In Soi Lat Phrao 55/2, just off the Lat Phrao Road in the Wang Thonglang district of Bangkok you’ll find the Papaya Studio, a giant warehouse, part shop, part museum. This quite often bizarre accumulation of vintage memorabilia and collectibles is the product of more than 25 years of gathering around him everything Mr Tong, the owner, deems worthy of preservation.
This huge warehouse has one of the largest collections of vintage and antique goods in Asia. This vast labyrinth of narrow passageways and open spaces is filled with just about anything you can imagine, arranged in an order that would give a maze builder a migraine.
Most of the objects are placed together with some sort of logical connection in mind, but finding out the price of an object of desire that has caught your eye requires locating a member of staff and as there is no map or guide of the store to follow the problem then lies in finding your way back to where you were. You could lay bread crumbs or take a photo – probably the easier option, and photos don’t of course attract rats.
Even though you may eventually locate your item and its price you may find that the owner has decided that the item is not for sale. There is an element of lottery about the whole experience which adds to the fun and frustration that all true lovers of retro memorabilia are familiar with.
The whole place has an appeal redolent of an Aladdin’s cave, a treasure trove of all the stuff you remember from childhood, which for most people got discarded as time went by. But thanks to Mr Tong’s acquisitive habits they have all found a new home at Papaya Studio.
Pink is this season’s colour
Giant action figurines, Vespa scooters, old radio and stereo sets, gramophone players, retro furniture, ornate table lamps, Star Wars memorabilia, mannequins, peddle cars, paintings and framed photographs, furniture and much more fill every nook and cranny of this amazing storehouse of accumulated memories, for that is in essence what it is.
Johnny Strabler, is that you?
Papaya Studio offers us a glimpse of times past, a fond recollection of a seemingly simpler age, of technology fashioned by hand and not some anodyne micro-chip-driven virtual world now largely experienced vicariously, sadly devoid of the myriad tactile sensations anyone of a certain age will be all too familiar with.
The musty smell of paper, rubber, wood, oil and rusting metal can be quite intoxicating as you sift through the apparently endless, glorious clutter and these olfactory stimuli trigger memories from some cobwebbed part of your brain that brings a smile of remembrance and a wistful longing to revisit your long-lost rose-tinted past, if just for a moment.
There is something very comforting about nostalgia in an age of rapid technological and sociological change and we all subscribe to the notion of things being better once upon a time every now and then.
At Papaya Studio you can binge on this feeling to your heart’s content, before you, giddy with sentimentality, step back out into the glare of Bangkok’s brilliant sunshine and snap on your shades, breathe in a lungful of its noxious fumes and head off back into the twenty-first century.