Garbage, like beauty, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder. What is junk to us can be invaluable to someone else.
To Somsak Nontagrankij, 59, bottles, cans, scrap metal, plastic, aluminium, wheels, things we leave outside our houses, for late night recyclers to rummage through, are all treasures to him.
“If we think that garbage has worth, then it is valuable,” Somsak said from his small shop in Wat Umong area.
For ten years, Somsak has been the proprietor of a mum and pop corner shop on Soi Wat Umong. He sells the normal knickknacks you see in these ubiquitous stalls all over the country.
What is different about his little shop is that there is a large green robot standing sentinel outside the shop house. On entering the shop, there are even more figures, many taller than the average person.
It all started when his son wanted a robot.
“15 years ago, my son wanted me to buy him a robot, but it was very expensive and I couldn’t afford it. But I remember my own childhood and how much I used to long for a robot and play with such toys. So having tinkered with arts and crafts all my life, I decided to build him one myself. There was a massive nation-wide recycling campaign going on at the time, and I felt that if I was going to create a robot I must use recycled raw materials.”
“No matter what it is; plastics, aluminium or cans, if I see it’s beautiful, I used them all.”
His son was so impressed with his father’s robot he never actually played with it, instead using for display.
“I never wanted to sell them, but I kept making them and suddenly I had 60 robots!” he smiles. “My son told me that it was time to sell some and that I could always make some more, so I began to.”
Over the years, Somsak has built 200 robots, mostly smaller sizes, which he sells for around 1,000 baht each. Today he only has ten left.
His favourite robot is that of HMs the King and Queen of Thailand. These he says he won’t sell, and they are proudly displayed in a cabinet.
“Most people want super heroes!” he laughed.
“Though most people aren’t buying, they just want to come and look at them. I am used to it and I don’t mind at all. I am just glad that I could make something that others appreciate out of what has been thrown away.”
63/1 Moo 14, Soi Wat Umong, Suthep
Open 1pm – 11pm
Tel. 053 810 0580