Art, Calligraphy & Paper Supplies Shopping in Thailand and Malaysia

One of my frustrations here in Philippines is the limited supplies of arts & stationery stores, add to that the taxes levied on these and they can be unfriendly to the wallet. Yes, I know we have shops like that of Enriquez and Deovir but I’d like to be able to walk in an art supply store and browse around, to touch, to smell, to read, to experience and get giddy like a kid in a candy shop. I bought my first calligraphy supplies two years ago in Hong Kong (Artland HK) and Singapore (ArtFriend) and I remember spending at least 2 hours in those shops.

Whenever I’m in Thailand I do a mandatory stationery supplies hoarding in my favorite stores. Since I was traveling with my mom this time, I only have about 4-5 hours of “me” time to checkout my favorite shops.

So here’s a rough guide on shopping in KL and Thailand.

Kuala Lumpur

Exchange Rate at that time:

1 RM – 13 PHP
1 USD – 3.5 RM

We only spent half a day in KLCC and found out that the KLCC Suria Mall had a Konikuya bookstore, this is a Japanese franchise. They have a small and limited stationery section that sells Japanese brand paper and notebook. I didn’t buy any of those but purchased lettering art brushes. These are hard to find in my local bookstore, in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them and they were cheap, the smallest size was 1.50 RM (19 PHP) and the biggest was at 4.5 RM (57 PHP).

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Lettering brushes

I totally forgot that KL has an ArtFriend branch, it’s a Singapore art supply franchise with loads of selection, and only realized it too late. Ah, well.

Thailand

Exchange Rate:

1 THB – 1.3 PHP
1 USD – 32 THB

Thailand is a hoarder’s paradise. LOL. You really can’t beat the prices here. Thailand has a thriving arts and creative scene and the specialty line products from Pentel, Kuretake and Zig have official distributors here so the prices are definitely cheaper.

TOKYU MBK – BANGKOK
(right off National Statidum BTS Station)

If I’m not mistaken this is also a Japanese franchise department store, they have a small but adequate stationery section. They have the most complete color selection of Pentel Art Brush Pens but can’t seem to find cartridges. They retail for 160 Baht, this is a standard price set by the Pentel Thai distributor. They have ZIG and Kuretake Japanese brush markers and pens, plus rows of pens and pencils.  I purchased a bottle of Pilot fountain pen ink here for 75 Baht last year and I forgot to buy some this time.

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Tokyu MBK – Brush Sign Pen

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Tokyu MBK – Kuretake and Zig markers

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Tokyu MBK – Pentel Art Brush Pens – 160 Baht (216 PHP)

555 Plus Paper – MBK

A store that sells cute adorable stationery and invitation supplies. This branch in MBK is the most accessible via BTS. Envelopes come in all sizes and colors. I can’t read Thai but I think if you buy less than 10 pcs, you will pay retail but if your purchase more than 10 it is sold by weight and comes out cheaper.

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555 Paperplus MBK

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555 Paperplus MBK

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Die cut flat occasion cards – 5 Baht each

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4 x 6 Metallic Envelopes @ 18 pcs for 118 Baht

After you’re done. Go down and cross to the other building using the BTS walkway and go to:

BACC – Bangkok Art & Culture Centre | bacc.or.th

This is a several stories high building dedicated to contemporary arts exhibition in Bangkok, it’s FREE and open all year round. It’s one of my mandatory stops whenever in Bangkok. There are shops in the 2nd floor a few that sells specialty art supplies and stationery. I haven’t had time to check it out again. It’s a nice place to sip coffe away from the frenzy of next door malls.

Now, you can walk through the elevated path and go to SIAM BTS station, check out:

Konikuya Bookstore | Siam Paragon

Unfortunately they don’t have a stationery section, only a handful of Moleskine notebooks that I don’t particularly care about, but they do have a wide range of design books and plethora of selection for calligraphy and lettering (mostly the top sellers list of Amazon.com)

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Konikuya BKK Siam Paragon | A drool worth lettering & calligraphy section

Approximately 500 meters away from Siam Paragon is Central World. If you don’t have a lot of time just check out Central World Mall for they probably have most of what you need.

Siam Marketing – Central World

I was about to take the escalator when this shop caught my eye and decided to check it out. I’m glad I did, this is a store that specializes in manga anime art supplies. The prices are cheaper than the online retailers in the US, maybe 30% cheaper considering they have to pay premium for the mall space in Central World. Judging from the lady who assisted me here, it looks like a family run business. The people here are a pleasant bunch so I bought a lot from them. Some of the things that I’ve found here are

  • Pentel Brush Pens, Kuretake Fude Brushes, Zig plus other brands
  • Refill cartridges
  • Platinum fountain pens (Preppy series)
  • Sumi inks
  • Deleter paper
  • Japanese nibs (Takachiniwa, Nikko G and a broad calligraphy nib Japanese brand that I wish I bought.)
  • Pilot Parallel
  • Water brush pens
  • Good quality Chinese calligraphy brushes
  • Etc. Etc!
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Siam Marketing – BKK

Black Pentel Art Brush refill 45 Baht. The black ones are hard to find, almost out of stock everywhere.

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Derwent waterbrush set (355 Baht) and Kuretake Brush No. 8 (395)

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All the brush markers you want.

B2S Central World
The biggest stationery and bookstore in Thailand, found across the country in malls and Robinson’s department store. The branch is Central World is the biggest and I could easily spend two hours here trying out all the pens available for your to doodle with.

Things worth noting:

  • Found Waterman fountain pen inks here but all that was left was blue! Someone else hoarded it.
  • There were fountain pen cartridges, a Thai Brand that I forgot to take a picture of, plus some generic replacement nibs for fountain pen.
  • Huge difference in prices of the gel pens here in PH:
    Sakura Gelly Roll – 26 Baht, Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip – 35 Baht, Uni Signo – 39 baht or 53.00 Php in today’s rate, it currently retails at NBS for 112.00, that’s more than 100% price difference.
  • There’s a good range of great affordable stationery supplies and notebooks. I was having a stationery boner.
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B2S Centralworld

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Blank notebooks price ranging from 100-200 baht

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Rows and rows and rows of pen

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More notebooks

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Some product lines are not available in PH

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Japanese brands of pens and markers

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A manga nook.

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Acrylic organizers, didn’t check how much they cost but they look like the one’s at Muji’s.

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A smooth pad thick (90gsm) grid pad that’s like Rhodia with the fraction of the cost (42 baht for 80 sheets/pad) tested with Pentel art brush, fountain pen and walnut ink.

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Gouache in metallics, 18 baht per bottle

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Really good affordable gouache, this is a Thai brand they have lots of metallic acrylics too at very affordable prices. Dries quickly, great for lettering gothic or Roman letters, when used with a pointed pen I mix with a tiny bit of walnut ink, water, glycol or gum arabic.

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Gel pens

I’ll try to be more thorough next time I visit, this shopping was done haphazard since I was traveling with an elderly person, therefore needed to go back to the hotel right away. Happy shopping, feel free to ask any questions!

Uchida Markers Le Plume

Good brush pens are hard to find in Manila, most of the time you have to order them overseas. I was at Manila Book Fair 2014 at SMX and stumble upon this brand at the National Bookstore booth: Marvy Uchida Le Plume Alcohol Based Permanent Markers, they are brush pens with an ultra soft tip. Each pen costs around Php 120.00 and there was a 10% discount offer so I bought the black one and 2 purple tones to see how they work for lettering. They have around 144 colors to choose from according to their website.

Like most brush pens, they really bleed on the back of the paper so it’s wise to put another sheet of paper underneath the page you’re working on. I’ve noticed there’s this strong smell when I started using the purple colored marker. This faint chemical smell is common with these pens but at some point I couldn’t really stand it. The pen itself is fat, so gripping it while doing script lettering was quite a challenge. This pen is a workhouse for coloring manga and other arts and crafts use. I haven’t fully abused them like I do with other brush markers so the tip was still fine and in perfect form. I like how the tip is soft and really bends but I still find it hard to control. Verdict: Not for brush lettering but great for coloring.

Marvy Uchida Le Plume Alcohol Based Permanent Markers is available in National Bookstore outlets nationwide.

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The fruits of my labor…is very good with cocktails

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As a nation, we’ve always been calamansi (calomondin) lovers. Kalamansi was always the citrus of choice over condiments. It’s abundant, cheap and has the right hint of tartness. Our South East Asian neighbors though, prefer the bigger and more sour cousin, lime. In 2010 I planted seeds from limes that I bought from Vietnam but I’ve forgotten they even existed until my mother told me “Your citrus tree has fruited.” At first I thought it was the kaffir lime but the skin wasn’t wrinkled.

I picked about 6 pieces of lime and took it all the way to South Palawan during a trip, cause you know you’ll never know when you’re going to need lime! Well thank goodness I had the foresight. The South Palawan trip was one for the books, and I had to drown my sorrows and jitters with booze. On our last day in South Palawan, we’ve run out of Coke, but I spotted 2 liters of Red Lipton Iced Tea our guide brought with him.  So in short Tanduay + Red Lipton Iced Tea + Lime is really really really really good.

Recipe:

The Pirates

1 parts Tanduay Rhum
2 parts Lipton Red Iced Tea (chilled)
Lime

Procedure: Mix together and voila! The proportion is all up to you. I promise it’s good. You’re welcome.

I’ve had this with kalamansi but lime was much better. Lime is meant for cocktails so since lime is impossible to find here in the supermarkets, I’ve forbidden anyone to pick the fruits unless it’s for cocktails.