Bangkok pawn shops
In Bangkok, people are often embarrassed about taking cherished jewelry and other personal treasures to a pawn shop. They also worry whether they can pay back the loan or finance the interest payments so they don't lose their valuable possessions forever.
How to snag a bargain in a Bangkok pawn shop
Pawn shops are distinguished by double doors -- one at each end of their frontage -- as if they are providing a separate entrance and exit. The double doors are, in theory, to allow people to discreetly enter and exit without having to bump into each other and risk embarrassment, but many people just use whatever door is closer and convenient.
Inside, you will be greeted by vertical metal security bars. You can usually bargain down the sales price.
"For foreigners who like to buy second-hand goods, it is better to buy from pawn shops and not on the street, because here you will get a guarantee that you are buying a genuine item," says Chatchai Treprasertlim, 53, manager of Sen Heng Pawn Shop in Chinatown.
"But we get only a few foreigners buying things here. During the past several months, maybe one or two foreigners came in to buy. They were Japanese and Malaysians. Maybe foreigners are afraid that the things on sale here are fake.
"But in this shop, if people buy something here, they can also come back later and pawn it to us, and we will give them 70 to 80 percent of the price they paid us."
"If it is weird, we do not take it"
Unlike pawn shops in some other countries, the selection does not include weird memorabilia, refrigerators, endless kitsch or a variety of believe-it-or-not things.
"No, we just have these normal things. If it is weird, we do not take it. But we do get earrings and bracelets, and sometimes cameras," Chatchai says, with a hopeful tone.
Not every pawn shop sells to the public, so you have to look for a glass display case.
One of the larger selections of jewelry is displayed at Nguan Ha Cheang Pawn Shop on Silom Road.
"Usually a couple of [foreign] people every week come in here and take a look," says 30-year-old Aee, who speaks English and is a relative of the brightly-lit pawn shop's owner.
"They come here to buy silver pieces, gold rings, diamond rings, bracelets, necklaces, and sometimes we have loose diamonds for sale, plus small Buddhist amulets wrapped in a protective, gold frame.
Sen Heng Pawn Shop: 2 Yaowarat Road, in Chinatown. Open 11 a.m-5 p.m. Closed Sunday and public holidays. +66 (0)2 223 1601.
Nguan Ha Cheang Pawn Shop: Corner of Silom and Charoenkrung roads, near Leard Sin Hospital. Open Sunday-Friday. +66 (0)2 233 1866.
Meng Meng Pawn Shop: 1452-1454 Charoenkrung Road. Open 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Closed Sunday. +66 (0)2 233 1570
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