Whether you’re in the market for second-hand furniture, antique temple fixtures, or retro knick-knacks, the market stalls around Wat Suan Kaew will offer all that – and then some.
Hunting for antiques and vintage furniture in Bangkok is fun, but challenging. There’s plenty of nice stuff to be found at well-known markets like Chatuchak Playground (an open-air flea market next to the Chatuchak Weekend Market) and Talad Rot Fai, but prices are often much higher than what you would pay in the West.
When we were redecorating our new shophouse, Wat Suan Kaew saved our bank account. Something of a clued-up expat secret, this temple just outside Bangkok is home to one of the best second-hand markets in this part of the country. Be warned, though – most vendors have done little in the way of curation and their wares range from actual trash to unique antique gems. It’s a nightmare for germaphobes and neat freaks, but a playground for treasure hunters.
Upon arrival, you’ll bump into a six-story building completely covered in mismatching mosaic tiles. While the wares on sale aren’t very interesting (plastic household items, cheap electronics, and heaping piles of second-hand clothes sold by the kilo), the view from the top floor is worth a climb through the kaleidoscopic stairways. The ground level plays host to several teakwood furniture workshops, with daybeds, cabinets, and coffee tables priced much lower than on the more popular markets downtown. Right across the road, the multi-level parking lot is where large pieces of furniture are collected and sold. It’s worth a quick glance if you’re after something specific, but during our multiple visits here, it was mostly a mishmash of yellowing mattresses, stained sofas and creepy hospital beds.
Follow the road past the open-air restaurant to where the fun really starts: a warren of alleyways lined with stalls chock-a-block with pretty much anything you could possibly think of. The first two lanes are mostly devoted to what could be categorized as ‘collector’s items’: vintage enamel plates, religious figurines, tattered antique shop signs, retro toys, and colorful vintage cookie tins alongside a whole range of other quirky knick-knacks you probably don’t need, but definitely want.
The next two lanes are lined with bigger items: Chinese antiques with mother of pearl inlays, stained-glass doors salvaged from demolished Thai houses, man-sized ceramic vases, and an endless array of wardrobe closets, cabinets and side tables. Most are in good condition as the shop owners here have selected only the best pieces, and repaired them before they went on sale. The lane ends in a warehouse filled with second-hand furniture ranging from heavy-duty industrial lights to plastic mannequin dolls, antique European clocks, and porcelain guan yin statues (alongside piles of pretty much everything else, so you’ll have to paw through the shelves to find the good stuff).
And as if saving the best for last, the cluster of shops at the end of the stretch is where the real treasures can be found. Several semi-open warehouses are filled to the brim with retro furniture and accessories like embellished prayer bowls, carved wooden side tables and, if you’re lucky, the odd designer piece (on our last visit, we snagged a set of Le Corbusier Cassina armchairs for just 8000 THB!). Surrounding the warehouses are several shops selling colorful Thai retro goods like posters, old-school packaging, tiffin boxes and other kitschy keepsakes.
How to get to Wat Suan Kaew
Wat Suan Kaew is located in Nonthaburi, about 45 minutes by car from downtown Bangkok. Hailing down a taxi on the street might be tricky, but drivers on ride-sharing apps like Grab usually don’t have a problem driving this far out of town. Alternatively, you can reach Wat Suan Kaew by MRT (get off at Bang Phlu station) followed by a short hop in a taxi or songtaew.
More antique hunting? Papaya Studio is pricier, but just as fun.