Being a tourist in Bangkok, it does pay off to occasionally check Bangkok Post newspaper's section of life and travel. Luckily I snapped the paper one morning and quickly scanned through it because I spotted a short paragraph about OTOP's mid year show being held at the city's IMPACT exhibition grounds. Not my first one. In fact I had been several times, and I always got great deals and found many new things there from hundreds of artists, traders, gallerists and other entrepreneurs.
OTOP, being the "One Tambon One Product" initiative which lets local districts (tambon) come up with one idea which represents a local and sustainable product to provide income for the families and fit into the local culture and environment.
IMPACT, being the exhibition grounds to the north of Bangkok's downtown, in Muang Thong Thani.
Transportation has always been an issue and I have had trouble finding taxi drivers who bring me there by the meter. The risk of getting ripped off is high when you want to go somewhere at a certain time of the day! But reading through IMPACT's web site, I found out that they provide a free shuttle service from Mo Chit BTS station to the exhibition grounds. It took me a while to find the mini buses which bring 10-12 passengers to the show, and it all happens in Thai language, but if you are sure that you are seated on the right bus, just sit and wait. With my GPS enabled on the phone, I kept track of the route just to be sure I am on the right way. It took a while to make our way through the traffic of Bangkok, but we got there. Not completely free of charge, but with a small fee of 40 Baht it was still better than flagging down a taxi.
OTOP's shows are huge....I mean HUGE!! More than I can handle and I am used to a lot of trade shows! For anyone who is interested in Thai arts and crafts, handmade products, silk products, wooden handicrafts, natural products and cloths, music instruments, woven scarfs and other products it is pure heaven to wander through the halls without being hassled by the vendors to buy something. It is pure joy to see artists "create" something, display it and be proud of their product. Prices are very reasonable and not even comparable to the overpriced tourists markets.
Besides arts and crafts there is a huge section of food and drinks which can be consumed right there. One lady explained to me that the mushrooms I looked at were the finest to be found in the Kingdom of Thailand and there are so many choices for lunch that it is actually hard to come up with a decision.
On the other side of the halls is OTOP's section for food and health products, which is a bit harder to grasp without speaking or reading Thai language since we are not really sure what is being offered here. Some vendors speak English, but since there is almost no tourists, they will usually just give you a shy smile rather than a good sales pitch.
On stage are also shows, dances, singing performances and speeches of officials and organizers.
The show is free. The shuttle is almost free and it it is a great way to get to know local products from all over Thailand as well as supporting local artists and producers. So, I will continue to eagerly check my newspaper sections each time I am back in the City of Angels!