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Southeast Asian Threads on a Shoestring

Global Garments

Too broke to buy a plane ticket for a shopping spree in Southeast Asia? You’re in luck. We’ve picked stores that let you stock up on cool clothes and accessories from Thailand and India without going in the red.

This isn't your typical Thai store. In fact, at first glance it's hard to see what's Thai about it apart from the men's long-sleeved embroidered cotton shirts ($29.99) that come straight from Thailand. The black and white décor and the disco balls hanging from the ceiling seem to be a better fit for its hip Castro location than a store in Bangkok, Thailand. But, look closely at the clothes and accessories selected by Pakwadee Somsakul, the owner and Bangkok native. Somsakul, who opened the store in August 2006, sells what she defines as "a modern Thai look". Men's army-style hats ($15-$20), cashmere scarves ($20) and surgical steel rings ($20) make great gifts that won't break the bank, as do wooden earrings (starting at $10). Those with fuller wallets should also check out the men's track jackets ($39.99).

A newcomer to the Lower Haight, Pat Ast opened her small but packed Thai store in July this year. The selection here reminds us of clothes markets in Thailand and although prices aren't as rock-bottom, they're still very low. If it's accessories you want, you've come to the right place. Purses, wallets and jewelry blanket the shelves. Some favorites include colorful fabric belts with geometric patterns from Chiang Mai ($12.99), a striped turquoise, yellow and white scarf ($12.99), and wooden bracelets ($7.99). And if those prices are still too high for you, there's a sales rack in the back that offers deals from $4.99 to $10.

The Love of Ganesha
A recent store relocation to Haight Street is probably a great business decision, but some feared the move would change the store's peaceful vibe. Although there are more shoppers walking around, the staff is as friendly as ever, the free tea is still here, as is the meditation room. With baskets and shelves full of accessories like bells ($5.99-$9.99), massage oils ($5.99) and Buddha print tank tops ($2.99); you’ll get plenty of cheap gift ideas for your Ganesh (the Hindu deity of protection and wisdom)-loving friends.

The Pink Lotus
Thipayawaree Sungpromrat, a Thailand native, owned the Love of Pink Lotus in Nob Hill before moving to The Love of Ganesha’s previous location. Although the store now has a new name and a different owner, it's hard to tell what's different, and in this case, that's certainly not a bad thing. Tea is offered to anyone who walks in and a portion of sales is sent to orphans in Thailand. A quiet meditation room in the back is the perfect spot for a breather. Here, we liked the Thai triangular-shaped cushions ($36.99), a dark wooden Buddha statue ($55), and handmade earrings ($5) "from the happy people of the pink lotus village of Thailand (Non Bua Chompoo)."