Famed as Bangkok’s oldest road, Charoenkrung used to be where you went when you wanted to show your touristy friends the grandeurs of Wat Pho or the quaint charms of century-old, hole-in-the-wall breakfast joints. Today, the road has rid itself of this byway image and in its place has emerged a passionate community of creatives that, as a longtime Bangkok local, makes you want to venture there today for yourself.
Retaining its legacy for great old shophouses and street food, modern Charoenkrung adds to it trendy new galleries, bars and concept restaurants that are taking the city by storm. For those looking to get immersed in Bangkok’s creative scene, here's a list of our favourite places in and around the Charoenkrung area.
Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC)
Get productive. Nothing beats the satisfaction of getting stuff done during the earlier hours, and TCDC’s comeback venue at Charoenkrung is the perfect spot to get that motivating boost to kick-start your day. A blend between a gallery, co-working space and design-oriented library, TCDC is a staple for local creatives and design students alike. The new Charoenkrung set-up also features a new Material and Design Innovation Center where designers can get a feel of locally produced materials hands-on. There’s even a rooftop garden on the fourth-floor if you’re in need of some fresh air during your work-sesh.
Live the Thai hipster life. The brainchild of famed Thai architect Duangrit Bunnag, Warehouse 30 sees abandoned warehouses from World War 2 along Charoenkrung Soi 30 transformed into an exciting hub of shops, cafes and galleries. Find artsy endeavours ranging from co-working spaces and flagship stores to curated flower shops, vinyl crates and even a private screening room. Workshops and events are often held in the space, so be sure to check their official Facebook Page before your visit.
Maison Close BKK
Glimpse at some boundary-pushing art. Bold, daring and the in-your-face kind of controversial, Masion Close strives to push the limits of what can be shown in Thailand. This bar-slash-gallery-slash-tattoo-parlour features exhibitions of grotesque Japanese erotica in a space illuminated by an eerie red glow. Images of people in bondage line the walls and an old TV plays classic trashy movies next to a collection of Thai adult magazines for added effect. The space holds regular events and shows in-line with the overall theme of dark perversion, from harsh experimental noise music to stirring performances of Japanese bondage shibari. Go if you’re looking for something different on top of your night-out of cocktails and music—who knows, you might even consider getting a new tattoo in the studio upstairs.
Black Pig Tattoo BKK
Get inked. If you’re looking to get a proper tattoo minus the erotica, Black Pig Tattoo on Charoenkrung 28 is the place to visit. Run by Luke Satoru from New York—one of the founders behind the Bukruk street art festival—this private tattoo parlour must be booked in advance and is famed for bold and classic styles. Guests are more than welcome to drop by the studio, discuss what they want and come up with a personal tattoo design with the ever-friendly and talented Luke and resident experts. The studio also frequently hosts renowned visiting tattoo artists, so expect an even greater range of styling and design under the Black Pig umbrella.
Fill up on upscale Japanese skewers and sake. One of the big but humble names behind Charoenkrung’s rise as Bangkok’s creative district, Chet Adkins’ izakaya is a spot-on representation of what Charoenkrung’s community is all about. Creative, top-quality and full of sincere, down-to-earth warmth, JUA's small yet hip venue serves up innovative Nippon bar-grub with an impressive selection of imported sakes. Expect a contemporary twist revolving around seasonal ingredients and strike up a conversation with the friendly chef for current highlight creations, which are occasionally off-menu.
Indulge in cutting-edge cuisine. 80/20 is a game-changer in the Talad Noi area, the home of those old school hole-in-the-wall guay tiew joints. Heavy on the retro vibes, the venue maintains the classic shophouse charm while giving it a modern twist with a stylish chalkboard menu, dim lighting and bar. 80/20’s grub takes after its name, with 80 percent of the ingredients locally sourced—from in-house grown produce to ingredients bought from neighbourhood markets as a means of supporting the community. The menu itself might not be authentic Thai but is designed to satisfy the local tongue, each dish an explosion of flavours. The desserts here are also distinctly stellar, manned by Japanese pastry-chef Saki Hoshino.
Speedy Grandma Gallery
Visit a cool local gallery. The story here is two good friends wanted to fulfil the need for a space to showcase up-and-coming talents as well as their own work. The solution came in the form of this homey gallery-bar called Speedy Grandma. The walls are lined with contemporary works of art, from photography to moving illustrations, comic strips and objects aesthetically scattered across the floor. Channeling raw artsy vibes, Speedy Grandma also hosts performances, film screenings, workshops and impromptu flea markets and parties, securing it as a regular spot among Bangkok’s down-to-earth creatives.
Soy Sauce Factory
Hop to another gallery. Head over to the hip and cool Soy Sauce Factory for a more photography-oriented exhibition space. Set in a space that used to be an actual soy sauce factory down in Chinatown, the venue channels strong industrial vibes with concrete floors and open spaces. True to Charoenkrung’s thing for gallery-bars set in old shophouses, there’s a bar downstairs and a minimal Thai restaurant in case you get hungry.
2nd Yard Sandwich And Bar
Appease your tummy growls with Bangkok’s best sandwiches: After a gallery or two you’re probably feeling hungry again, but not famished enough for a big dinner. Make your way over to 2nd Yard, a diner set in a refurbished Charoenkrung shophouse that promises some of the city’s best innovatively-flavoured sandwiches. Tucked amongst the old walls and stores of Talad Noi area, there’s just something raw and effortlessly hip about the venue that makes you feel like dropping by for a bite or two. A hefty portion of grilled unagi divinely tucked between two slices of ciabatta pretty much sums up what you can expect from the concise but delectable menu. There are even ice-cream sandwiches for your sweet-tooth needs, as well as a selection of pretty good fruit smoothies. Come nightfall the diner also works as a popular hangout spot, with quite an impressive selection of craft beers and cocktails. facebook.com/2ndyard/.
Escape for a quick cuppa joe and reverie: Even the old town isn’t immune to Casa Lapin’s far-reaching influence, proven by the dreamy Oneday Wallflowers. A hidden gem in Charoenkrung, the coffee-oriented venue takes floral decor to the next level, providing a fantasy-esque escape from hectic city life as you immerse yourself in aesthetic ferns and reverie. A small space, seating is intimate, surrounded by rustic interiors of industrial lighting, wooden furniture and old brick walls with ferns dangling down. The flowers, vintage items loosely placed throughout the store and old-school charm make this the perfect spot for some coffee and people-watching—it’s also very photogenic, so get your cameras ready! The place gets pretty packed over weekends though, so get there early or brace yourself for some queueing and general cosiness. The rooftop gets turned into a bar called 'Wallflowers Upstairs' from Fridays to Sundays, so hop over if you're looking for a dreamy hang out spot. Oneday Wallflowers also holds monthly flower workshops, so stay tuned for that as well! facebook.com/onedaywallflowers/.
Teens of Thailand
End the day with drinks at a trendy gin bar: Hidden behind small, mysterious double-doors is Teens of Thailand—a hipster-haven, gin-oriented bar. Artsy, rustic and undeniably hip, this is where to bring your friends if you’re tired of the typical in-your-face fancy found at Thonglor. Enter the doors and you’ll find yourself in a narrow, dimly-lit space furnished with vintage decor. Photographs by Kachain Wonglamthong—one of the talents behind the bar—hang in large frames along the walls, and the background music is always pretty impressive. Grab a stool at the bar to watch the resident bartender in action, and discuss your preferences to get the right drink. The drinks list is constantly changing, so get ready for new surprises with each visit. facebook.com/teensofthailand/.
Or a trendy Chinese-themed bar: When in Chinatown, might as well go all the way with the experience and visit Ba Hao—the area’s popular Chinese-themed bar. Just steps away from Teens of Thailand, Ba Hao greets you with Chinese letters of the name (meaning “number eight”) in iconic neon lights and an entrance that opens out to the rest of the street. Channeling classic Hong Kong old-school vibes, the experience is complete with liquors that incorporate ginseng among other Chinese herbs, and come nicely complemented by Chinese bar-grub. Very cool vibes and red interiors make for a pretty cool night-out experience and the venue even doubles as a hotel with a couple of rooms upstairs. facebook.com/8bahao/.