Phil – that’d be my not a bar boy boyfriend, etc., etc., etc. – made for a great Santa Claus this Christmas, perfectly hitting the mark on both quantity and quality. My favorite gift was the one I opened Xmas morning; wrapped in our bed sheets, it was just what I wanted. Knowing the technogeek that resides within my soul, the other almost as much fun gift he gave me was a laser projection keyboard. Pounding away on a table top instead of a computer keyboard is almost as much fun as pounding away on his . . . well, you get the picture. Fortunately, prior to 12/25 he’d carefully maneuvered conversations around to subjects that would clue him in on how well gifts he was considering would be received. Otherwise I’d have had to acted pleased about the Kindle he’d been thinking of getting me. Which I probably would not have been able to pull off. But then I probably would have opted to pull off what little clothing he’d managed to put back on to open our gifts instead. So maybe next year.
I checked out Kindles when they first came on the market. And wasn’t impressed. As friends who are fans of the e-book readers have upgraded to the newest version over the years – and crowed about the newest features, which to me have all been stuff they should have got right the first time – I’ve had the opportunity to keep up with the technology. I’m still not impressed. It is not a better mouse trap. E-books are great for the publishing houses; there’s more profit in them than in books. And we may all be only reading electronically in the future. But like the hipsters of today who still hold true to listening to music played on records, I’ll still be hunting down the paper version of my favorite authors. You may say ‘old fart’ I’m gonna go with cool dude. Even at 90.
I read a lot. Like three to four books a week. Mostly fiction, but I enjoy biographies and history too. Not to mention the back of cereal boxes. Short of whoever Bill O’Rielly decided to kill next, I’ll read just about anything. That may not be quite as expensive as parachuting as a hobby, but a recently-released hardback or two, a few trade books, and a large handful of paperbacks a month can easily top out at over $500. And while there are some things I don’t think you should try to save money on – like bar boys – cutting your reading expense in half ain’t a bad idea. No problemo. Until the day books gets classified as collector items and antiques, used book stores are the perfect way to keep your reading expenses within reason. That’s assuming you don’t walk out of the store with $800 of previously viewed books in your bag.
One of the Kindle’s frequent upgrades has been on weight. But even the lightest version still weighs more than your average paperback book. At least until you’re talking quantity. And that doesn’t become a problem for me until I’m packing for a two week or longer holiday. A dozen books, even if they are all paperbacks, can add significantly to the weight of your luggage. I hate to admit it but I think one of the reasons I always include a few days in Chiang Mai when I’m visiting Thailand is because of all the used books stores there. A visit to The Rose of the North means I can get rid of the books I packed that I’ve now read, and stock up on enough reading material to get me through the rest of the trip.
Bangkok has used books stores too. There’s a decent smattering of them in Soi Rambuttri, just riverside of Khaosan Road. But that means making the trek over to Soi Rambuttri, which time doesn’t always allow for. Nor does Noom always allow for it either. Noom likes to go shopping with me. ‘Cuz that always ends up meaning shopping for him. With my wallet. But bookstores just don’t hold the same fascination for him as does say a gold shop. At best, he’ll find a guidebook I need to buy him. Which really is more about somewhere he wants me to fly him off to than it does finding out what to do once we get there. So when in reply to, “Where we go?” he hears “Soi Rambuttri,” I usually hear, “I stay at hotel.”
“Asoke,” on the other hand to him means there’s a good chance he’ll get to peruse the stores at the Emporium Mall. Which is cool with Noom even if there is a book store there. Not as cool is when I say, “Asoke,” but mean Dasa Books. When I turn and head for exit 4 at the Phrom Pong BTS Station instead of toward the mall I always hear an aborted attempt at correcting my mistake coming from behind me. Followed by a resigned sigh of defeat. No problemo. There’s a small cafe at the bookstore where he can have a cup of coffee to go with his mug of sugar. And he can sneak in a nap while waiting the hour or two it’ll take me to have my fill of perusing the aisles.
When they started sneaking Starbucks into Borders back in the U.S. I knew the chain was doomed. A bookstore is supposed to be reserved for the exclusive use of book lovers. Not people who don’t know bad coffee when they sip it. So you wouldn’t think my favorite used bookstore in Bangkok would be one with a cafe attached. But it works. And even adds to the place’s ambiance. Maybe that’s because there are plenty of coffee shops in town for those who don’t really like coffee. Dasa is not where they head. Thankfully. And those who do tend to sit quietly, reading their latest find. Other than Noom who’s busy catching up on his sleep. But more likely it’s because, despite a barista in attendance, the cafe is on the small side. Like two small, round tables with a total of three chairs. Which isn’t quite spacious enough for either Starbucks’ fans or the common but still odd sight frequently experienced at Bangkok coffee shops and fast food restaurants alike: the unemployed yet busily working local with books, notebooks, and newspaper spread across the table he’s claimed for a few hours as though Burger King really was meant to be someone’s office space.
Located on Sukhumvit between soi 26 and 28 and open daily from 10 am to 8 pm, Dasa Books is what a used bookstore is supposed to be. Or for that matter what any book store is supposed to be. Its door jamb becomes a threshold, a portal if you will, to another place; it’s like entering a spiritual building, where there’s a sense of reverence, an oasis of quiet tranquility filled with the vanilla scent of aging binding glue. And a pet bunny rabbit to boot (Um, I mean ‘in addition to’ not to kick. Which is a complete different type of entertainment and not one usually associated with a book store). With some 17,000 books on offer – mostly in English but with some in German, French, Dutch, and Italian too – the store’s brightly colored walls, light wood floors, and well-lit interior quietly redresses the balance of Bangkok’s noise with a tiny oasis full of solitude. And unlike its competition in town, Dasa’s stock is impeccably organized, making it easy to find what you are looking for.
Also unlike many of the used book stores on Soi Rambuttri, there are no xeroxed books for sale at Dasa either. Its three floors may be packed with reading material, but the owners have been selective in what makes it to their shelves. Used books are their business, but they take great care that those books have only been used gently. And their stock turns over quickly enough that they’ve managed to avoid that musty aroma that many secondhand book stores take on.
Prices for recent paperback fiction run between 110 and 200 baht, which is a bit cheaper than the larger used bookstores in Chiang Mai charge. You can, of course, trade in what you’ve already read at Dasa too. With the caveat that any books you do trade in have to be in good to excellent condition. You’ll get a fair trade-in value in the form of credit you can use that day or in the future, and slightly less if you want to sell your books for cash. Note you also need to show a valid photo ID if you are selling your books for baht.
I’d hit Dasa’s without Noom more often, but his muscles come in handy for carrying my haul of books; the store’s selection and prices are good enough that I always end up buying more books than I need to last me through my trip. So yeah, I end up packing even more books in my luggage for the return flight home than I do heading out. And while Noom would prefer we’d spent our shopping hours at the Emporium Mall, getting to take an unscheduled nap gets a big thumbs up from him. As it would from any Thai. And after finishing at Dasa’s when I suggest stopping off at Benchasiri Park, just down the street from the bookstore, so I can spend a few more hours siting on the grass by the pond and reading some of what I just bought, the resigned sigh I get from him is just a bit less filled with frustration than the one my turning toward the bookstore originally elicited. Which probably has a lot to do with that meaning he’ll get to sneak in another nap again.
Related Posts You Might Enjoy: