The Dream of Bangkok's Papaya Vintage Market
January 1, 1970
by Ada Albano
I’ll start by saying it is hard to take a picture of Papaya Vintage Market, and photographers from all around the globe actually pay to try and make justice to that place (more on that below). I’ll be humble and admit I could never.
Okay, from the top, shall we?
What is Papaya Vintage Market
It is a huge, four-store vintage market neatly and cleanly filled to the brink with everything anyone could possibly imagine; lamps, chairs, phones, bikes, computers, hand painted porcelains, neon signs and a dozen of creepy life-sized Jar Jar Binks are just a hint of what can be seen inside that place. It is a whole world of rare antiques you would never hope to see in Bangkok, Thailand.
It doesn’t really feel like a flea market filled with old dusty objects and gadgets, and as soon as you walk in there and you start wondering if it really is a market or actually a museum. And, as much as I am sorry to disappoint you, I have to say it is both since a lot of items aren’t available for sale.
The owner of the store is a collector himself, traveling the world in search of antiques while his wife deals with the business part of things, so when you take a picture of the product you want and show it to the closest employee, there is a good chance you’ll hear that item is there only for you to admire, which, for me, as a vintage sucker, it’s worth it.
The items that are for sale, though, tend to not be cheap. Except if you want a clock, they have a lot of those, and they were desperate to get rid of some. Good riddance to the clock collectors!
The whole time I was there, I was actually scared of dropping something or knocking something out of its shelf, and, in darker moments, scared the floor would give and I would fall on top of a hundred very expensive items I had no way of paying.
Who Can Enjoy It
I don’t think I would advise you to take a child, especially a small one, there – you can end up paying for a lot more than you originally planned.
Aside from that, you don’t have to be a vintage fan, antique enthusiast, collector or anything similar to enjoy a few hours at the market. If you’re a superhero fan, a videogames fan, a booze fan, a fan of anything at all, you will definitely find your pleasure at a place where there’s a whole room dedicated to vintage kitchen products.
Some of the things I saw – far from all that is present there – so you can decide for yourself if it’s worth it, are:
- Cinema memorabilia, from posters to a life-sized Alfred Hitchcock;
- Vintage technology of all kinds, from TVs to phones to radios and everything in between;
- Geek vintage things like old video games, memory slots, toys and action figures;
- Bicycles and motorbikes;
- Decoration for bars, like neon signs and dozens of Johnny Walker signs;
- Old child toys, from cute to terrifying;
- Snow globes;
- Musical instruments;
- Miniatures of everything that was ever invented;
- At least one stuffed animal;
There is, in fact, a whole floor dedicated to home decor and design furniture, which is in itself everything every interior decorator and designer could ever hope for, with chairs and tables enough to sit all of Thailand comfortably,and in shapes and sizes from the minimalist to the most extravagant, leaving no one displeased in the process.
If you don’t like any of those things, you can also visit Papaya Vintage Market to experience a taste of nostalgia, since there will probably be something there that will remind you of your childhood. I know I did, and my childhood was in a Brazilian small city, so I doubt there’s any escape from that.
If you aren’t a fan of anything and you hate nostalgia, you can go simply to see things you had never thought existed before and get away from the more touristic places in Thailand for a bit, broadening your horizons and taking a few creative pictures on the way.
Which leads me to:
A Special Note for the Photographers
As a film student, I can tell you there is so much to photograph there, probably even more than to buy, and the good news is that the place is also a studio!
It is actually called Papaya Design Furniture and Studio, so yes, you should definitely take a camera and have a beautiful vintage work day.
It is paid to shoot professionally there, though, and though I don’t know how much, I know it’s a popular service and a unique opportunity I regret not taking.
How To Find It
Papaya Vintage Market is not really anywhere close to the action associated with Bangkok, being a little far from everything and, chances are, also far from your hotel. I wouldn’t recommend a tuk tuk, they are naturally expensive, but it’s better to save that thrill for a shorter trip.
The first time I went there, I took an Uber, which was around 400 bahts and one hour away from my hotel at Khao San Road.
The second time, I took the subway to the Lat Phrao station, and from there I took an Uber to Lat Prao Soi 55/2.
If you’re feeling a bit bolder, you can go to the Lat Phrao station and look for exit number four. You’ll end up on the main street, Lat Phrao Road, and on that street there are bus stops which go through various lines – you can take any bus, except for number 151 and 156, and hop off at the 55/2 stop.
From the Source
If you would like to know more or, perhaps, see more of the Papaya Vintage Market, check their official website: http://papaya55.com