Yumi Model: This shop is tucked just out of sight on Sukhumvit 7 behind a knock-off tailor called Versace’s (note the ” ‘s ” to avoid trademark infringement). The closet-sized space is home to some amazing creations. There are District Nine aliens, an R2D2, hellboys and Ridley Scott alien creatures, all handcrafted by the (female) shopowner Anchalee Saengtai. The really amazing thing though is the posters up on the wall showing her six metre tall, super-realistic-looking Transformers robots, made from recycled auto parts.
Just around the corner, on Sukhumvit near the corner of Soi 11 is Krishna’s Asian Treasures, a six storey emporium crammed full of carved Buddhas and Hindu gods, masks and screens but more bizarrely, dimly lit rooms full of life size resin sculptures of animals; lions, tigers, bears and parrots, as well as giant brass crabs and coffee tables made out of mermaids. There is often a stall outside selling BB guns and nunchukkas, presided over by a small girl.
A taxi-ride down to Asok Station and Soi 23 brings you to perhaps the most mind-blowing store in all of Bangkok, titled (fittingly) “Incredible”. It sells interior decoration items like: ostrich eggs (mounds of them!) , tribal art, stuffed pheasants, lobsters made from bone china, braided leather whips, cigar-cutters made from antelopes horns, Grecian busts with coral implanted in the head to represent the brain and the kind of furniture usually associated with an Ottoman harem. Even more amazingly it is flanked on either side by ‘sister stores’, making a trio of over-the-top home decoration decadence. “Eligible” is slightly more contemporary in its outlook but still rather extreme in its tastes, while “Unforgettable” is actually the least astonishing of the three. Even it though sells life sized panthers made of lacquered eggshell for 45,000 baht each.
If Incredible is a little tricky to find, in a meandering sidestreet, Amantee is a trek. It is located in the middle of nowhere, outer suburban Lak Si. But when you get there you really feel like you are somewhere removed from the city; the ‘store’ is located through a rambling series of three impeccably designed teak houses in a tropical garden, converted to an antiques gallery and cafe. Although the architecture is Thai inspired (by German designers), the beautiful antiques are mostly from China and Tibet. The whole place is imbued with a restful sense of calm, refinement and most clearly, money (it is obviously somebody’s vanity project as there is no way it could break even. When I was there I was the only visitor). Nevertheless the cool teak, the flowers in the garden and the old antiques make it more like a museum or a resort than a shop and well worth an afternoon trip.
The Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre has a great little shopping arcade on its lower two levels, given over to “arty” stores and NGOs. There is this black-and-white-silhouetted designer ice cream parlor (selling melted icecream as a protest against global warming, and “tonkatsu” flavored ice cream.) Also: a fundraising store for the Feminist sex worker organization “Empower” which runs its own unionized brothel! Here you can support the organisation by buying merchandise (including childrens’ Tshirts!) emblazoned with the slogans “Every mother is a working mother!” and “Labour Sans Frontieres”. You can also design and press your own badges for thirty baht!