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Market Negotiations for Dummies - Rhiannon Caldwell

If you enjoy cooking Thai food and you are living in Thailand the most authentic flavors are going to come from the markets where the Thais shop. What is the difference you ask? Price and freshness are the two most obvious differences that I can think of. There are markets or “talad’s” around town, tented markets selling fresh vegetables, meats, and seasonings of all kinds. From the crazy sauces concocted from crabs for authentic som tam, to the pastes used to make curries such as “Paneng”, and “Gaeng Kiaw Wan”.


There will also be booths filled with household wares, used electronics, clothing, shoes, handbags, crafts and any number of other things depending on the market you visit. Oh and baskets and buckets, Thai’s LOVE their baskets and buckets. Baskets and buckets are used for organizing things, catching water, rubbish bins, ice buckets and flip a bucket upside down and you have a stool. I love the Thai ingenuity.


There are two markets near my home, almost equal distance, but one is toward Jomtien beach and the other is toward the railroad tracks. I live on Chaiyapruek 1 and the market on soi 7 has most of the things a Thai market has, although the spiciness of the prepared food is washed out for the farang pallet. I cook Thai food and that means I use a lot of fresh vegetables and herbs. I have found the herbs and vegetables purchased at the Soi 7 market to be 10-20% higher in cost and the shelf life to be about half what the market on Chaiyapruek 1. I have literally had vegetables last over two weeks from the market, now that is FRESH!


Market negotiations are part of life in Thailand and mastering the art of negotiation is not for the faint of heart. I have seen old ladies in the market go back and forth over the price for a live fish, the vendor, “roi neung baht” customer, “pbap seip baht” and so on and so forth until finally one comes to “gao seip baht” and the price is now agreed upon at 90 baht. Then you better watch because I saw the fish lady grab another fish but Yai was paying attention and she said, “mai dai, mai dai ow nee, ow noon!” (not that one, this one!”) both laughed and the agreement was kept. Thai’s will try to get one over on each other and an unsuspecting farang won't have a snowballs chance in hell if they are not on their toes.


If you are going to negotiate you need to know a few key phrases:


Vendor: ow arai ka/kab = what would you like?

Customer: if you do not know the word for what you want simply point and say, “ow nee ka/kab”

Customer: ow nee tao rai, OR ow nee gee baht? = How much is this?

Vendor: roi neung baht = 100 baht


pang maak = expensive

mai pang = not expensive

pang maak mai ow ka/kab = too expensive, no

caw neung doi = give me one

I don’t haggle much over the price of food especially at the Thai market for the Thais, prices are already so low that I feel like I am getting a fabulous deal, and I want to support the farmers direct. The “other stuff” vendors though is quite another story. When you are haggling over used goods it is a great time to stretch your negotiating skills to the limit. Make a big deal about how expensive it is and walk away, they will ask you how much you would pay and the games have begun. The more Thai you speak the easier it gets but it’s fun even when you speak none. Thais are masters with there little calculators and head nods and shakes are universal the world over.


Do not be intimidated even if you are the only farang in sight. Thai’s are very friendly and are delighted when you try and speak their language no matter how badly you butcher the pronunciation. They appreciate the fact you are trying and that in and of itself usually qualifies you for a small discount.