Bangkok Vintage Bangkok
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Bangkok Vintage Bangkok

From record shops selling classic vinyl to fascinating flea markets, the Thai capital abounds with charismatic browsing options

Visitors to Bangkok can be forgiven for thinking that the emphasis is very much on the new. Indeed, with sparkling mega malls and luxury condos dominating the skyline, the city is very much an archetype of a modern Asian metropolis. For those prepared to dig deeper, however, there’s a wealth of treasure to be discovered in its bewildering warren of byways.

The milestone market

One of Asia’s trading hubs, with one of the most sizeable Chinese populations of any city outside China, the Thai capital has long been a favourite for those seeking an authentic slice of the Orient. This legacy endures to the present day. Fine silks, precious antiques and Buddhist paraphernalia such as woodcarvings and amulets can be purchased at colourful markets where the atmosphere is as timeless as it is compelling. Our favourite place to pick up unique mementos such as these include Itsara nuphap Lane in Chinatown. Located next to Leng Noi Yee Temple, the most important Chinese temple in Thailand, the narrow street offers everything from groceries to Chinese prints.

Vinyl countdown

We are huge fans of ZudRangMa in Thong Lor where the carefully chosen selection of Thai vinyl treats allows for an easy introduction to traditional styles such as luk thung, luk krueng and molam. At Broadway Record Store, however, the baptism is somewhat bumpier. Shelves bulge with records decorated garishly with Thai script and some choice 1970s fashions and haircuts. It is not what you would call user-friendly, but with friendly owner Chokchai Laphasakul on hand to offer advice, it’s a fun place to take a few stabs in the dark with the exotic platters on display. In addition to local sounds is a decent selection of western records.

Submarine mission

Just north of the main Siam shopping area lies this haven of masculinity. The emphasis at Wooden Submarine is on all things American. Indeed, the eclectic collection veers wildly between eras, meaning you can mix and match military chic from the 1960s with collegiate prep staples straight from a John Hughes movie from 1984. Prices can be a little on the high side, but if vintage Americana is your thing, this submarine will take you to a treasure trove.

The old-style mall

Bangkok’s original department store, the Nightingale-Olympic Co Ltd – founded in 1936 – is very much the antithesis of the city’s flashy modern day malls. Instead of air-conditioning, luxury products and sleek design, you get wheezy fans, creepy mannequins and a random selection of wares ranging from exercise gear to musical instruments. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a living bit of history. What’s more there is gold to be found amidst the flotsam and jetsam. Although it may not to be to the taste of visiting fashionistas, Nightingale Olympic is a must for anyone who cares for a curio.

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The Medicine man

Set back off the main road within a preserved colonial building near the Giant Swing, ‘Baan Mo Waan’ (meaning ‘the house of Dr Waan’) is part store, part museum. This tiny portal to the past is still run by the great-grandchildren of Dr Waan Rod-Muang, who was renowned for his traditional natural medicinal recipes, several of which, now a century old, are still produced and sold here. Well known remedies include ya hom, which is said to balance blood circulation and re-energise the body.

The history of shopping Central Chidlom opened in 1973 and has been a must for tourists in town and a destination store for locals ever since. Discover the interesting and unique selection of Thai-Asian handicrafts, the best local brand-name merchandise, and the FoodLoft – one of the most innovative and exciting dining spots in Bangkok.
A standout in the skyline Central Embassy can be easily recognised on the horizon, with its dynamic facade of curving contours that boldly contrast the city’s skyline. And the best is yet to come: here you can delve into a fantasy land for shopaholics and foodies. From the first coffee in the morning to a superb restaurant in the evening, it’s so much more than you expect.