Bangkok’s Zero Baht Shop may be unusual, but it’s also a great idea and a terrific way for consumers to play their part in saving the planet. It also provides people on lower incomes with alternative ways to sustain their family. The small store can be found on a residential street in the Prawet district. Imagine a shop where all you need to stock up on basic essentials is some trash. That’s what the Zero Baht Shop is—a place where people can exchange recyclable goods for useful items. No money is needed. There’s also a community swap shop. The shop sells snacks, drinks, basic cooking ingredients, like oil and fish sauce, toiletries, cleaning products, and other day-to-day essentials. Payment is made with glass or plastic bottles, tin cans, bundles of paper or cardboard, and anything else that can be cashed in and recycled. And, that’s kind of weird but cool!
Mainly functioning as a restaurant and social enterprise, Cabbages and Condoms has become famous as a place where people can enjoy tasty food and get advice on safe sex. Profits from the restaurant go into community projects related to HIV, unplanned pregnancy, sexual and general health, education, and rural development. There are several outlets now in Thailand and beyond, but the flagship Bangkok branch remains a favourite. It also has an onsite store that is one of the quirkiest retail spaces in the city. From key chains made with condoms, mugs emblazoned with penises, and condom flowers, to t-shirts with bold slogans, 4GB ‘memory dicks’, and other awareness-promoting novelties, you’re sure to find some unique gifts and souvenirs here.
As if finding an outlet dedicated to Christmas in a predominantly Buddhist nation wasn’t already a bit strange, Bangkok Christmas Decoration Export Co. Ltd. is made even weirder by the fact that it’s open all throughout the year. If you ever want to pick up tinsel, baubles, wreaths, a Christmas tree, or an inflatable snowman in, say, July, this is the place to come. Why stop at the small stuff, though? You can also buy things like full-sized Santa sleighs and life-sized reindeers! It really is Christmas every day in this part of Bangkok!
Wonder Anatomie is just one of several fashion stores with weird features in the Siam Center. Brown paper flowers hanging from the ceiling may seem regular enough, until you look closer and spot skeletons lurking above you too. Colourful flowers sit in pots on the floor, somehow creating a balance to the deathly scenes above. The funky garments pay homage to the human anatomy, with images of skulls, bones, and organs decorating items and design elements that signify parts of the body. Beads snake along the spine, clothes are cut to follow the rib cage, and items emphasis the pelvic bones. From the clothes to the décor, everything is all a little bit strange about Wonder Anatomie.
Moving onto different ornamental items completely, you’ll find Nature Decoration within the enormous Chatuchak Market. A place for shoppers who aren’t afraid to look death in the eye—literally—the taxidermist shop sells all manner of stuffed and preserved animal corpses. A variety of shells and the butterflies and insects mounted in frames are some of the tamer items. Buffalo skulls stare at shoppers through hollow eye sockets, while stuffed rabbits, foxes, and birds look on with a glassy gaze. If you ever dreamed of owning a dead reptile, you’ve found the place to shop.
The only remaining traditional Chinese remedy store in Bangkok’s oldest Chinese neighbourhood, Chang An takes ancient health traditions very seriously. The family-run store has numerous historic books detailing cures for a range of ills, and you can stock up on diverse plant and animal parts to make concoctions thought to have healing properties. Far removed from trendy new-age outlets, this store takes you back in time, with its dusty displays, antique wooden shelving, weathered cardboard packaging, old weighing scales, and row upon row of jars and filing cabinet boxes filled with obscure ingredients. You’ll find Chang An in Sampeng Market in Chinatown.
A combination between a vintage shop, museum, and photography studio, Papaya Studio sells everything odd and unusual you could possibly ever want. Home to one of the biggest collections of antiques and vintage curiosities in Southeast Asia, Papaya Studio is the result of the passion of its eccentric owner. Thousands of oddities can be found in the large warehouse today. From historic photographs, retro seating, neon signs, and old electronics, to Italian bicycles from yesteryear, Asian antiques, Victorian home furnishings, and full-sized figures of superheroes, there’s something to suit all tastes here. Items don’t have price tags, and the owner may or may not be in the mood to sell a particular item—if something really grabs your attention, you can but ask and hope.
A store that time forgot, the Nightingale-Olympic is a relic from a bygone era. The dusty and diverse products range from the genuinely interesting, like antiques and curios, to items that should probably have been tossed onto the rubbish heap decades ago. Golf balls split open with age share the space with nail polish that is now mostly dried up, glockenspiels with missing keys, and electronics that are probably dangerous to try and use today. Old fashions hang on chipped and peeling mannequins, original products manufactured nearly half a century ago sit unopened in their packaging, and the overall atmosphere is one of sorrowful decay. Nonetheless, the once-elite department store refuses to let go of its past splendour, sitting exactly how it did in the 1970s. It’s definitely one of the weirdest stores in all of Bangkok!
An honorary mention should be given to the New World Shopping Mall, a derelict mall that stands in ruins after being ravaged by a fire. Although there are no longer any displays or droves of shoppers, it’s still one of the weirdest stores in Bangkok for one reason: the basement is filled with beautiful fish. Put in the flooded areas to try and prevent mosquitoes from breeding, the fish themselves bred and have now created one of the world’s strangest aquariums.