We’ve gleaned so many gems of information from this board and I wanted to provide some feedback/reviews also for others to follow. Like myself, some travelers have asked about buying furniture and bringing it back home to the States. Here’s our experience from our recent 2012 visit to Chiang Mai. Although we wouldn’t recommend doing this, at least I hope I can provide some information on shops and shipping companies to avoid.
The guidebooks and Nancy Chandler’s map tout the amazing finds at Baan Tawaii and so this was a must on our trip to Chiang Mai. We found some really cool vases, stools, and other knick knacky type objects. The prices were much better than in Chiang Mai and there was really good variety of items compared to what we found in the night market and the Sunday market. In this respect, the trip definitely panned out.
However, we were on the lookout for some big furniture to outfit our home and the road to Baan Tawaii and Baan Tawaii itself were lined with many furniture stores. Most will do custom work for you or you can purchase items ready-made. We did a little bit of both. Unfortunately, as we found out after the fact, this was a huge costly miss (I’ll go more into this below) and I have to caution others looking for furniture to be very careful or at least understand the risks involved.
As far as stores we liked and where we got a good deal, we’d recommend Arnut; they are on the road to Baan Tawaii. They had some beautiful wooden pieces and the selection is huge. Also, Kedtawa (in Baan Tawaii itself) had unique furniture we hadn’t seen anywhere else.
Then there’s PANA COLLECTION in Baan Tawaii. I would NOT RECOMMEND this place as the quality of the furniture turned out to be very very bad. Unfortunately for us, we spent most of our furniture budget at this store. We had them recreate a teak table and several benches from the DWR (Design Within Reach) website that we had been eyeing back home. To their credit the furniture looked as anticipated. However, they assured us that the material they would use would be teak and it would last many years in inclement weather as we planned to use this on our outdoor patio and garden. Fast forward to delivery… one summer rain and the so-called “teak” wood is starting to peel and crack. The 6 benches and 1 table we purchased are unusable. That was a cool $1500 down the drain (add a grand if you include the shipping to get it to the U.S.). Major bummer.
So, although we found some cool smaller items, I would caution others from purchasing bigger items and I would especially warn others to stay away from Pana Collection .
You can find several shippers in Baan Tawaii. They will quote a price for the first cubic meter of a container and then a separate price for additional cubic meters. The pricing seemed very wide however; anywhere from THB8500-13000 for the 1st cubic meter and THB4000-7800 for additional cubic meters. We went with the cheapest we could find and unfortunately this turned out to bite us in the butt. It was a nightmare.
We used Gemini Logistics (Noi is the guy who seemed to run the shop, he has a nice demeanor and speaks decent English, but that did not stop him from fleecing us on the back end) and I would avoid them after our experience. They quoted THB8500 and THB4000 for every cu meter thereafter.
We purchased items in the night market, in Baan Tawaii, and also in Bangkok and Gemini (other shippers will do this also) picked up all the items from the stores and consolidated everything for us into one shipment. Again, fast forward 4 months, and Gemini Logistics sends us the invoice and it is much higher than expected. It was a total bait and switch. The actual cost ended up being THB10,000 for the 1st cu meter and THB7000 for additional cu meters!!! Citing increased fuel costs (global oil prices decreased over this time), and increased packaging cost (based on how they packed could not have been material)… Our only alternative and leverage was to walk away. But at this point in the game we had already spent so much money on the items purchased that we negotiated him down slightly but still paid well over what we should have. It was not a fun experience and we feel he ripped us off some. Lesson learned; if we do this again we will get a guarantee written down that pricing will not change from the original quote.
In any event, as far as process for those wishing to import personal items back to the States: Once the shipment is on the way, we were contacted by a U.S. shipper handling it on this end. They would take care of processing the shipment; this is paid for separately and we did know this. Then once the shipment is Stateside, it has to go through customs and you will have to go to your local customs office to get it cleared and pay any duties. This was the easy part as the U.S. shipper guides you through this process.
So that’s our saga. We did get some cool items but they could have been sent home via other means. It was an expensive lesson learned and not something we’ll be repeating. If you care to still buy items and bring them home via container and have other questions I haven’t addressed, please reach out to me as I know this can be a confusing process.
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