BANGKOK — For almost 15 years, Passport Bookshop has been the hub of Bangkok’s travel book lovers.
While a small, independent bookshop may not be the most profitable venture in a digital era, the two-storey book shop on Phra Sumen Road in Old Bangkok has been purveying travel books and guidebooks in both English and Thai for more than a decade.
For shop-owner Amnat Rattanamanee, reading a physical book is a more rewarding experience than online reading, since lengthy research goes into printing a book while any blogger can hammer out a quick article.
“Some writers dedicate their whole lives to penning just a single book,” said Amnat.
Moreover, Amnat believes travel is most enriching when tourists take the time to read up beforehand.
“There are places that are a waste to visit if you have no background knowledge. If you visit Angkor Wat with no [historical and architectural] knowledge, then all you’ll see is stone. You need to have some knowledge in order to appreciate certain places,” insisted the shop owner.
When asked for a recommendation, the 44-year-old shop owner’s approach to offering tips is thoughtful and personal: “First, you have to ask yourself what stimulates you to travel. Do you prefer books, novels, short stories or poetry?”
The shop is as eclectic as the owner is eccentric. Besides typical travel-related books about where to visit and what to eat, shelves feature more detailed writings on societies spanning both history and the globe, such as Benedict Rogers’ “Burma: A Nation At The Cross Roads” and Stephen Clarke’s “Paris Revealed: A Secret Life of a City.”
Panpit Tor-suwan’s book on Sathorn’s unique “ghost” tower, the infamous unfinished luxury skyscraper famous among voyeur tourists, is available in Thai. English-language books on Thailand include a selection of translated Thai novels and poems
“After you’ve returned [from your trip] and feel curious as to why the place you visited was the way it was, I have books that will delve deeper, be it into philosophy, religion or history,” said Amnat, watching customers trickle in and out of his shop.