15 Indie Bookshops In Southeast Asia That Will Satisfy Any Nerd

15 Indie Bookshops In Southeast Asia That Will Satisfy Any Nerd

Indie bookshops are all the rage now, taking root everywhere from big cities like Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, to humble neighbourhoods like Uthai Thani in Thailand. Check out what’s in store at these Southeast Asian bookshops that no self-respecting bookworm should miss out on.

Bookworms will agree that reading is the quickest way to travel without even moving from your bed. But why not get the best of both worlds… by travelling to get books? Leave your other holiday plans on the shelf ─ these independent bookstores around the region are perfect for any self-confessed nerd!

Singapore

1. Basheer Graphic Books

indie bookshops in SEA

Image credit: Fritz Park

Established over 25 years ago, Basheer Graphic Books is nestled in a corner of Bras Basah. Needless to say, this hidden haven specialises in books on architecture, graphic design, animation, craft, photography and typography. Wander through a labyrinth of shelves boasting glossy magazines and sturdy hardcover collections. If you’re an art aficionado, this is the place to be!

Where:
#04-19, 231 Bain St
Bras Basah Complex

2. BooksActually

indie bookshops in SEA

Image credit: BooksActually

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” they say, but they haven’t seen BooksActually. You’ll be instantly bewitched by the floor-to-ceiling shelves, trinkets artistically draped around the shop, and, if you’re lucky, the cute cats that call BooksActually their home. For the less superficial, you need only take a closer look at the assortment of books available to be smitten ─ you’ll find everything from English classics to new arrivals on the up-and-coming local poetry scene. Can’t decide on a suitable purchase? A vending machine outside the shop dispenses ‘Mystery Books’ for $19!

Where:
9 Yong Siak Street

3. Littered With Books

indie bookshops in SEA

Image credit: Littered With Books

Tucked along a row of shophouses on Duxton Road is a two-storey store that, while not littered, is certainly full of books. Bright decor and handmade shelf labels add the finishing touch to this charming, rustic shop. Walk through to the back or the second floor and curl up in a comfy armchair by the window to while the day away with your favourite storybook!

Where:
20 Duxton Hill

Thailand

4. Booktopia, Uthai Thani

Image credit: Booktopia

This bookshop has a distinct old-school ambience, with random vintage items like a desk lamp and wicker basket balanced on the already piled-high tables. Vintage glass-fronted cabinets showcase various anachronisms, like a Steve Jobs biography right next to dusty plastic action figures. Manoeuvring through the well-worn aisles is worth it for intriguing reads in both English and Thai!

Where:
9/17 Narongwithee Road Uthaimai
Muang Uthai Thani, Uthai Thani

5. Chiang Dao Bookshop, Chiang Mai

Image credit: Chiang Dao Bookshop

Writers Phu Chiangdao and Pry Pansaeng founded this friendly, open-concept store in a traditional wooden Thai building in 2013. Sieve through young adult fiction and history/political books within the tranquility of Chiang Mai. Better yet, take a look at the photo exhibitions and short film screenings held during indie bookstores week in June for the full indie experience!

Where:
190/4 M. 4, Ban Wangjom
Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai

6. Dasa Book Cafe, Bangkok

Image credit: Dasa Book Cafe

Dasa Books is a must-go if you’re looking for variety. You’ll be spoilt for choice from its database of over 18,000 second-hand books, spanning all genres in a variety of languages including French and Swedish. Rummage through bargain boxes of titles going for as little as 19 baht (US$ 0.60) too! An attached cafe is the perfect excuse to linger a while more.

Where:
714/4 Sukhumvit Road (between Soi 26 and 28, BTS Phrom Phong)
Bangkok

Philippines

7. Artbooks.ph, Mandaluyong

Image credit: artbooks.ph

This artsy-fartsy bookshop is chic and spacious. As the name suggests, it is home to a reservoir of visual art, design, film and performance books directly sourced from Philippine artists. Get a couple of out-of-print zines and exhibition catalogs and flat lay them on the white reading table for that real indie #aesthetic.

Where:
Pioneer Studios, 123 Pioneer Street
Mandaluyong City 1550

8. Mt. Cloud Bookshop, Baguio

indie bookshops in SEA

Image credit: Mt. Cloud Bookshop

In the family-owned Mt. Cloud bookshop, rare finds and selected foreign books provide a gateway to undiscovered territory, while a children’s section and another whole section dedicated to literature from Baguio and Northern Luzon offers a retreat into a sense of home. A wooden ladder and homely staircase at the back, leading to even more rows of books, ensure that Mt. Cloud is steeped in nostalgia.

Where:
Mt Cloud Bookshop, Casa Vallejo
Upper Session Road, Baguio City 2600

9. Solidaridad Bookshop, Manila

Image credit: Solidaridad Bookshop

Situated at an unassuming spot along a long Manila street, the interior of Solidaridad reminds one of the libraries from one’s childhood ─ the books are crammed into stoic shelves and neatly positioned on rotating metal racks. It is helmed by the Philippines’ own National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, so expect to be impressed by the array of local publications and hand-picked international titles at this shop, which advertises itself as ‘a cultural event’ in itself!

Where:
531 Padre Faura, Ermita, Manila

Indonesia

10. Aksara Store, Jakarta

Image credit: Aksara Store

Stocking all manner of books from children’s reading books to international classics to up-and-coming local writers, Aksara is one of Indonesia’s most popular independent book retailers. Despite sleek and modern wooden furnishing, the store’s three outlets around Jakarta retain a timeless feel that it’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in. Besides books, Aksara also sells crafts and even vinyl records!

Where:
1) Jalan Kemang Raya, Bangka, South Jakarta City
2) Jalan TB Simatupang Kav 17, Cilandak Town Square 1st Floor unit 153, South Jakarta City
3) Jalan Jend. Sudirman No.52-53, Pacific Place, South Jakarta City

11. Gerai Salihara, Jakarta

Image credit: Gerai Salihara

If you want a closer look at Indonesia’s culture and history or to get the real deal for Indonesian literature, this is the place for you! Gerai Salihara puts fresh local writers, cultural essays and memoirs in the spotlight. Its super hipster white interior is spiced up by the quirky locally-designed souvenirs that dot the shelves.

Where:
Gerai Salihara, at Komunitas Salihara, Jalan Salihara No. 16, RT.11/RW.3
Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta City

12. POST Santa, Jakarta

Image credit: POST Santa

What makes POST Santa distinct is its function not only as a bookstore but also as a creative space where book discussions, workshops and book launches are held. This, coupled with a unique selection of contemporary short stories, essays and novels by indie publishers in Indonesia, appeals it to the outspoken youth community. Its cool alternative vibe is worth checking out!

Where:
POST Santa, Pasar Santa Modern
Jl. Cipaku I, South Jakarta City

Malaysia

13. BACA ─ The Reading Room and Cafe, Pahang

‘Baca’ means ‘read’ in Malay, blatantly showcasing BACA’s aim of promoting a love of reading in the local community. Indeed, this cosy, carpeted bookstore provides a prime environment for family story time. Alternatively, settle yourself on a cushioned stool for a peaceful afternoon. You may even manage to catch one of the various workshops and activities held there, such as the recent Aspiring Writers’ Write-In @ BACA.

Where:
81, 1st Floor, Jalan Dagang 1
Dynaton Bukit Angin, Temerloh

14. Gerakbudaya Bookstore, Selangor/Penang

Image credit: Gerakbudaya Bookstore

Founded in 1998, Gerakbudaya is widely recognised as Malaysia’s preeminent indie bookshop and publisher. ‘Gerakbudaya’ translates to ‘movement of cultures’, encapsulating the bookstore’s focus on local literature that offers fresh perspectives on Malaysian culture and socio-politics. It also has an inventory of books of all genres, including those from publishers all over Southeast Asia. Pop by either of its branches for some insightful material!

Where:
1) 2, Jalan Bukit 11/2, Seksyen 11, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
2) 78 Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, George Town, 10200 Penang

15. Silverfish Books, Kuala Lumpur

Image credit: Silverfish Books

Serious literati will squeal with delight at the vast collection of philosophy, literature and Malaysian English material here. It’s also worth noting for being an adamant advocate of good old-fashioned publishing ─ it accepts manuscript submissions, and staff painstakingly go through each line personally with the author. The result is Silverfish New Writing, a series of anthologies by budding regional writers, which you won’t find anywhere else!

Where:
20-2F, Bangsar Village, 2 (Second) Floor
Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur

Even with the proliferation of online stores and ebooks, the feeling of holding a wobbling armful of new reads will never go out of style. There’s really nothing like the smell and texture of a hard copy book! So forget Amazon, Kindle and BookDepository.com ─ these bookshops are well worth the journey!

About Author

Rachel Lee
Rachel Lee

Rachel loves to write, travel, and of course, write about travel. She believes that you can find beauty and wonder in the little things, in any little corner of the world. If you can't find her at a desk with her head stuck in a book or up in the clouds, she is probably dancing or even more probably checking the fridge.

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