Although I’ve traveled all over Southeast Asia the last few years, I currently live in the Philippines. The people are great, the more remote beaches and islands are amazing (and there are over 7,000 islands to choose from!) and the vibe is wonderful. However, there are a lot of challenges, too, like the lack of readily available everyday goods that we take for granted.
Luckily, I can do my humble job travel blogging from anywhere, and I have a couple of my best friends living in Jomtien, Thailand, so I make the short trip over at least twice a year. And what do I enjoy most about being in the Kingdom of Siam? That one’s easy – the food. But aside from the incredibly edible Thai food, I would say that being able to walk into western-style department stores and buying whatever I need/want is the best upside. I know, it’s ridiculously commercial and materialistic to highlight the stores in Thailand, but you try living in a place where you can’t find boxer shorts or shoes your size for the whole year and tell me you wouldn’t be fired up, too!
Of course, one can visit the many night markets and smaller shops that line Thailand’s streets (wherever the tourist are), but they only sell a limited carousel of the same stuff. Luckily, there’s also Tesco Lotus, Thailand’s major discount department store – sort of like their answer to WalMart – but better. (So it’s “same-same but different.”)
Tesco Lotus Store in Thailand
In fact, there are now about 1,400 Tesco Lotus and 1,100 Express Tesco Lotus stores throughout Thailand and also a few other countries nearby. But the “hypermart” chain started with one single store in 1994, and then the brand got a shot of adrenalin when the UK super-store Tesco invested in 2003.
So, these days, what will you find inside? Well, there are several different models of Tesco Lotus, but most of them feature massive parking lots and then grand entrance areas, just like any Target or WalMart in the states. Walking through the countless aisles, you’ll find plenty of home wares like sheets, towels, the bathroom necessities, etc., then appliance, electronics, toys, student and office supplies, and clothing. In fact, while they do have sizes that would be considered big enough for a “Farang” (foreigner in Thai), I find that many of the shirts are just a tad small for me, as I’m a solid XL in the states. Likewise, the shoe sizes (in international centimeter sizing) fall just short of my size (11.5) for every pair. But for most people that can wear L- up to XL sizes and shoes 11 and under, this place is heaven for buying clothes.
Another great feature of most Tesco Lotus is their grocery selection, with just about every Thai and Western product you can imagine (Nutella!), as well as a meat, poultry, and seafood section that would be the envy of any U.S. grocery store!
If you work up an appetite while shopping, the also have a food court which I’ve found to be stellar. Other than just company-run food kiosks or chains, they allow independent food vendors to open up shop, so you end up with a really diverse and high-quality food market with low prices.
Tesco Lotus stores also have bill pay, banking, Western Union, optical shops (with really good service), and other conveniences. The best part? They keep the whole store at a very cool and comfortable 26 degrees Celsius, so you can browse around, get a bite, and soak up the aircon!
Don’t be afraid to head into a Tesco Lotus if you’re in Thailand!