BANGKOK — Most of the bars, shops, and guesthouses that make up the popular backpacker area around Khaosan Road have been shut for weeks now due to the coronavirus, but a famed English-language bookstore remains open without fail.
Shop manager Veera Kuruchittham, who wears a face shield and mask, defended the decision to keep the store running.
“We feel comfortable. We don’t sell vices like booze or cigarettes,” Veera said. “Right now, we barely manage to stay afloat. It’s actually not worth it anymore. There are nearly no customers left.”
The shop is known simply as The Bookshop, though it is listed on Google Map as “Book Lovers.” But many remember it by the yellow sign “BOOKS” at the front of the unassuming shophouse on Rambutri, a street parallel to Khaosan Road.
Its customers had been mostly foreigners, usually tourists. But it’s been over a month now that most foreign tourists and backpackers have disappeared from Khaosan and Rambuttri roads due to the coronavirus pandemic and business shutdown orders.
When I was there on Saturday – usually a busy day – I counted no more than 20 Western tourists holding out in the area.
Veera’s shop assistant said even the last remaining souvenir shop on Rambuttri shut down yesterday after a month of hopelessly waiting for foreign customers.
Despite the stoic decision to stay open, Veera said he is thinking about shifting to sell other goods due to the heavy losses in his book business. The books there, an impressive collection of fiction and non-fiction, are sold at a very cheap price.
“The Third Reich In History and Memory” by historian Richard J. Evans, for example, is available at 215 baht on top of a sticker from a major English-language bookshop, which priced it at 595.
There’s an entire section for Thai and Southeast Asia-related books, as well as a range of gently-used Lonely Planet guides arranged neatly by language. Nearly-new Vogues and Times magazines quietly took up an entire table. Books are not only in English, but also French, Dutch, German and Scandinavian languages.
“Thailand is linked to the rest of the world,” Veera said. “This area is hard-hit. But we must keep fighting.”
The Bookshop is doubly affected, Veera said, because it has no Facebook page or other social media page to sell online.
“We can’t really forecast what the future will be like. I understand about the need for a lockdown, however,” Veera said. “I won’t ask the government for help. We have to adapt ourselves too in order to overcome the crisis.”
He added that his shop is more than happy to deliver books to would-be customers by mail or motorcycle delivery.
The Bookshop is open every day except Monday from 1pm to 6pm (in pre-pandemic times, it closed at 9pm), located on Soi Rambuttri. Call Veera at 089-921-9022 for details.