Bargain Hunting Weekend

 Update for week ended 25 March 2011

As the sky-train slows down on the elevated tracks, approaching Mo-Chit, you can see the sea of humanity busily moving around in an open field to the left of the tracks, with shacks neatly demarcated out. The crowds that get off the train all head to this weekend Market, Chatuchak. There is no need to ask for directions. At the entrance is a tourist kiosk where volunteers hand out photocopied sheets of a map of the market in English. It helps a newcomer to navigate her or his way around this maze like market that spreads out almost 35 acres with over 800 stalls that sell anything you want or maybe you didn’t. Each Soi or street is neatly labeled and has a very organized oriental method of grouping clusters of similar product sellers so that a shopper has a good choice and is also enticed into buying things that one did not plan for, but was too tempting to resist. We set off initially to pick up some handicrafts that could be adorn our home walls, or nooks or shelves. And boy, was there a variety – it was almost of a riot of colours, textures, media, and price range. So after picking a wooden carving of a Buddha Head (who ever leaves Thailand without this?), we picked up some hand-made paper screen lamp shades, followed by some incense and scented candles. My little daughter started getting bored and irritable, and to appease her, we picked up a wooden frog – this was no ordinary frog, but one with a little a removable wooden rod stuck through its torso. One could pull out the light rod, and stroke it on the jagged back of the frog to give out a hollow and realistic croak. Fascinating! The kid was thrilled with this new toy, and that left mummy and I to go ahead with a few more purchases. We then headed out to the T-shirts section where fake labels jostled for attention alongside some kitschy, but nice touristy Tees. I must admit that I am not much of a label flaunter, so I pored over the colourful tees that had 3D elephant motifs on black T-shirts, or the children’s range of 3D animal and sea creature T-shirts. Another chance to please the little girl by buying the white T-shirt with a 3 dimensional starfish extending its five colourful arms out. This was a good place for the missus to also get some interesting Chinese styled silk blouses that are smart for evening wear, but not easily available in Mumbai. The next stop was the home furnishing section where the missus just went berserk. The silk cushion covers, the silk sheets were so enticing that it saw me nearly empty my wallet there – of course after the wife convinced me that a few could be kept aside for gifts for people back home. And they were really cheap, even I could not ignore the bargain… This continued till we spent till a few more hours and our aching legs needed some rest. So we headed to the refreshment section in the centre of the market where I quenched my thirst with the smoked coconut water – simply divine, sweet and so refreshing. I also noticed that my wallet was lighter than I liked and with more shopping due later in the afternoon, I looked for an ATM machine to withdraw more cash – not all stalls accepted credit cards (plus people warned me of credit card data misuse in smaller markets). The afternoon was spent in checking out the areas that are thronged by the European tourists – the footwear, leather jacket and crockery section. This was a bargain hunter’s paradise.

The buyers got off the trains at the train station near D Street and followed the horde of investors who headed in that direction. Everyone had enough cash for their bargain purchases. So they went after everything that looked cheap. So if a real-estate company was being hawked as a fantastic bargain – the D Boyz flocked to that counter and bought so much that the economic forces of high demand and limited supply pushed the prices up steeply – and yet there were buyers waiting… and as Oracles showed the way to successful information technology, everyone followed it to perk up the IT stocks … while another Oracle from Omaha zipped through different cities of India (nowhere near D Street), and spread good words, deeds and generally invited the D Boyz to make more money on D Street and later asked them to empty some of it on the poorer Boyz of the street. I am not sure how many of the D Boyz will take those philanthropic steps – but the first part of his statement is something they will all follow….. and they did it this week by perking up the SENSEX 937 points to 18815. And they still have more cash available for more buys.

And the most interesting stall I saw in the crockery and leather section was the international courier company’s. It was a fully functional office that had packers and handlers who expertly bubble-wrapped the fragile chinaware and stacked them into double lined corrugated cardboard boxes, and stuffed the empty space around the packed items with Styrofoam chips and balls. The English were buying British Wedgewood Dinner service sets and simply handing them over to the couriers to be sent directly home,…. so that they are left with little baggage to carry home. Just before we left, we browsed through the plants market where orchids, ginger lilies and other ornamental flowering plants were being vended for pennies – very tempting for wannabe green fingers like me, so I picked up 2 pots of orchids that I would carry back home to sunny, humid Bombay!

Have a nice weekend… Cheers …


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