1. For all things vintage: Rot Fai Markets, Bangkok, Thailand
When in busy Bangkok, head to these open-air night markets. One is in the suburbs of Srinakarin, while the other newer, more accessible permutation is next to the train station in Ratchada. Both offer a quaint and kitschy vibe. The stores, assembled out of camper vans and car boots, make the bazaars a delight to explore. Look hard enough and discover something old and charming that strikes your fancy, from pre-loved clothing and handbags to antique furniture, cameras and all manner of collectibles. Make a pit stop at the food and drink stalls for local snacks, cocktails or even a pop-up live jazz performance.
2. For boho-chic clothing: Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia
When in trendy Seminyak, which is packed with Instagram-worthy cafes and critically acclaimed restaurants, regular flip-flops and tank tops won’t quite cut it. If you need to spruce up your resort-ready wardrobe, hit the boutiques bordering the town centre. Magali Pascal (below) is a Paris-born, Bali-based fashion designer whose feminine lace, silk and organic-fabric creations are perfect for lounging at the latest beach club. For handmade Balinese lace, check out Uluwatu, where you’ll also find home furnishings such as bed and table linens. It also has a range of apparel made with lace.
3. For edgy fashion: District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
It is not quite regarded as a fashion capital of the world – yet – but the city has several avant-garde surprises up its sleeves. District 3 is home to homegrown fashion designers who have garnered international attention. For a selection of pieces by the country’s hot style mavens, visit multi-label Vietnam Designers House. Over at Nguyen Cong Tri’s atelier, the couturier – whose pieces (below) have appeared on the catwalks of London and Tokyo – creates garments with details such as appliqued flowers and artful draping.
4. For local art: Bogyoke Aung San Market, Yangon, Myanmar
Be prepared to get lost as you wander this labyrinthine bazaar in the heart of bustling Yangon – but that’s part of the fun. With more than 1,000 stalls jam-packed into this complex, the market offers Burmese handicrafts originating from various parts of the country. Lacquerware is a popular buy, but keep your eyes peeled for region-specific items too, such as puppets from Mandalay and sling bags from the Shan state. For a picturesque reminder of your trip, the art vendors dotting the fringes of the market sell oil and watercolour paintings of Myanmar’s iconic scenes.
5. For hip finds: Tiong Bahru, Singapore
With historic Art Deco walk-up shophouses and a laid-back vibe, hip housing estate Tiong Bahru is a favourite haunt for locals in the know. Wander around the enclave to discover indie shops brimming with quirky home products, locally designed clothing and accessories. Those with a love of the whimsical should not skip Woods in the Books, a bookstore specialising in illustrated tomes for children and adults alike. Fashionistas should stop by Nana & Bird for stylish, tropical climate-appropriate apparel, while audiophiles will enjoy a browse through Curated Records (55 Tiong Bahru Rd) – one of the last surviving vinyl stores in the country.
6. For traditional textiles: Malioboro Street, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
For beautifully wax-dyed Indonesian fabric, known as batik, make a beeline for this bustling street in Indonesia’s art capital. It’s packed with tiny shops, many spilling onto the sidewalk, offering traditional clothing, textiles and small crafts made from local materials such as coconut shells, rattan and leather. You’ll be able to bargain for a small discount at most stalls but if you prefer fixed-price shopping, head to Hamzah Batik or Batik Keris (below) for a wide selection of quality batik apparel and accessories.
7. For quirky local designers: Bangsar Village, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Just 15 minutes from the city centre, Bangsar Village has an edgy, indie appeal for those looking for something other than mainstream brands. This thriving neighbourhood is packed with bars, cafes and restaurants as well as plenty of quirky shops by local entrepreneurs and designers. Pestle & Mortar is a local streetwear label while Snackfood (below) offers a lovingly curated collection of books, prints, jewellery and tableware to brighten up your living space.
8. For upscale mega malls: Makati, Manila, Philippines
Hanging out in an air-conditioned mall in humid Manila is practically a national pastime, so to blend in with the locals while getting some retail therapy, head to the shopping district of Makati. One of the most popular malls in the area is Greenbelt, which offers a mix of international designers as well as smaller, independent boutiques. Other popular malls in the vicinity include Power Plant Mall (above) and Glorietta.
– TEXT BY KAREN TEE
PHOTOS: KAREN TEE, SUPPLIED, I LOVE SNACK FOOD, BATIK KERIS
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.