great price.