Forget the big chains and digital downloads, Thailand's still got plenty of niche indie bookstores. Here are just some of them worth traveling for.
See also: Thai Independent Bookstores Week 2015
Kumnumm, Nakhon Pathom
Housed in a 100-year-old wooden Thai house on Rachadamneon Road, with an adjoining space for art exhibitions, Kumnumm is a bookstore that also occasionally hosts workshops. Its book collection covers Thai and translated literature, art, culture, and children's books. This Jun 27, you can listen to stories and learn about storytelling techniques from renowned storyteller Cheewan Wisasa.
Tip: After your visit, walk down the road to Phra Pathommached, the first holy stupa and the tallest in Thailand, around since 193 BCE.
57 Rachadamneon Rd. Prapathomchedi Muang, Nakhon Pathom, 097-037-3848. Open Mon-Sun 10am-8pm. www.fb.com/kumnumm
Booktopia, Uthai Thani
Situated in the quiet Old Town of Uthai Thani, this cozy store gets its name from the owner’s wish to make this a land of reading. With its cream folding doors and distinctive white letter box out front, Booktopia is not difficult to spot and is truly one of the best places in Uthai Thani to grab some reading material, caffeine and free Wi-Fi. The owner is also very willing to exchange ideas and give travel tips.
Tip: Once you finish shopping, borrow one of their bicycles and ride along the Sakaekrung River, stopping off at nearby places like the exquisite ancient Wat Uposatharam.
9/17 Narongwithee Road Uthaimai, Muang Uthai Thani, Uthai Thani, 056-512932,081-532-6387. Open Mon-Sun 10.30am-19.30pm. www.fb.com/Booktopia
Oncebook, Uthai Thani
Another alternative bookshop located on Narongwithee Road (see above). The collection of new and used books here puts the emphasis on thoughtful literature, while you can also find a wide selection of historical, political, and philosophical books, including some real rarities. They also stock organic products from local farms and handmade postcards and notebooks. This Jun 27, 1pm, you can join a talk dubbed “Booklovers Who Want to Share,” and meet Uthai Thani’s writers and local activists.
Tip: Don’t forget to check out their T-shirts bearing Le Petit Prince designs as well as other characters from famous literature.
37 Narong Withi Road, Uthai Mai, Muang Uthai Thani, Uthai Thani. Always Open. 0897418756. www.fb.com/oncebookk
Ran Lao, Chiang Mai
“Lao.” This Thai word can mean both "to tell" and "liquor." But Ran Lao, which is located on Chiang Mai’s chic Nimmanhemin Road, is a bookstore not a bar. There's no booze, but you imbibe plenty of books instead. The shop features a collection of Thai and translated literature, religious, philosophical, and political books, as well as local souvenirs. They also hold occasional art, music and talk events.
Tip: Nimmanhemin is pretty much the coolest street in Chiang Mai. Visit some chic cafes and hip bars nearby.
8/7 Nimmanhemin Road, Chiang Mai, 053-214-888. Open Mon-Sun 12-11pm. totell.exteen.com
Chiang Dao Bookshop, Chiang Mai
This friendly bookstore sits in a wooden Thai-style building. One of the best-loved bookstores in Chiangmai, Chiang Dao was founded in 2013 by writers Phu Chiangdao and Pry Pansaeng, and the Freeform publishing company. Even though its book collection comprises lots of children's books and young-adult fiction, there's also plenty of adult literature, historical and political books. During the current indie bookstores week (Jun 20-28), they're hosting a variety of drawing and photo exhibitions, book discussions, short film screenings and more. More info at www.fb.com/ChiangDaoBookshop
Tip: Check out Makham Pom Art Space, a local art group not far from Chiang Dao Bookstore.
190/4 M. 4, Ban Wangjom, Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai, 081-111-3693. Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm
The Booksmith, Chiang Mai
Founded in 2012, this indie bookshop retailing both Thai and English books now has more than 14,000 members. As they try to differentiate themselves from the mainstream bookstores, around 70-percent of their books, focusing mainly on art and design, are exclusive.
Tip: This is one of the most recommended bookstores in Thailand, let alone Chiang Mai, especially if you’re looking for a new cool coffee-table book.
11 Nimmanhemin Road, Chiang Mai, 091-071-8767. Open Mon-Sat 10am-10pm. www.fb.com/thebooksmithbookshop
Little Lovely Bookshop, Lampang
This bookstore's shelves are stuffed with works from independent publishing companies, most notably Butterfly Publishing and Gammemagie. Here, you'll also find books from Writer Publishing, Workpoint, Openbooks and Freeform. The store is located in the same block as an animal clinic, run by the same owner, so you’ll also find piles of animal-related books, too.
Tip: Cross the road to admire the lovely Burmese art at Wat Si Rong Muang.
43/20 Tah Khrow Noi Rd., Sobtui, Muang Lampang, Lampang. Open Mon-Sat 9am-7.30pm. 054-311-110. www.fb.com/2bbookshop
Fueangnakhon Books & Cafe, Nakhon Ratchasima
Fueangnakhon was initially a cafe, but it later became a bookstore in light of its clientele with interests in film and music. This shop holds strong ties to the community with lots of regular, but new faces are also very welcome. This friendly bookshop hosts events on the second weekend of every month. In collaboration with Homeflick, an independent film group in Korat, the shop presents a screening of the acclaimed Citizenfour on Jun 27, starting at 7pm. Tickets are B70.
Tip: Situated almost in the center of the Old Town, the store is close to famous attractions like Wat Bueng and Statue of Thao Suranari.
Mahadthai Road, Nai Muang, Nakhon Ratchasima, 094-460-8060. Open every day 7.30am-7.30pm. www.fb.com/FueangNakhonBooks
Founded in 1981, Namphu is one of the oldest bookstores in Buriram. Even though its interior design might not be the flashiest, Namphu remains much-loved by the locals, especially the teachers and students of Buriram Rajabhat University. Their shelves carry new and used books spanning fictional, historical, political and philosophical titles. It also acts as a cultural hub with occasional events.
Tip: Once you check out, we recommend visiting La Lom, an ancient moat dating from the Dvaravati period (6th-13th centuries) to learn more about the history of Buriram.
33/11, Muang Buriram, Buriram, 044-611-813. Open daily 8am-7.30pm. www.fb.com/namputoday
Philadelphia, Ubon Ratchatani
Opened since 2009, Philadelphia's distinctive, crayon-like building houses a large and wide-ranging book collection. Its interior has all the vibe of a family reading room. Take advantage of the in-store art exhibitiions; at present they are featuring the pieces of Kovit Khemananda and Chokchai Takpho.
Tip: If you can’t find a place to stay in Ubon Ratchathani, they also have two rooms for rent (B150 per night). Cafe and bakery are on the first floor.
397 M. 3, Ban Srikai, Muang Srikai, Warin Chamrap, Ubon Ratchathani,. 087-458-1358. Open Mon-Fri 9.30am-3pm, 5-7pm; Sat-Sun 9am-6pm
What’s cool about Tai Talad is that i's not only an indie bookshop, but also a gallery of handmade ceramics with an adjoing tea room. Here you’ll find books about art, culture, poetry, and travel. For the indie books week, on Jun 26 you can join the talk “Read to Change” and learn about writing Haiku. You might just discover your new hobby.
Tip: You can easily walk to Nong-Mon Market, or catch a bus for 3.5 km to taste some seafood and enjoy the beach at Bang Saen.
170/14 Santi Kasem Road, Saensuk, Muang Chonburi, Chonburi, 081-715-5886. Open Wed-Mon 11am-7pm. www.fb.com/TaiTaladBookshop
Buku Books & More, Pattani
A very small bookshop compared to others in Pattani province, the shelves of Buku Books & More are stuffed with titles from independent writers and publishers, most notably rare books about the South Thailand insurgency. This shop hosts monthly events and they also run projects centered on sexual orientation and human rights. Sounds a bit radical? Don’t worry, they also have cats and lovely music. In addition, you can get special deals on books during the current independent bookstores' week.
Tip: Walk alongside the Pattani River and soak up the atmosphere of the local community. Also, be sure to visit the nearby local market, teahouses, Central Mosque and Chinese shrine of Chao Mae Lim Ko Niew.
2/3 Samakkhi Road, Sai Kho, Sabarang, Muang Pattani, Pattani, 073-331-162. Open Tue-Sun 11am-6pm. www.bukubooks.com