Asia, Bangkok, Thailand

Getting to Know the Thonburi District in Bangkok

April 3, 2015
Traditonal Thai Dancing Klong Bang Luang Artist House Bangkok

It was about time. Me and my little blog finally made it over to Asia, when I visited Thailand for the first time last month!

Plagued with a lingering cold-turned-nasty-sinus-infection and battered by wicked jet lag, I landed in Bangkok late on a Saturday night. As I wearily collapsed into my thankfully air-conditioned taxi, I smiled as I took in the city by night.
Streets of Bangkok by Night
Traffic was congested, even at 9:00 p.m. Vehicles clogged up the highways and streets. Motorcycles flew by, swerving in and out of traffic, much to the envy of anyone stuck inside an unmoving vehicle. Tourists stuffed themselves into the backs of small tuk tuks. There were lit-up skyscrapers as far as the eye could see. Crowds filled the sidewalks, sharing the tight space with vendors selling tacky souvenirs and delicious street food. T-shirts and shorts were the norm, as it was so hot and humid.

Bangkok was everything I expected it to be, yet it all felt so surreal. Realizing that I wasn’t at home in Berlin anymore, all I could think was “Holy moly, I’m in Bangkok!”

Absolutely exhausted, I checked into the Plaza Athenee Bangkok, which became my home away from home for the weekend. It’s not very often that I get a five-star treatment, so I took advantage by having a long soak in my room’s oversized bathtub, and then I fell asleep rather quickly in my comfortable king-sized bed that could have easily fit a family of four.

I’d get to know the city the next day on a tour that would bring me to my now favourite area of Bangkok, Thonburi.

Thonburi District in Bangkok

Thonburi offers up a slower, softer side of Bangkok and lies on the west part of the Chao Phraya river. Known for its web of canals, floating markets, friendly locals and floral-lined streets, this district is an oasis within the busy city.

Notable highlights of the area include Wat Kamphaeng, an ancient and understated Buddhist temple, and Khlong Bang Luang, an artist’s village.

As our van dropped us off in Thonburi, we were greeted with a typical street scene that you’d find anywhere in Thailand. There were vendors selling a vast array of brooms and, of course, food, glorious food.
Brooms For Sale in Bangkok
It was hard not to stop and grab a bite of what this lady had to offer! However, we were on our way to our first stop of the tour – Wat Kamphaeng.
Bangkok Street Food Vendor Street Food in Bangkok

Wat Kamphaeng

There are plenty of must-see temples in Bangkok, built for royals, appropriately decked out with grand architecture and filled with large, impressive Buddha statues that recline or are solid gold.

Then there are the temples or wats (as the Thai call them) that aren’t mass tourist attractions but simple, intimate, ancient places of worship frequented by locals.

Wat Kampaeng Buddhist Temple in Bangkok Wat Kamphaeng is one such temple.

Located along a canal near the Klhong Bang Luang artist’s village, this quiet wat is reminiscent of a time long past, well before Bangkok became the thriving, fast-paced metropolis it is today.

Buddhas at Wat Kampaeng in Bangkok

Buddhist Monk at Wat Kampaeng Bangkok

Offerings to Buddha in Bangkok Thailand The exact age of the temple is not known, but is thought to have been constructed sometime between 1400–1600, during the Ayutthaya period.

Unfortunately, many of the temple’s mosaics have fallen to disrepair, but ongoing restoration efforts from volunteer artists are helping. The faded beauty of Wat Kamphaeng is charming all the same.

Ubosot at Wat Kampaeng Bangkok

Windows at the Ubosot at Wat Kampaeng Bangkok

Temple Details at Wat Kampaeng Bangkok
This would be my first Buddhist temple experience. As I slipped off my shoes to enter the temple, it was easy to forget the hustle and bustle of surrounding Bangkok and fall into the serenity embraced by worshippers coming to pay their respects.

Interior Wat Kampaeng Thailand

Wat Kampaeng Buddhist Temple Decorations in Bangkok
My time at Wat Kamphaeng was all too quick, but a moving and even humbling experience that I’ll never forget.

Khlong Bang Luang – the Artist’s Village

Next up, was Khlong Bang Luang, an artist’s village filled with stilted homes, art studios, antique shops, family-run cafes, galleries and guesthouses. This eclectic and creative community is welcoming to tourists and full of some of the friendliest people I encountered during my stay in Bangkok. Welcome Klong Bang Luang Artist House in Bangkok It’s the perfect place to relax and sample some of the local food and drink. It was here that I tried my very first Thai ice tea, a sweet, milky concoction that’s the perfect antidote to the sun and heat.
Vendors at Klong Bang Luang Artist House

Locals at Klong Bang Luang Artist House in Bangkok

With smiling old ladies and little girls, I pretty much fell in love with this community right away.

Adorable Old Lady at Klong Bang Luang in Bangkok

Flower Vendors Klong Bang Luang Artist House Bangkok

As we continued to make our way toward Baan Silapin, the main artist’s house, we glimpsed life along the neighbourhood’s canals. Flowers, Thai flags, longboats, those stilted homes and little shops were all to be seen.
Canals at Klong Bang Luang Artist House Bangkok

Flowers at Klong Bang Luang Artist House Bangkok

Thai Flags Along the Canals Klong Bang Luang Artist House Bangkok

Boating Along Bangkok's Canals Klong Bang Luang Artist House Bangkok

House Near Klong Bang Luang Artist House Bangkok

Scenes fom Klong Bang Luang Artist House Bangkok

The artist’s house in Bangkok is a century old, two story, wooden teak house that was bought and restored by Chumphon Akhpantanond, a Bangkok-based artist and conservationist. Now a cafe, shop, gallery, performance venue and collaboration space for artists, Baan Silapin harmoniously brings together creative types, artists, students, and tourists.

Popular are the Thai shadow puppet shows and displays of traditional Thai dancing.

Klong Bang Luang Artist House in Bangkok

Thai Puppet Dance Klong Bang Luang Artist House Bangkok

While the puppets scared me, I could have watched these adorable and talented young girls dance for hours on end.

Thai Dancing Klong Bang Luang Artist House in Bangkok

Traditonal Thai Dancing Klong Bang Luang Artist House Bangkok

What I liked about the artist’s village was the lack of tourists, friendly locals and overall relaxing vibe. The next time I return to Bangkok (I’m already thinking of an extended break there next year), I’d love to spend a few days in a guesthouse just hanging out in this area.

Good to Know

  1. Bangkok be crazy! It’s a busy, chaotic, fun city that deserves to be enjoyed but sometimes, it’s nice to escape it, even if just for a few hours. The Thonburi district is the perfect place to do so.
  2. These Thonburi district highlights are notoriously tough to find. According to Travelfish.org, Wat Kamphaeng and the Khlong Bang Luang artist’s village can be found at Charan Sanitwong Soi 3, Thonburi. View each of the articles to get the specifics.
  3. Opening hours for the temple are 08:00–17:00, while opening hours for the artist’s village are 09:00–17:00.
  4. You can watch the puppet shows and dancing performances for free, but a donation is strongly encouraged. Don’t be that guy – throw a few bahts their way! You’ll be helping to support Chumphon’s causes of sustainable tourism and historical preservation.
  5. Wi-Fi is available at the artist’s house. But why would you need it when you can just sit back and enjoy your time there?

Location

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Thonburi District in Bangkok
* Disclosure – My stay at the Plaza Athenee Bangkok and city tour of Bangkok was complimentary, courtesy of TBEX and Tourism Authority of Thailand. Any opinions expressed about my newfound love of Bangkok’s slower and softer side are entirely my own.

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12 Comments

  • Reply David @ That Gay Backpacker April 3, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    I didn’t make it to this neighbourhood on my travels in Bangkok, and hadn’t heard of it actually. Definitely one for the list. I love BKK, but it’s great to have a heads up about a place to chill out there.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 3, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      Hey David – Yes, this area is great. And as my time in BKK was very brief, I’d love any additional tips you could share!

  • Reply Dwight Turner April 7, 2015 at 2:17 am

    Did you have the little fish mouse cakes from the lady? They are called ‘ho mok’ and it’s similar to Malaysian otak otak. Not the most photogenic thing, but delicious!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 7, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Hey Dwight –

      Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. 🙂

      No, I did not have time unfortunately. I’m confused – what do you mean by “fish mouse”? Also, which lady are you referring to – the first one in the blue shirt or the second one on the pink and purple shirt?

      Let me know.

      Cheryl

      • Reply Dwight April 7, 2015 at 6:45 pm

        Sorry I meant fish mousse not mouse lol. You took a photo of the thai version after the lady in blue.

        • Reply Cheryl Howard April 8, 2015 at 6:11 am

          Ha ha, thanks for your reply Dwight! I will have to try the fish mousse next time. 🙂

  • Reply Jessica @ Green Global Travel May 6, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Wow, I absolutely love your photos of Bangkok! I particularly enjoyed seeing Wat Kamphaeng; even through pictures, you can feel the peaceful quiet of the temple! I’m glad you got to experience the Thonburi district. It looks like it was definitely a great place to stop, relax, and enjoy some time away from the busy city!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 7, 2015 at 5:04 am

      Thanks Jessica! It was an all too quick tour and I hope I can return someday to experience the area more. 🙂

  • Reply Ellie June 8, 2015 at 9:01 am

    You’ve been to such a lovely place! Your photos really captured the culture and people there! BKK is on my fave list when moving abroad later that year, so I hope to see it and experience a lot of things just like you!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard June 8, 2015 at 9:44 am

      Hey Ellie!

      Yeah, Chinatown is for sure a “must-see” for anyone visiting Bangkok. I mean, looking at the food just makes me hungry. Hope you enjoy BKK! 🙂

      Cheryl

  • Reply micky January 28, 2016 at 9:21 am

    any blogs on hong kong, if yes can you direct me please

    • Reply Cheryl Howard January 28, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      Hey Micky! Sorry, as I’ve not been to Hong Kong yet, I can’t offer up any advice on the destination.

      Cheryl

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