Neighbourhood Guide: Bangkok's Old Town

Once the sleepy haunt of pad thai stands and dusty antique shops, Bangkok’s oldest district has undergone a renaissance in recent years. Steered by a slew of enlightened creatives, shop houses and warehouses dotted along the back sois of Charoen Krung have been nip/tucked into stylish bars, restaurants and destination galleries. Follow our guide to the most happening of hoods, best explored in the late afternoon.

Begin your jaunt on Charoen Krung’s Soi 36 where lush enclave O.P. Garden is home to a cluster of art spaces, shops and cafes. What Atta Gallery lacks in size it more than makes up for in impact: owner Atty curates a striking edit of avant-garde, collectable jewellery by homegrown and Euro designers, with individual pieces displayed as works of art.

Opposite is Serindia Gallery, a veritable hotbed of contemporary Thai art and photography with regularly rotating exhibitions. Known for hosting lively opening nights, publisher-owner Shane Suvikapakornkul is also the go-to for a lesson in Siamese art history and culture – if he’s there, be sure to stop for a chat.

Around the corner from O.P. Place is the incredible P. Tendercool. This Belgian-Thai-Italian outfit uses age-old techniques to rework reclaimed wood onto handcrafted bronze, brass and aluminium stands, resulting in breathtaking, heirloom-worthy tables. Ask to visit the warehouse workshop to see the artisanal magic in action.

Time your visit right and you can join the terrific Creative District Gallery Hopping Night, when Atta, Serindia, P. Tendercool and other galleries in Charoen Krung and Silom open their doors until 10pm. Enjoy a self-guided tour between spaces, with drinks, talks and performances as you hobnob with the city’s who’s who. Check out the FB page for details.

Read more: Bangkok Street Food Without the Street

Chances are you’ll have worked up an appetite by now, so hop into a cab (or brave a sweaty walk along Charoen Krung) to forward-leaning 80/20. Beyond the blah hostel situ is a warm, woody eatery charting an original course with its produce-driven plates starring 80% local ingredients (some from the resto's own organic farm). The food is quite simply delicious: think roasted sea bass in dashi broth and house-made chilli ice cream.

Now, options: from 80/20 it’s a mere 10-min dash back to Saphan Taksin where you can jump on the boat to The Peninsula for a nightcap. Or, should your late-night fairy be calling, push on instead to Soi Nana. A far cry from the notorious same-named alley off Sukhumvit Rd, this character-packed, Chinatown nook is home to a handful of Bangkok’s best bars: retro-Siamese Tep Bar, shab-chic gin den Teens of Thailand and Sino-tinged Ba Hao. It’s tricky to choose just one counter, so do as the regulars do and hop between all three – hic!

Originally produced by LUXE for PenCities.

For more neighbourhood guides and city insights, get your mitts on a LUXE Bangkok guide...

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Liz Weselby

A spur-of-the-moment decision to move to Bangkok brought Liz to Asia in 2003, where 15 years and three countries later, she's in Hong Kong heading up LUXE editorial. 

  • Liz LOVES... Chilli (on everything), getting lost in cities, hiking, people-watching at airports

  • Liz LOATHES... Suburbia, MSG

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