Beyond Bangkok’s shopping malls and religious shrines, is a city that’s also bursting at the seams with culture. A lot of it’s on the streets – from massage parlours to even just som tum and soup stands – but if you dig a little bit deeper, there’s also much to be found in extensive, breathtaking displays. Art, textiles, flowers and more are just some of the bright, enriching gems that you can discover at museums and galleries around the capital.
By Wanida Tardivel & Luxury Society Asia Team
Some of these venues are so fresh and off the beaten track you won’t find them anywhere close to a skytrain or underground station, or even in the Lonely Planet guide. But that’s exactly what makes them so great:
Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall
This towering neoclassical wonder was originally built as a royal reception building by Rama V, but now serves as a museum of art and Thai monarch history. You’ll find fabulous paintings depicting important events from the country’s bygone times, from Thailand’s first king of the Chakri dynasty, Rama I, leading his armies back after defeating the Khmer to King Rama V’s abolition of slavery. As royal premises, dress code must be followed including sleeved shirts and no short skirts or ripped jeans.
Jim Thompson House
This jungly compound was the former home of Jim Thompson, American silk impresario and esteemed Thai art collector. One of Thompson’s hobbies was gathering parts of rundown Thai traditional homes and having them reassembled, which you can now see in splendour all around the property. Take in fantastic pieces of Thai art and silk touches on display, while learning the story of one of Bangkok’s most enigmatic former expats.
The Museum of Floral Culture
Located in a century-old antique house, this museum dedicated to the history of flowers and floral arrangements was founded by Sakul Intakul, one of Asia’s most renowned floral artists. Here you’ll find bouquets on display, stunning rare photographs and a beautiful manicured garden where you can enjoy coffee, tea and traditional Thai sweets. It’s the perfect setting for a truly romantic afternoon in the city.
Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC)
Bangkok’s premiere building for the modern arts is comprised of three floors, with over 3,000 square meters of gallery space. Besides public displays, there are also private galleries, shops, cafés and even an art library. Be sure to check out IceDEA, an ice cream showroom and food design store with playful, inventive creations like ice cream that looks like steak and ton katsu, and weird flavours like wasabi and cigarettes.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
Founded by Thai billionaire mogul Boonchai Bencharongkul, MOCA is the largest privately funded museum in the country. It’s a massive building that’s a real champion in contemporary architectural design, with white cutout walls and abstract structures. There are six floors of Thai modern art to discover, including pieces from Bencharongkul’s personal collection. It’s not close to any BTS or MRT station, making it a hidden gem for real art lovers.
Suan Pakkad Palace
This collection of eight traditional wooden Thai houses that was once the residence of Princess Chumbon of Nakhon Sawan and before that a veggie farm, which is why it’s name means “cabbage patch” in Thai. Within these teak buildings, various Khmer-style Hindu and Buddhist art, historic Buddhas and other antiques find their home. Most of all, you’re going to love peaceful, beautifully manicured grounds (which even includes a few ducks and swans!).
This gallery can be found at Chulalongkorn University as part of the Faculty of Arts. It regularly exhibits works of emerging student artists as well as more progressive, experimental pieces by rising local artists and established national and international names. Look out for lots of abstracts, and thought-provoking canvas masterpieces.
Speedy Grandma is the ultimate destination for getting to know Bangkok’s hipster scene, a contemporary art space oozing with kitschy cool aesthetic. Its walls are home to creations from underground international and Thai artists, with a serious affinity for surrealism, pop and urban art. Check it out on the weekends for boozy exhibition openings, electronic dance parties and interactive installations.
GOJA Gallery and Café
This modern art museum is located in a renovated shop house just five minutes walk from Phra Kanong BTS. It’s easy to spend the day hanging out here, with a cozy café that turns into a trendy bar in the evening. Check out its Facebook to find out about live rock shows, DJ performances and a rotating schedule of local exhibitions.