It’s Saturday night and Srinakharin Road is congested. Behind the massive 500,000m² Seacon Square shopping complex lies the source of the weekend evening congestion — the oasis of antique furniture and retro knick-knacks, Talad Rot Fai.
I get out of the cab about 100m north of Seacon Square — traffic has slowed to a complete stop — and follow a group of teenagers in cut-offs and Chucks and leather ankle boots. One of them wears a T-shirt with slabs of steak printed all over it.
The entrance along Srinakharin Soi 51 is a narrow and crowded walkway next to a row of warehouses containing bars with mismatched chairs — of the old cinema and fluorescent, plastic bus station
variety — and cigarette vending machines. A Beatles cover band, featuring four dudes in round sunglasses and post-Abbey Road Beatles hair, plays Happiness Is A Warm Gun. On the other side of the street sits Makura Cat Café.
The original Talad Rot Fai (railway market) was located on Kamphaeng Phet Road, on the property of the State Railways of Thailand (SRT), and was rented by antiques collector Phirot Roikaew beginning in 2010. The market was set along an abandoned train track, with old coaches in the process of fossilisation as the backdrop for the sales of old furniture, thus its name.
After some initial drama around May last year involving the SRT’s demolition of the market, Talad Rot Fai has finally found a new home on the other side of town. The new location on Srinakharin Road covers an area of approximately 60 rai, almost double its original size. There are also more shops and much more parking space.
Most of the stores, from food stalls to furniture sellers, have migrated with Phirot’s antiques warehouse, Rod’s, a cross between a museum of old cars and a bar. Even the Gone With The Wind mural has been transported, now serving as the backdrop for several old gas pumps. This is the spot for endless selfies with shiny vintage Corvettes. You can almost hear Roy Orbison in the air.
The market attracts new visitors from nearby neighbourhoods while maintaining its old crowd obsessed with one-of-a-kind antiques.
But Talad Rot Fai has much more to offer than vintage goods. The market is divided into several zones, including an indoor area with permanent stores reminiscent of Chatuchak market, an outdoor zone, a food zone and an area with rows of warehouses. There are, of course, a few random pet stores, tattoo parlours and barber shops. True to tradition, old vehicles and VW vans, are converted into bars along the edge of the market.
Compared to Chatuchak, navigating through Talad Rot Fai is much easier, less nerve-wracking. The goods are generally cheap — 100 baht for a button-down shirt. The open-air and indoor zones offer common fare of vast variety, ranging from second-hand clothes to e-cigarettes, from air-fresheners to hair accessories.
But it is the warehouses that make Talad Rot Fai what it is — the metaphorical bleachers where the stoners and hipsters in your high school hung out, smoking cigarettes and listening to Cream. They were built specifically to house these antique shops. An aisle between the rows is filled with chairs, from classroom-style with attached desktops to lawn. This uniformity is broken by traffic lights piled next to a life-size statue of a moose.
This area is much quieter than the rest of the market. The stores are a perfect cross between museums of curiosities and your grandmother’s cluttered attic. Some stores are purposefully arranged to look that way — jumbled, dusty rooms strewn with wooden chairs and mirrors, and a tool shed under the stairs, such as in Si Hong or Four Rooms (the owner said he might have sold the store sign).
The shops are left mostly unattended. There are chandeliers and old cashier machines, piles of Afghan rugs, dolls and old baby carriages. Shop owners often sit outside, drinking or enjoying the night air with friends, leaving visitors to explore on their own.
And there is much to discover. An old globe of the colonised world, with French West Africa and British India, starting to peel along the equator, sits in front of a statue of Jesus. The globe was quoted at 7,000 baht (though this is pre-haggle).
Another favourite store, Goldfinger, boasts old dentist chairs and surgical tools, old TV sets and sewing machines. A mannequin in a uniform stands behind the counter.
On the other side of the warehouses is a car boot sale. Vans and pick-up trucks park in a row, displaying junk in their trunks — picture frames, clocks, chairs, food containers, lamps, telephones, radios, pots and pans, you name it.
By 10pm, the bars are beginning to fill up, to seem more inviting. After hours of perusing and sifting through odds and ends, an ice cold beer feels well-earned.
Talad Rot Fai is located at Srinakharin Soi 51, behind Seacon Square. The indoor plaza area is open Tues-Sun, but the outdoor flea market is only open on Wed and Fri-Sun.
Visit facebook.com/taradrodfi or call 081-827-5885 or 081-732-8778.
About the author
- Writer: Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana
Position: Life Writer