12 great second-hand bookshops in South-East Asia

If you know me, you’ll know that I can’t last long without a paperback in my hand. Yes, e-readers are great, and indispensable when you’re travelling, but a paperback is more convenient for the beach, or on long bus journeys when you want to conserve your battery.

A lot of hotels and some cafes offer book swapping. I took a paperback with me and then swapped it as I went along. However it would have been rude, and completely out of character, not to check out and support local bookshops on my route!

Here is a selection of 12 great second-hand bookshops I frequented in South-East Asia.

Ganesha Books, Jalan Raya, Ubud, Bali

Ganesha Bookshop, Ubud, Bali

A good range of second-hand and new books. Great place to pick up a holiday read, books about Balinese culture or a travel guide.
You can also help the bookshop support local schools, libraries and charitable organisations through the Books for Bali project. More details can be found on their website: http://www.ganeshabooksbali.com
The bookshop also has a branch in Sanur.

Your Language Books Corner, Cenang Beach, Langkawi

Your Language Books Corner, Langkawi

An excellent selection of used books, including some newly published airport editions. Reasonable prices. Expect to pay around 20 MYR (£3.63) for a novel and/or travel guide.

Catfish Books, Saladan Pier, Ko Lanta

Catfish Books, Saladan Pier, Ko Lanta

This quaint bookshop on the pier at Saladan in Ko Lanta is full of cats and second-hand paperbacks. It’s also a great place to buy postcards, notebooks and even Christmas cards!
Prices weren’t cheap, at around 250 baht for a second-hand paperback (£5.64), but there was a good selection. It also has a restaurant, if you’re feeling peckish!

Lanta Book Shop, Khlong Dao Beach, Ko Lanta

If you want to combine finding your next holiday read with having a tattoo, then look no further than Khlong Dao beach on Ko Lanta (main picture).
Despite the odd combination of services, there was an excellent selection of paperbacks at similar prices to Catfish Books, around 250 baht (£5.64). Accompanying tattoos are not compulsory.

Best Books, Market Place Ton Sai village, Ko Phi Phi

Best Books, Marketplace, Ko Phi Phi

An excellent selection of second hand books and a very helpful and charismatic owner. Selling me a rather battered copy of Maggie O’Farrell’s The Distance Between Us for 200 Baht (about £4.50), she promised I would come back and thank her.

South Wind Books, Pha Nang Road, Phuket Town, Thailand

Spread across two shops – one selling English language books and the other a range of different languages, including Taiwanese! There is an excellent selection, including literary fiction, classics, crime and travel guides and the bookshop also buys books. The price of a Marian Keyes’ novel was 140 baht; 410 baht for a 2016 Lonely Plant Guide.

The Lost Book Shop, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Exactly the type of bookshop you hope to encounter on your travels. A veritable cavern of second-hand books. The owner will also buy your books. Price of an average paperback around 200 baht. Good camaraderie between the obvious ex-pat regulars.

Bookworm’s Cafe, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

This coffee shop offered a slice of home, with Yorkshire Tea and jacket potatoes with cheese and Branston pickle! There are a few bookshelves filled with second-hand books, mostly commercial fiction. You can also play board games while you eat. http://www.bookwormscoffee.com

D’s Books, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

An excellent collection of modern literature, including dedicated sections for women’s literature and biography. The second-hand books were in excellent condition and were reasonably priced at around $7.

New Leaf Book Cafe, Siem Reap, Cambodia

New Leaf book cafe, Siem Reap, Cambodia

It’s easy to miss this little book shop / café tucked away in a corner away from the main street of Siem Reap. The bookshop includes a café and lots of information about volunteering and charities in Cambodia. They also sell hand crafted jewellery (at a price). There is a small selection of books, not in the best condition, and some local books too. I picked up a travel book (a fake Lonely Planet guide) for $3.

Footprints Cafe, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Footprints Cafe, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Café and book shop, selling second-hand books for roughly $4 including some locally published books. Mostly fiction books. The cafe is a social enterprise which opened in November 2016 and has plans to extend into Laos. 100% of net profits are donated to local educational or entrepreneurial projects. https://footprintcafes.org/

Book Cafe, Vientiane, Laos

Small selection of books, but several signed by local authors Robert Cooper and Colin Cotterill.

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