The cre­ative spots bring­ing new life to Bangkok’s old­est road.

From edgy gal­leries to cool new eater­ies, the old­est road in Bangkok is get­ting its groove back.


Laid down more than 150 years ago, Charoenkrung was Bangkok’s first paved road. Par­al­lel­ing the Chao Phraya, it rapidly be­came the city’s cen­ter of com­merce, con­vey­ing in­ter­na­tional traders and diplo­mats from the south­ern river­side up through Chi­na­town and on to the gates of the Grand Palace. The leg­endary Ori­en­tal Ho­tel—now the Man­darin Ori­en­tal Bangkok—was founded in 1876 just off the Ban­grak sec­tion of the road; a decade later, the city’s first tram­line opened along Charoenkrung. By the mid 20th-cen­tury, how­ever, the thor­ough­fare had lost its im­por­tance as the Thai cap­i­tal spread east and Sukhumvit Road be­came its main artery, a dom­i­nance it con­tin­ues to hold to this day. But there are signs that this part of town is ready for a come­back.

“Although I was born in Bangkok, I was never fa­mil­iar with the river­side at all,” says Rungsima Kasikra­nund, the project di­rec­tor of Ware­house 30 ( 48–58 Charoenkrung Soi 30;

66-2/861-0953; no web­site), an ex­cit­ing new mul­ti­pur­pose space help­ing to breathe new life into the area. “In fact, the only time I ever came down here was to grab a drink at the Bam­boo Bar at the Ori­en­tal,” she laughs.

Ware­house 30 is the lat­est project from renowned Thai ar­chi­tect Duangrit Bun­nag, whose Jam Fac­tory—a se­ries of re­stored ware­houses that were con­verted a few years back into a de­sign store, café, gallery, and of­fices—is just a ferry hop across the river. Opened in July, his new com­plex com­prises a se­ries of aban­doned World War II–era ware­houses that have been trans­formed into open-plan spa­ces hous­ing a screen­ing room, bookstore, vinyl record shop, flower stall, or­ganic mar­ket, roaster café, fash­ion out­let, and much more be­sides. “Duangrit has al­ways had his eye on this prop­erty, with its beau­ti­ful struc­tures that are in very good shape,” Rungsima says. “We want to give life back to the space, and bring peo­ple back to this part of town.”

It’s a re­mark­able en­deavor, and one that ties

in with the open­ing of the re­cently re­lo­cated Thai­land Cre­ative & De­sign Cen­ter ( 1160 Charoen­rung; 66-2/105-7400; down the road. Bet­ter known by its acro­nym TCDC, the 9,000square-me­ter fa­cil­ity oc­cu­pies one side of the 80-year-old Grand Postal Build­ing, a mod­ernist land­mark that now houses a li­brary filled with thou­sands of art and de­sign books as well as “maker spa­ces” that en­cour­age de­sign­ers to ex­per­i­ment and ex­plore new ma­te­ri­als. On a smaller but no less sig­nif­i­cant scale is 80/20 ( 1052–54 Charoenkrung; 66-2/639-1135; fb .com/8020bkk), where an old shop­house has been turned into a hip­ster-friendly res­tau­rant of re­fur­bished wooden doors, painted brick walls, wrought iron­work, and ex­posed light­ing. The name stems from a com­mit­ment to lo­ca­vorism that sees 80 per­cent of menu’s in­gre­di­ents ei­ther made in-house or sourced lo­cally; the glazed duck leg with cilantro emul­sion and green pa­paya rice is a stand­out.

80/20 is just one of the new open­ings in Talad Noi, a neigh­bor­hood on the edge of Chi­na­town. Here, amid auto-parts shops and crum­bling shop­houses, you’ll find ap­point­ment-only tat­too stu­dio Black Pig ( 672/65 Soi Charoenkrung 28; 62/80-595-2999; f black­pig­tat­toobkk), vin­tage-cool diner Lit­tle Mar­ket ( 1056/7 Soi Charoenkrung 28; 66-61/558-7689; lit­tle mar­ket­bkk), canal-side gallery and nightspot Soy

Sauce Bar ( 11/1 Charoenkrung 24; 66-98-956-6549;­bar); and al­ter­na­tive art space

Speedy Grandma ( 672/50-52 Soi Charoenkrung

28; 66/89-508-3859; f­grandma), the last three of which are all the brain­chil­dren of ex­pat French­man Thomas Me­nard.

“I call Talad Noi ‘Thomas­town,’ ” quips David Robin­son, an Aus­tralian who has lived in Bangkok since 2002 and is one of the co-founders of the Cre­ative District Foun­da­tion, a com­mu­nity ini­tia­tive geared to­ward push­ing Charoenkrung and the area im­me­di­ately across the river as the city’s cre­ative heart, in­cor­po­rat­ing el­e­ments of art, de­sign, ur­ban plan­ning, com­mu­nity, and food. Apart from or­ga­niz­ing a bi­monthly “gallery-hop­ping night,” Robin­son ex­plains that this will in­volve “en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple of the old and new com­mu­ni­ties to ap­pre­ci­ate and get to know each other. Next door to Speedy Grandma, for in­stance, there is a man who makes tra­di­tional Chi­nese-style lanterns. Luke [Sa­toru, from Black Pig Tat­too] then painted works on th­ese for dis­play at the gallery.”

In mi­cro­cosm, this ex­am­ple sets out a unique tem­plate for the fu­ture, one where Bangkok’s first mod­ern road re­claims its his­tor­i­cal po­si­tion at the heart of the city. Though there are ex­cit­ing projects al­ready un­der­way, it is not there yet. But surely, that’s only a mat­ter of time.

Clock­wise from this pic­ture: A cor­ner ta­ble at 80/20; the façade of the Grand Postal Build­ing, now home to the Thai­land Cre­ative & De­sign Cen­ter; seared tuna at 80/20; in­side Lit­tle Mar­ket café.

Above: Chefs Saki Hoshino, An­drew Mar­tin, and Napol Jantraget at 80/20, where retro shop­house charm meets a multi-cui­sine lo­ca­vore menu.

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