Second-hand Life

Reborn as a night bazaar, Ratchada Plaza is full of interesting antiques and collectibles

On weekends, passers-by at Ratchadapisek-Lat Phrao intersection may notice that Ratchada Plaza - a food court and beer bar area near Lat Phrao subway station - has once again become a hub of excitement, the activity of bargaining re-energising the once-dusty atmosphere.

It's the new home of second-hand vendors who have been on the move since 2003, when the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting forced them to relocate from Klong Lod near Makkavan Bridge (now the second home of anti-Thaksin protesters) to the carpark at Makro Bang Krabue.

At their new location, the vendors are in the heart of the city, which is good for them and good for shoppers, who have a new market to check out, with easy access by subway. It's a great alternative to Fai Chai (torch) Market near Watchara Hospital in Worajak, although it's about half the size of Fai Chai, with only about 150 booths.

Located opposite the MRTA's massive park-and-ride facility, Ratchada Plaza's 500-metre lane is highlighted by the light bulbs of each vendor.

Opened for nearly six months, it's a paradise for auto enthusiasts and antiques buffs.

Gearheads will find parts ranging from tiny knobs to mag wheels to outfit their cars. If you don't find what you're looking for, you can put in an order with sellers who can find just what you need to fit your vehicle.

Lovers of two-wheeled conveyances will find many models of scooters, vintage motorbikes and even retro pushbikes. And whatever accessory or part you need to fit your vehicle, you're bound to find it here.

Collectors can find their father's toys here. The tin wind-up cars, jumping frogs, chickens and trains will transport you back to yesteryear.

If tin toys are not your thing, there are plenty of plastic toys and dolls in various designs.

Big boys can get a table-football game for their own home, available at only Bt1,300.

There are also old candy boxes, Pepsi-logo trinkets, floral-pattern trays and enamel housewares.

Old matchboxes might not set off sparks for ordinary folks, but for collectors, the beautiful pictures on the small boxes are like works of art. One box depicts golden giant swimming on a black river against a contrasting red background, while another one portrays a white Hanuman, the king money from the "Ramakien" flying in a blue sky.

"This market is where people flock on Saturday night, while Sunday has fewer shoppers since the next day is working day," says Sutee, owner of a stall selling matchboxes, coins and old bicycle nameplates.

Music lovers may die of delight when they see the rare vinyl LPs by Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. There are even CDs and tapes by the late look thung legend Tool Thongjai. A rare compilation CD by pop singer Tam Somprasong, who was popular in the early '90s, is now a collector's item. It costs Bt1,300 - quite a markup from back in the day when it sold for around Bt100.

Old-fashioned suitcases in various colours and sizes might no longer be suitable for long trips, but could catch the fancy of artists or production designers making movies or TV commercials. For travellers, there are backpacks in various styles, sizes and colours.

Retro fashionistas won't leave empty handed either. Shop here for mix and match in your own style. There are sunglasses, flatshoes, mini skirts, graphic-pattern blouses, floral tanks, jeans, leather bags, beaded necklaces, sparkling pins and silver earrings.

Shoppers here come from different walks of life and generations. But they share a common interest - a fascination for second-hand stuff and collectable items. If you don't come to shop, come to check out the scenery, like the young man carrying a broken bumper, looking for the perfect match in a second-hand stall, a hippie chick looking for trendy flat-shoes or a middle-aged man digging through the stacks of old vinyl records.

- Ekkarat Sukpetch
The Nation