Patong OTOP Shopping Paradise is part of a canny scheme to promote and stimulate locally made and marketed products of each ‘tambon’ (subdistrict) throughout Thailand.
Standing for ‘One Tambon One Product’ the OTOP idea originated in Japan and encourages village communities to improve the local products' quality and marketing, selecting one superior product from each tambon to receive formal branding as its ‘starred OTOP product’. At OTOP markets expect to see traditional handicrafts, silk garments, cotton products, pottery, fashion accessories, household items and food.
Patong’s OTOP market stands along Rat-U-Thit Road directly opposite Dusit D2 Phuket and Hard Rock Café and is fairly quiet during the day and early evening. It’s only when the OTOP’s bars start to fill up (and there are a lot of them) that the market begins to get going. One of the reasons for this market’s popularity is that stall owners here rarely hassle passersby and there’s very little of the hard sell used by Soi Bangla and Beach Road traders.
At OTOP you can combine a night drinking out at the (mostly Aussie) bars that line the alleys while getting your holiday shopping done. In short, it’s a fun and an unusual place to be. For serious shopaholics it’s good to know that there’s a money exchange bureau at the corner of the market on the main road along with several ATMs. Also along the well-lit alleyways you’ll find several restaurants, mobile food carts, and even a designated whiskey shop as well as a Black Canyon coffee outlet.
Even though the original idea of promoting traditional handicrafts has inevitably been compromised in pursuit of a quick tourist buck there’s still a lot to see and buy at OTOP Patong.
Items include purses, mobile phones and accessories, electronic gear such as iPods and headphones, pirated smart phones, mini-lasers, watches, fashion T-shirts at a fraction of the cost back home, travel bags (both hard and soft), toothpick holders, mugs, boxer shorts, beer-themed singlets (a must for most male shoppers), socks, baseball caps, basketball outfits, sports shoes, flip-flops, sunglasses, floppy sun hats, silly hats (but, rather disappointingly, no ‘Kiss Me Quick’ ones).
Still, there’s at least one stall that specialises in typical OTOP products, meaning wooden Buddha heads, attractive and cheap vases, embroidered cloth bags, picture frames and wooden mobiles for kids’ rooms, wooden game blocks and the sort of products that actually look good in the dining room rather than in the back of the garage gathering dust alongside the broken skateboards.
So, all in all, Patong’s OTOP market is more of a multi-faceted experience than a serious shopping outing. Head along after ten o’clock at night, enjoy a few beers, a snack and a chat with the friendly girls at the many bars there. If the mood grabs you there’s even a tattoo parlour to relax in if you’re after a more lasting memory of Thailand.