We’ve written about secondhand bookstores in Chiang Mai so next up is a wrap on where to buy new books, even if the options in Thailand’s northern capital are rather sadly limited. While Thai language readers are spoiled for choice and plenty of excellent secondhand hand options are available, considering the large expat community and number of Western visitors the new reading material situation is disappointing.
DK books, despite being right in the middle of tourist land on the moat road down from Tha Pae, and having a huge surface area of book aisles, devotes a tiny fraction to their foreign language section. DK’s a national chain and we’ve found their Bangkok outlets generally okay but this isn’t worth a tuk tuk fare — most airport departure lounges have wider selections.
Also in a central location but with a better, though still not awesome, selection is Book Zone on Tha Pae Road. It’s only a tiny store but they have a much higher proportion of foreign language offerings and even have some French and German titles. They don’t have a wide choice in the novels section but do have some good reference books on Southeast Asia. (And at least you can buy your Bangkok Post there, which is more than we can say for some stores.)
Moving around the corner to Sridonchai Road, you’ll find what is probably the city’s best bet at Suriwong Book Centre. Another large store with an extensive stationery department, it has a half-decent choice of English books with a selection of recently published novels, a few old classics and a good reference and coffee table book section specialising, not surprisingly, in all things Southeast Asia. They also have probably the best map section around too.
At least Suriwong also tries to look the part, with a magazine and newspaper stand and coffee shop attached. They used to have a larger English section with also reference books in French and German language but a store re-organisation has seen the section shrink.
A final possibility, though not very central, is the branch of B2S in Airport Plaza which again has a reasonable but not great range.
So wait until you travel to Cambodia, Laos or Burma to buy new books? Or bring an e-reader! Buck your ideas up Chiang Mai!
By Mark Ord.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.