The Nightingale Olympic Department Store. Bangkok, Thailand
by Marc Nair, 16 April 2017
The Nightingale Olympic Department Store is the oldest department store in Bangkok. It opened in 1936 and today carries new-old stock. Some goods date from the 1960s! When it first opened, the store attracted the cream of Bangkok's elite, and was the place to be seen, especially when shopping for top-of-the-line cosmetics from America.
The first floor is laid out like a small, open-plan departmental store, with cosmetics and sporting goods occupying a large chunk of store space. The rows of wooden tennis rackets are a sight to behold, as are the dated brassiere styles and sanguine old women manning their stations.
The second floor is a 'museum.' There are no price tags on anything and nothing is for sale, not even the oddly-shaped treadmills that look primed to electrocute a jogger if ever they were switched on.
Over the years, Bangkok has grown exponentially, while time has stopped inside the store. Rows of old shophouses across from Nightingale Olympic have been transformed into a shopping mall targeted at the rising number of tourists from China. Downtown Bangkok is engorged with a surfeit of malls, and hardly anyone comes this way. Chinatown might be a short walk away, but it is literally another world once you step through the doors of Nightingale Olympic.
Perhaps the Nightingale Olympic is an emblem of old Bangkok, a gentler, more refined time, and its impossible inventory of instant antiques and forgotten brands, defiantly sold on yellowing models and rusty racks, is the manic laughter of an old dame who refuses to succumb to modernity, and will not go gently into the steaming Bangkok sun.
Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday, 9am to 5.30pm. Closed on Sundays.
Getting There: 70 Triphet Khwang Wang Road
By boat - Chao Phraya Express Pier: Saphun Phut
By taxi - 10-15 minute ride from Hua Lamphong MRT station