Tour Bangkok, Thailand: The 13th UNESCO World Book Capital

Bookish Bangkok Vlog

Bangkok was named the 13th UNESCO World Book Capital in 2013 due to its programs promoting books and reading. So rather than hit up all the major tourist attractions, I set out on a mission to seek out some of Bangkok’s bookish corners. If you’d like to follow my tracks to first and second-hand multi-lingual bookstores, an activist-started safe space for literature, and see a more local side of Bangkok while you’re at it, I’ve listed below the the bookish locations I visited in the vlog.

Kinokuniya Books & Asia Books at Siam Paragon Mall

Kinokuniya Books, Siam Paragon Mall, BangkokThis was my first time visiting a country where the language is in an entirely different script, and that meant bookstores full of covers I recognized, like Harry Potter and the Peculiar Children series, but written in a language I can’t read! Even if you don’t need to pick up a new book during your trip, it’s worth visiting these mall multi-lingual bookstores just to see for yourself that despite language and cultural differences, we’re all reading the same popular books world-wide.

The Siam Paragon Mall is just one of the several HUGE retail malls of Bangkok. Some malls are themed, like the Platinum Fashion Mall and Pantip Plaza, the technology mall. The Siam Paragon mall has an aquarium in the basement and CentralWorld mall has an ice skating rink in the middle of one wing. The MBK mall has a little of everything, though I wouldn’t recommend getting any technology there, both the USB A to C adaptor and SD card we bought there didn’t work! You may want to spend a few days just getting lost in the various malls, and you won’t go hungry because most have pretty good food courts.

DASA Book Cafe

Dasa Bookstore, Bangkok Thailand

The DASA Book Cafe is “the best second-hand bookshop in Bangkok”, according to its website. You’ll find Thai, English, and books in several European languages on the shelves of this four-story used bookstore. The visitors to this shop appeared to be scholarly type and perhaps expats from the neighborhood looking for their next read. It had a nice local feel. And once you find a book in your language, get a drink from the cafe and grab a chair. Might I suggest a Thai iced tea?

–> Dasa Book Cafe website

The Reading Room

The Reading Room, Bangkok, ThailandThe Reading Room, which bills itself as a simple art library and community gathering space, has a far more interesting history. It started as a safe space for academics, journalists, and those being persecuted for spreading education and information under a military dictatorship. Today the Reading Room still hosts screenings, readings, and promotes open access to information.

“As one of the initiatives under surveillance and suppression, The Reading Room has adapted to simultaneously battling and evading these abusive powers through instrumentalising diversification, deviation, and subversion in producing events and programmes.” 

read more about The Reading Room project here

As soon as I read about this place, I had to visit. It’s a simple room, with some mis-matched furniture and a couple bookshelves, but a functional space for group activities and a quiet space to study when it’s empty. Having never encountered censorship of information myself, I was humbled to be able to visit this space. And thank you to the kind woman who was watching the space when we visited for gifting us Reading Room journals!

–> The Reading Room website

How To Get Around

The Bangkok sky train is not difficult to figure out. Rather than purchase our tickets from the machine, we pulled up our destination and directions using Google Maps and then showed it to the person working the ticket window at the station. This way we were able to navigate our way around the city pretty smoothly.

We discovered pretty quickly that people in Bangkok don’t walk around the city much during the day because of the heat, but after dark the sky bridge walkways are packed with people out walking! One thing to note while you’re out in public, in Bangkok everybody wears their bag or backpack on their front because of pickpockets. While I never felt unsafe at any time, the city is crowded and it’s just good practice to stay aware and keep hold of your belongings.

While we preferred to walk if we could, I’d recommend taking some form of transportation if you don’t want to be completely sweaty by the time you arrive at your destination. If you do decide to take a taxi or tuktuk- make sure there is a meter or you discuss the final price to your destination before getting in!

This tour took me off the beaten tourist track to some very local feeling places, and searching for a copy of Harry Potter #1 in Thai was like a treasure hunt through bookstores.

Let’s Talk!

Have you been to Bangkok? Have you been to any other UNESCO World Book Capitals? Do you collect any books in foreign languages? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

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2 Comments

  1. eileen dwyer
    January 5, 2020 / 10:53 am

    Enjoyed reading and look forward to visiting one day.

    Eileen

  2. eileen dwyer
    January 5, 2020 / 10:53 am

    Look forward to visiting one day.

    Eileen

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