Where: Bangrak district
Duration: Two to three hours ( maybe 4 hours with a group and breaks)
Start: Chong Nonsi BTS
1) Before you leave the platform, look south-west and up – this is the new MahaNakhon Building, set to be the tallest building in Bangkok when completed. It will have 77 floors and rise to 314 metres. The previous tallest building was the Baiyoke Tower at 304 metres. The pixelated facade looks post-apocalyptic to me.
Take the Silom Road exit from the BTS and walk back the way you came on the train. Th.Silom is the first road you come to. Turn left and walk about 200 metres until you see Th. Decho, a small road across Silom on your right. This road connects Silom to Surawong. Walk down Th. Decho on the right hand side. After about 100 metres you will come to a vacant lot. Look back to the wall of the building facing this empty space and you will see this work by Japanese artist, Motomichi Nakamura. See (http://www.digicult.it/agency/motomichi-nakamura/) for an insight into his video work.
2) Walk to the end of Th. Decho and turn left into Th. Surawong. The next mural is about 700 metres away, just before you turn left into Th. Mahesak. On the way you will walk past The British Club – membership is open to all nationalities and there are currently over 1,000 members from over 40 countries. The Club celebrated its centenary in 2003.
Just as an aside….there is a phantom conspiracy theorist at work in the neighbourhood. Normally he concocts theories of the world on electricity boxes and telephones – but just this week one has been designed on the footpath outside the British Club.
Next is the Neilson Hays Library. Having it’s origins back in the mid 19th Century, the current neo-classical building was commissioned by Dr Hays in memory of his wife, Jenny Neilson, who had died suddenly in 1920. The building opened in 1922. Designed by the Italian architect, Mario Tamagno, (who, along with fellow Italian, Annibale Rigotti, designed Hualamphong Station and the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall ) the building was taken over by the Japanese in 1941 and over 1000 rare volumes were shipped to Japan – many never to return. Just past the Library is an imposing home behind mustard-coloured walls. Elephants stand sentry at the impressive wooden gates. Reputed to be the home of the Chang beer boss – hence the elephants (there are more inside the gates).
On the corner of Surawong and Mahesak is a vacant lot. Look back the way you came and you will see a mural by Greek artist, Fikos – http://globalstreetart.com/fikos – for some more examples of his work. On a nearby hoarding you will see a blunt assessment of the new government.
3) Turn into Th. Mahesak and walk back towards Silom. Turn right at Silom and walk under the expressway. Cross to the other side of Silom here and walk to the T-intersection with Th. Charoen Krung. On the corner is the Lebua State Tower, a neo-Grecian building designed by Thai architect Professor Rangsan Torsuwan in the early 1990s, and is one of the biggest buildings in SE Asia. The architect cum property developer was arrested for allegedly plotting to murder the President of the Supreme Court, Praman Chansue in 1993 but was aquitted some years later. The rooftop bar, called Sirocco, is on the 64th floor and featured in the movie Hangover 2. Turn left into Th. Charoen Krung (Bangkok’s first official street in 1861) and walk about 500 metres to Saphan Taksin BTS. Cross the road here and walk down the busy side street to the river. Parked on the left along a wall is usually a row of red songthaew. However, covering the length of the wall is a work by Dutch artist Daan Botlek (http://www.daanbotlek.com/).
4) Continue along Th.Charoen Khrung on the river side walking past Wat Yannawa, a temple dating back to the Ayutthaya period. Continue along the road for 100 metres or so until you come to the entry to the Bangkok Dockyard. In the dockyard is an anatomical piece that typifies the work by Austrian artist Nichos. You may need to have a copy of your passport handy to get in. Otherwise it can only be seen from Saphan Taksin or by boat.The steps leading up to the bridge are down by the pier.
5) Cross Th. Charoen Khrung and walk back towards Saphan Taksin BTS. Just before you get to the BTS is the Bridge Art Space.
Stop here for a coffee, check out the changing exhibitions upstairs and re-charge. It is air-conditioned and has wi-fi. When you leave, check out the 47 floor Ghost Tower (officially called the Sathorn Unique Tower) just behind the Art Space. It is a twin to the nearby State Tower (same architect) but fell foul of the Asian financial crisis in 1997 (along with many other projects in Bangkok). But be warned, it is haunted.
6) Cross back over Th.Charoen Khrung and walk back towards Th.Silom. On the river side there are lots of interesting places to explore. One in particular that you might want to look at is the now disused Customs Buildings by the river (Soi 36). Soi 36 is also the site of the French Embassy and the Haroon Mosque – originally built as a wooden structure in 1828, the newer structure was built after WW2. A lot of good Thai-Muslim food in the area. Details for mosque visits
Daily 9.00 – 11.30 and 13.30 – 15.00.
Friday Prayers are from 12.15-13.00
1. Visiting mosques is a learning experience and may become a highlight of your trip.
2 . Leave your shoes on the rack at the entrance.
3. Avoid unnecessary conversation inside the mosque. Turn off mobile phones, don’t chew gum, and do not bring food or drink inside of a mosque.
4. Modest dress is required. Gown is available for visitors for temporary use.
5. Refrain from applause or clapping hands or yelling in the mosque. Serenity is appreciated.
At the top of Soi 36 is OP Garden, a pleasant gallery / specialty shopping space. The Serindia gallery is worth a visit. The plus for walkers is that is also has easily accessible, clean, air-con toilets. As you walk along Th. Charoen Khrung you will pass Assumption College and if your thing is meteorites and fossils the little shop 30 metres from Soi 36 is the place to visit. Once you’ve had your celestial fix, you will come to the Grand Postal Building – Thailand’s first Post Office (1883). The current building was built in the 1940s and was designed by Miw Jitrasen Aphaiwong (who also designed the National Stadium) and Phrasarot Ratnanimman. The style is a marked departure from previous styles or as Lawrence Chua put it, the “purging Thai architecture of its royalist symbolism and hierarchical spatial organization”. A combination of modernism and nationalist aspirations. The statue in front of the building is of Field Marshal Prince Bhanurangsi Savangwongse, elder brother of King Chulalongkorn and considered the founder of the Thai postal service. Long gone now, but the footpath outside the post office was where avid stamp collectors used to gather to trade. Nowadays they inhabit a small corner inside the gates.
Immediately after the Postal Building is Soi 32 running down to the river. As you walk toward the river you will see a recent mural by 24 year old Sofia Castellanos, a Mexican artist.
Further along the soi is flanked by a long wall on the right hand side upon which are a series of murals by various artist including KULT, Phat, Bonus, and Alex Face among others. Check the opposite wall for a small, golden stencil.
7) Return to Th.Charoen Khrung and walk the short distance to Soi 30. Turn left here and on your right you will see the side face of a building covered in work by Italian artists Sten and Lex. Essentially stencil artists, they have been working since around 2000. They were pioneers in the field of stencil art in Italy. Their recent work is a combination of stencil and paper and from Wikipedia: they glue a stencil cut from paper on the wall and paint over it. They then destroy the matrix and apply its scraps to the wall, thus allowing them to become part of the work itself. The bits of matrix applied to the wall wear out over time, producing work in a state of constant change. Unlike stencil work in general, the images thus created cannot be reproduced, rendering each piece original and unique. I watched them do this one during the Bukruk festival but I have to say it doesn’t do much for me.
This area is set to become a new ‘creative space’ according to some – see the article for some information:
8) Continue along this road as it swings right to go past the Royal Orchid Sheraton and the River City Complex. But just before the hotel is the Portuguese Embassy. The artist VHILS has chipped away at the Embassy’s concrete rendered wall to produce a stunning mural.
From the hotel, you can get a ferry across the river for 4.5 baht to Thonburi and the start of The Big Circle Walk (Walk 2) but that’s for another day. The road you are on now swings back to Th.Charoen Khrung. Walk to the intersection and turn left. Just a few metres along you will see a large double mural – one by Korean artist Daehyun Kim (his style is called ‘moonassi’) and another, above it, by Thai artist, Bon (given name: Danaiphat Lersputtitrakan).
The good news is that a new cafe has opened just next to Daehyun Kim‘s piece. It’s run by artist / chef Chet:
Follow this Soi down to the end and to your left you will come across the Speedy Grandma art space.
Walking group at Speedy Grandma:
9) Across from these works (on Th. Charoen Krung) and a little further on is a range of small works along a short alley.
Opposite this alley on a side wall is a larger work by Saddo.
10) It is now time to return to River city, but this time rather than re-trace your steps, walk down the narrow Soi 24. On your left you will pass an art space / coffee shop called the Soy Sauce Factory – good for refreshment before diving into the narrow alley ways that await. Keep an eye out for a golden stencil that is a sister piece to the one you might have seen on Soi 32 – it’s on the wall of a car space on your right.
11) As you reach the River City Complex you will see a push bike tour company in front of you (Co van Kessel Bangkok Tours). These are good tours for your overseas visitors to do. Immediately to the right you will see a small laneway. The laneway widens and passes the Kalawar Church (Kalawar from the Thai transliteration of Calvary) which was built on land given by Rama 1 to the Portuguese. You will also pass the site of the original Siam Commercial Bank, Thailand’s first bank. The bank was established in 1907 and the grand building here was built in 1910. Now it is time to wander through the narrow alleys of Talad Noi.
On your left you will come to a little alley (‘trok’ in Thai) called Trok San Chao Rong Kueak.
Walk down here to discover two old Chinese temples – especially if you wish wealth and good fortune……
and enjoy some quirky artworks.
**These last two photos were taken by Louise Saddington
What was this steel spike used for….mooring your boat 100 years ago?
Your goal is to return to Th.Charoen Khrung so follow your nose as you wander about.
Whatever you do, try not to miss what must be one of the more quirky coffee shops in Bangkok – in an old Chinese house with a courtyard swimming pool. On my visits I have seen fashion shoots and scuba diving training. Unusual place. Reputedly over 200 years old (I think that’s stretching it a it) it is the So Heng Tai Mansion and is still the home of the descendants of the original owner.
12) Upon returning to Th.Charoen Khrung at Soi 20 (or Soi 29 on the opposite side) walk a short way until you reach the intersection of Th.Charoen Khrung and Th.Songwat. Turn left into Th.Songwat. After a fire in the Sampeng area, King Rama V pushed for the contruction of this important commercial road. It follows the river so as you walk along the left hand side you can see lanes and alleys leading to the water. You will walk past numerous metal working shops along the way. The quirky riverside hotel called the Loy La Long is along this road (behind Wat Pathum Khongka). You have to walk through the temple to find it – there was no signage I could find.
Just after Wat Pathum Khongka you come to a busy intersection. Th.Songwat continues to the left tracking the river and is now one way with traffic coming towards you. Some classic old buildings along this section. Look to the right and you cannot miss the large pink mural by female Romanian artist Aitch.
From her webpage:
Artist and illustrator, she has been part of numerous art shows in Romania (Timisoara, Sibiu, Bucharest, Iasi), but also in cities like Vienna, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Aalborg, San Jose, etc.
She started drawing weird chubby fantastic creatures during her studies at the University of Art and Design in Timisoara, Romania, as a sort of subversive reaction to the academical ways of treating human anatomy.
Her artistic work ranges from pink, cute, elegant, to sometimes creepy, semi-religious, bizarre characters, mixed in surrealistic sets.
She also applies her experience with graphics, painting and character design in creating artsy objects, urban toys and clothes, often showed in fairs and stores in Bucharest, Berlin, Hannover, Barcelona or Madrid.
A little further on you will come to a vacant lot on your left. Straight ahead you will see a large work by Spanish artist Aryz. this artist specialises in big pieces – I think he is really great. (http://www.widewalls.ch/artist/aryz/)
Opposite is work by Belgium artist Roa. He is 40 years old this year (2016) and was boen in Ghent, Belgium. He specialises in big animals – usually related to the country or area he finds himself.
Below is a numbat done while he was in Freemantle, WA.
13) Homeward bound. Choose your own adventure from here, but you can retrace your steps along Th.Songwat to where it crosses Th.Charoen Khrung and becomes Th. Kao Lan and within a few hundred metres you will find yourself at Hualamphong Station and the MRT…….or……if your timing is right (after 5pm on every day except Monday, you could have a sundowner at a special little bar nearby called Samsara.