25 July 2013

Bangkok - Papaya Vintage Furniture Warehouse

Date of Exploration : 22 Jul 2013

When it comes to unique shopping experiences, Bangkok has no lack of imaginative retail enclaves to delight in but a visit to Papaya vintage shop is hard to top. For starters, there's the peculiar choice of a shop name which sounds more at ease fronting a supermarket, restaurant or orchard than a store selling secondhand items. Then there is the genre in which Papaya could not be identified with for it is a warehouse, store, museum, and studio all under one roof. The establishment is a bona fide time capsule and a vintage hunter's wet dream cums true!

Just Papaya... no tagline or clue about what the shop is all about. Even its name card doesn't state the nature of business because it simply defies conventional categorisations.
I am neither a collector of antiques nor a shopaholic so my interest to pop by Papaya was initially lukewarm. But having been here, I think this unofficial Bangkokian attraction that is off the mainstream tourist map is definitely worth checking out.

Getting There

Hidden inside a small street at the suburban district of Lat Phrao (also spelt Lad Prao), getting to Papaya can be a bit of a challenge. The easiest way is to take a cab and tell the cab driver Papaya's address (55/2, Lat Phrao Road).

If you're up for a bit more adventure by taking public transport, here's the direction of getting there :

- Take the MRT to Lat Phrao station and go out by Exit 4.
- Upon exiting the station you'll see a main road. That's Lat Phrao road. To the right is a bus-stop.
- Hop on any bus (EXCEPT 151 and 156) and look out for 55/2 on the left.
- Alight at the next bus stop and back track to 55/2.

The bus ride should take under 10 minutes. Initially, we thought we could walk from Lat Phrao MRT station to street 55/2 but it is actually quite far. Taking a bus is recommended.

Photos : Lat Phrao MRT station and taking Exit 4. We boarded bus no. 92 and we were very lucky to meet an extremely friendly bus conductress. We told her the address and got her to tell us when to alight (which is about 4 bus-stops away). She spoke very good Mandarin!

We dropped off at a bus-stop near street 55 and walked straight ahead to 55/2. Do not enter the market on the left (pictured here) as 55/2 is not a shop unit along 55 but actually a street off Lat Phrao road.

About 2 blocks down from street 55, we reached street 55/2.

Entrance of street 55/2 taken on Lat Phrao road. Thank goodness I didn't get run down by traffic to show you the way in!

Walking down the short street, you'll see a white block on the right with a neon green hut. That's the Papaya warehouse. I felt that the white side wall can be used as a canvas to spray paint Papaya's name on it so that visitors can identify it immediately.
One Person's Junk is Another's Treasure

The neighbourhood that Papaya sits in seemed rather sedate and nondescript. Even the warehouse's façade doesn't raise any eyebrow with a lack of signages to mark its presence. The bright neon hut houses an annexed café but it looked rather unkept and forgotten.

However, like any pearl that's hidden within an ugly oyster or a diamond obscured in a coat of black coal, a treasure lies waiting to be discovered...

The entrance to Papaya is a small hole that felt disproportionate to its lofty storage space. But stepping past the inconspicuous reception that consisted only of a desk, Papaya opened up into a wonderland of nostalgia! 

Packed from floor to wall to ceiling with the memorabilia of time, the assault on the senses was immediate until such time that my eyes adjusted themselves to the array, or should I say disarray of knick knacks.

This place is retroliciousness at its best and it's free to visit!

In a retro frame of mind... Psychedelic armchairs, ornate cupboards, old-fashion lampshades, and other creative remnants of past eras find a their spot in the limelight here at Papaya. 

James Dean in 'Giant' forever immoratlised in this life-sized figure that greeted visitors as they enter the heart of the warehouse.

What's he looking at?

"Don't look, don't look! But is that hot guy checking me out?" blushed the witch.

It is every girl's dream to be adored eternally by a handsome screen legend... yes? Actually the 2 figurines weren't looking at each other but I moved the witch to create this visual anecdote that there's someone for everyone. Meeting that person just depends on the hands of fate to move us in the same direction. I'm still pinning for fate to bring me my soulmate! 

Papaya has a massive collection of paintings but my fave was the hilarity presented in this Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man given a wicked Asian twist! Check out the bulldog humping one of his legs! LOL.

I M lovin' it.

Stacked on 3 floors, Papaya is a maze with a staggering collection that would be the envy of any karung guni (rag-and-bone man)!

Every floor and subsection hold a memory awaiting to be rekindled. I was quite thrilled to encounter some of the items I grew up with.

There are no price tags on any of the pieces. If you see anything you fancy, snap a photo with your phone and get a quote from the staff. Prices won't be cheap since many of the items are one-of-a-kind authentic vintages. And some of them are not for sale.

View from the third floor of Papaya. My mind was boggled by the sheer bulk of once-loved toys, furnishings, and appliances.

My Samsung Galaxy S3 meeting its ancestors. All photos on this post were shot with the smartphone's camera.

A time tunnel. Literally.

I found this display of traditional ice shavers and nude paintings comical. The scene seem to be saying "Hot from the nudies? Cool down with some ice kachang!"

While the collection of items are pretty haphazard, there are efforts to group them together by type, function, and era. 

A section on level 3 is devoted to superheroes and life-sized movie figurines. But items get moved around, may be purchased, and newcomers added so the display is constantly evolving.

I didn't know Barbie came as a hard plastic doll in the past where you cannot strip her down. Darn! And it looks like the hairdryer hasn't changed much since its invention.

Time waits for no man. If you could turn back time, what would you change?

Saw this sliced lampshade which I thought was pretty hypnotic as each angle you look at it (bottom-up, side or front), a different design reveals itself.

Ah... I remember when amplifiers used to be the nerve centre that controlled sound. Today, it's direct plug-and-play on a mp3 player or handphone. I'm surprised not to find a portable CD player or MD player here. I suspect the mp3 player will also end up here some day. 

Remembering Thailand's brief colonization by Euro forces during World War II was this silent cherub reflecting on the kingdom's estranged past. 

Papaya has many period assemblies that are great settings for photography except for the huge fans that keep the un-air-conditioned warehouse cool.

Won't you gladly clean your feet before stepping into a house on this doormat? Heh heh.

It's up and down memory lane at Papaya with familiar and unfamiliar artefacts all lined up to give one's ability to reminisce a good workout... if you're born in the 50s through to the early 90s that is.

While it's free to visit Papaya, professional photogs may be charged a fee to shoot here. Maybe because I didn't bring my DSLR that I was free to roam and bring home shots. The venue is also for rent for fashion and wedding photography and it has a couple of studios for stylists to realise their retro vision for editorials.

What better way to round up the visit to Papaya than a sip of Coke in its classic bottle form for only 10baht each?
I've been to quite a few retro shops and markets in my wanderlust but Papaya is truly phenomenal for its scale, collection and freedom to interact with the pieces.

I was at the Singapore National Museum some time back and saw a hairdryer behind lock and keys. At Papaya, I saw the exact same hairdryer but I was able to pick it up like an everyday item and pose for photos.

We spent about 1.5 hours at Papaya to browse and take pictures and still felt we haven't covered every corner of this fascinating place. Papaya is definitely a delicious bite into a slice of time!

Address : 55/2, Soi Lat Phrao ('soi' is Thai for 'road' and 'street'), Wang Thonglang, Bangkok 10310
Opening Hours : 10am - 7pm daily
Admission : Free
Phone : +66 2-539 8220, +668 1-622 2200
Website : www.papaya55.com

16 July 2013

Pengerang - 2nd Attempt at Bicycle Tour from Sungai Rengit to Desaru

Date of Exploration : 13 - 14 Jul 2013

After the unsuccessful attempt at cycling from Sungai Rengit (Pengerang's main town) to Desaru in March this year, I'm left with a splinter in my bike tour ambition. So I'm back at Pengerang again to try it a second time!

All geared up. A lesson learnt from the first cycling trip is to be fully covered up from the sun. I only had on my mid-length cycling shorts the last time and I got burnt from the knees down. This time, I wore long tights beneath the shorts.
Details of how to get to Pengerang and other information about the seaside town are detailed in my previous post (click here to read) so I won't repeat them here. Instead, this post will document new discoveries I made on this trip and more long distance cycling tips.

All ready to fight fatigue and the long ride ahead to Desaru! Will I be successful in reaching my destination with this second attempt?

Feeding time to fuel up for the journey at Sin Kong Restaurant. Tried the steamed lobster this time and although freshness still oozes from the meat, it was rather over-cooked. The Teochew-styled steamed pomfret was not bad but the simple Nai Bai fired with garlic is my perennial favourite. Total bill came up to RM106 with 2 plates of rice and drinks. 

Doubled up on our fluid supply since we ran out halfway during our ride the last time with just a 1.5L bottle. Face mask is also necessary to keep from eating road dust. Penned on smile is a must too to greet oncoming traffic and other cyclists :)

Powering up with the newly launched reduced sugar Red Bull.

Cycling on the road always calls for extra vigilance even if the countryside gets little traffic.

Life goes on. What looks like a Lapwing who died from a broken wing.

While I'm all geared up with helmet and full-length garbs, the couple behind me were not so kiasu. We took the same boat from Singapore and the guy has cycled the Sungai Rengit to Desaru route 8 times!

Along the way, we passed by a couple of cute ponies grazing by the roadside.

Mane attraction... Farrah Fawcett reincarnated?

We were in such luck to get upclose with these beautiful creatures. Awesome!

Long and winding road. Thank God for the overcast and cool weather that weekend which made cycling more enjoyable. But photos turned out flat though.

After about 3 hours of paddling, we arrived at this spot where we stopped and turned back the last time because we were so tired. But not this time, we are going to carry on beyond this point!

The road never seem to end! A real test of will power and stamina.

Met Ronald and Joanne who read my entry about Pengerang to plan for their cycling expedition. So surreal to meet people who actually read my humble blog. Hope the both of you are seeing this. Thanks for visiting my blog and it's been a great pleasure meeting you both! You've inspired me to go further than Desaru next time.

Light at the end of the road! Turning right at the roundabout which is just a short distance ahead, we finally reach...

... our destination! We made it to Desaru after an almost 5-hour journey (started at 12pm, reached at 4:30pm). We could've reached sooner if not for the various photo stops along the way.
Desaru Damai Beach Resort Review

After cycling 35km, our butts were toasted so we decided to rest for a night at Desaru Damai Beach Resort. There are 3 resorts (the other 2 being Lotus Resort and Pulai Resort) next to each other along Desaru beach but we chose Damai because it is the most cost effective.

A night at Damai Beach Resort starts from RM130 (est. S$58) for a twin-share room and comes with breakfast. We took the RM130 room since we just wanted to rest the night before cycling the 35km back to Sungai Rengit.

A RM20 refundable deposit is required at the point of checking in although I wonder why that was necessary. It didn't seem possible to break anything since the resort is already rather old and broken!

Appearance-wise, Desaru Damai Beach Resort resembled more of an old-school dormitory rather than a hotel. When we asked for a room, the guy manning the reception pass us the key to go inspect the unit first, which I thought was an odd practice.

But it is necessary to check that everything is in working order in the room first before taking in. Damai Beach Resort has more rooms than there are staff to maintain them in good condition. The couple who cycled to Desaru 8 times had a room with no electricity. Our room (no. 206) looked fine but we later found out that the toilet bowl doesn't flush.

The room was spacious but the paint work and furnishings were aging. Black stains spot the base of the bathtub and the towels smelled like they came from a bar. The pillow retained the odour of the previous guest who didn't seem to favour washing his / her hair and the bed was too soft. Got quite a few mosquito bites in the middle of the night too.

But the worst part was the attached balcony. Lots of yellowed and disgusting looking cigarette butts littered the floor. We wanted to have a drink at the balcony while enjoying the sound of waves but got turned off after seeing how dirty the balcony was.

The swimming pool at Damai Beach Resort looked decent though but it closes very early, at 6.30pm. It's the weekend but the resort was rather empty and the gift shop, restaurant, karaoke and other facilities were closed.

With nothing really better to do at Damai, we decided to check out the resort's beachfront and entertained ourselves by camwhoring. Heh heh...

My favourite photo thanks to the skill of Siow Har, my photography, and now, cycling kaki! This angle and timely capture of the rushing waves made me look like Poseidon rising out of the sea. Muahahaha...

'V' for victory! We conquered the long ride and upslopes, the butt sores and muscle burns, but most of all, we preserved and didn't quit!

Check out my kawaii mosquito patches! Since nothing seem to be operating at Desaru Damai Beach Resort, we cycled over to Pulai Resort which is just next door for dinner. On hindsight, maybe we should've stayed at either Pulai Resort although a room cost at least RM260. The ambience and mood is much better. A dinner buffet of Malaysian favourites at Pulai Resort cost RM48++. Food quality was not too bad but the dishes were spread around the parameters of the restaurant which made it quite tedious to walk.

The next morning, we departed Desaru Damai Beach Resort at 9.45am for our ride back. The resort may not be a very good stay but the price point was reasonable. Staff were pretty friendly too. We wanted to stock up on water for our journey but the gift shop was closed (it never did open once during out stay) so we asked the kitchen to fill up our bottles, which they did.
Reaching the Destination was Only Half the Journey

While we were jubilant on reaching our final destination, that joy was quickly dowsed by the thought of riding back. But having done it once, completing the ride again didn't feel like the hell it was before.

Look ma, no hands! Riding like it's my grandfather's road. Please don't follow my bad example on safety!

On the way back, we saw this sign pointing to certain new discoveries and the curious explorer in us decided to follow it.

Following the sign, we turned into a short road which leads to a stretch of beachfront at Batu Layar. Nothing much here except for a provision shop cum eatery serving a small population of beachgoers.

We took the opportunity to take a break and go bananas.

Mutiara Bay at Batu Layar is relatively quieter than Desaru beach although the water and sand quality are the same.

Further down the stretch of Mutiara Bay is an outcrop of statuesque black rocks with very interesting formations known as Pantai Delima Putih.

The jagged rock profiles reminded me of some monstrous sea creature's teeth. A perfect backdrop to 拍 shameless 写真集! LOL  

Further upshore, attempts at commercializing the rocky attraction is apparent. A resort sits nearby but it looked like it didn't host any guests for a long time. I thought it was abandoned until I caught a glimpse of someone watching TV at one of the huts.

Taking the Batu Layar path was a good choice because we got to ride along the beach away from the main road and the road brought us into traditional Malay kampongs and a small fishing village.

A kampong school.

"Moo-ve out of my way and stop disturbing my peace!" the cow seemed to say.

One of the landmarks that helps us gauge our location from the expanse of green fields is this mosque. Seeing this, we know we are about half way to Sungai Rengit.

It drizzled slightly on our ride back and that kept us nice and cool despite the effort we exerted on the paddles. But if it rained any harder, I think we wouldn't be able to carry on so do bring along a raincoat and plastic bags to waterproof your belongings. And yes, we made it back!

Double 'V' for twice the victory of making it to Desaru and back! Returned our bikes to S.H.H Motor & Bicycle Trading, the only bike rental shop at Sungai Rengit. A bike's rent costs RM15 (S$6.10) per day.
Before embarking on this second attempt, Siow Har and I were prepared to be totally trashed physically by the 70km ride but surprisingly, we didn't suffer as much aches as we did the first time.

It must be due to our constant hydration with energy and isotonic drinks as well as eating an apple or banana at the half way mark to fuel the exercise and snuff out cramps. The gloomy weather helped a lot too as compared to the blazing heat we cycled under during the previous ride.

If you're looking for a short weekend getaway that's different from the usual packaged tours to Desaru, why not try cycling there? You'll definitely arrive home much fitter than before! :o)

Related Post :

Cycling Tour from Pengerang to Desaru (March 2013)
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