9 things to do from Surawong Road to the banks of the Chao Phraya River
Built during the reign of King Rama V, Surawong Road is one of Bangkok’s most vibrant and historic business neighborhoods. Connecting to the first road ever built in Bangkok, The Charoen Krung Road, and also to the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Surawong Road is revered as the Creative District. Thanks to its heritage, classic architecture, contemporary designs and authentic local food, this road is a cultural yet contemporary tourist destination. Here are 9 highlights of this area that you should not miss.
1. The Neilson Hays Library – the monument of love
Amid the bustling business district, is a quaint neoclassical building called The Neilson Hays Library. Established in 1920, the library is a monument of love, by Dr. Thomas Heywood Hays, the former Chief of the Royal Thai Navy Hospital and the first medical professor of Siriraj Hospital, in loving memory of his wife, Jennie Neilson, an avid reader, who devoted herself to library work until her last days. The elegant structure was designed by Mario Tamagno, an Italian architect, responsible for numerous landmarks around Bangkok such as the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall, Hua Lamphong Train Station, Makkawan Rangsan Bridge, and Phayathai Palace. The construction was executed with the same meticulous approach as those used with the aforementioned landmarks, prompting the public to call it “a grand palace on a small scale”. The still functional library offers more than 20,000 books for keen booklovers, and a gallery and café that have played host for special events and functions. It was awarded the status of “Historic Landmark” by the Association of Siamese Architects in 1986.
2. Bangkok Folk Museum – Bangkokians’ treasured history
Bangkok Folk Museum, also known as Bangkokian Museum, is originally home to Professor Waraporn Surawadee who donated to property to become a museum that offers an insight into the lifestyles of Bangkokians amid lush, green garden. Located in the heart of bustling Bang Rak District that is now filled with commercial buildings and skyscrapers, Bangkok Folk Museum is a rare sanctuary that is open to the public for free. Visitors can also learn about the history of the house as well as Bangkok from knowledgeable staff members who will show you around and share delightful and fun stories along the way.
Bangkok Folk Museum offers an insight into the lifestyles of well-off Bangkokians during World War II and its aftermath (circa 1937 – 1957). The museum consists of three zones in three quarters with display many of the possessions of original family members in good condition as well as memorabilia from early Rattanakosin Era and art pieces.
3. Bangkok General Post Office – Bangkok’s design hub
In 1885 Thailand joined the Universal Postal Union and used the former British Embassy of Charoen Krung as office, which was later known as Bangkok General Post Office. In 1940, the building went through a major renovation, led by Mew Jitsame Apaiwong and Phraya Sarote Rattaniman. Under the brutalist concept that tends to use geometric shapes and showcase original surface of the materials, Bangkok General Post Office looks like a giant box paved with bare bricks and no concrete surface. Even the Garuda statue looks stern. The building is now office to the Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC) that encourages societal and economic development based on creativity. The center gives the public access to design knowledge with more than 50,000 books, journals, print media and multimedia. The location also offers research, working space, material, design services as well as exhibition spaces that regularly host interesting subjects.
4. River City – Riverside center for art and antiquity
Travelers who visited Thailand 30 years would remember the bank of Chao Phraya River dotted with top hotels. Up until 1984, when River City opened its doors and established itself as a new landmark. The 4-story glass building was designed by Emeritus Professor Captain Krissada Arunwong na Ayutthaya. Its iconic aesthetic earned the building the Best Architectural Design Award in 1984. Besides being an architectural wonder, River City is also known as a center of art and antiques. 80 stores across River City retail in rare art collectibles and vintage home decoration items from China, Thailand and Europe. It also has an exhibition hall which has temporary displays of modern art all year round. Every first Saturday of the month, River City hosts an auction for rare and valuable art and antique pieces – a tradition that has been in place for more than 20 years, making it the art and antique center of Thailand and Asia.
5. Sri Maha Mariamman Temple – Shrine of the Goddesses
Straight down the road from the Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse, on Silom Road, is the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple. The Temple, also known as Wat Khaek, was built in 1879 by Vaithi Padayatchi, a Tamil Hindu immigrant. The temple’s façade is an elaborate riot of colors with intricate carvings of Gods and Goddesses, houses various deities. Following the traditional Tamil calendar, the Navratri festival takes place here in September / October. This festival, which is believed to give redress from bad luck, is held for ten days and on the final day the street in front of the temple is colorfully decorated with yellow flower garlands and candles, and the image of Sri Maha Mariamman is taken through the streets with a large procession.
6. BUKRUK – When art invades
Architecture and gallery galore aside, Bangrak is also home to vibrant and colorful graffiti art. The creation was a collaborative result of Thai and international artists who participated in the BUKRUK art festival, held for two consecutive years.
Highlights include floating duck by Nychos from Russia at Bangkok Dock Company, golden mermaid on black background on the side on an abandoned wall near Mahesak junction by Fikos from Greece and close to beginning of Charoen Krung soi 28 passersby can marvel the mural art of bird in a hat by Romanian artist Saddo. Across the street, two other artistic creations, the painting of a person reading in a room by Korean Daehyun Kim, and a bird on a one-wheeler by Thai artist Mue Bon, are displayed. Visitors passionate about street art or graffiti are often found heading to these places on foot or bicycle.
7. Authentic cuisine on the streets
Being an old district for trade and commerce, Bangrak is a busy neighborhood filled with old-school street food. Often found with “treasure” maps in their hands, visitors are on the search for the perfect meal on the street. Pra Jak roast duck has been around for four generations serving tasty roast duck and barbecue pork on rice and “che po” rice – a hearty rice dish with lots of condiments. The congee by Prince, originally located at Prince Cinema (now closed), still delights its regulars with tender pork and smooth congee with slight hint of charcoal. A place to savor by Joe Yai serving delicious rice noodle crepe (kuay tiew lod) and the traditional recipe of “juay kuay” with turnip, egg, pork, tofu and mushroom which has been around for four decades. Another must-try is oyster omelet at Tip. For dessert, Pa Aew’s grilled mini coconut pudding (khanom krok) has been a local favorite for years, thanks to their balanced sweetness and slightly crispy skin. Without a doubt, Bangrak’s unique street food really captures the spirit of the neighborhood.
8. Asiatique The Riverfront – Riverside trade comes alive
The hotspot for commerce and lifestyle, Asiatique The Riverfront, is regarded as Bangkok’s largest shopping mall on the banks of a river. Spanning 30 acres over prime riverfront property, the project was erected on a port previously owned by East Asiatique Company, a Danish shipping company that traded teakwood during the reign of King Rama V. The port was seized and used as military base and armory for Japan through the Asia Pacific War. The area was deserted after the war, until 2012 when Asiatique The Riverfront was conceptualized. A lot of effort was put in to maintain the riverside charm and the original architecture and heritage. Historical buildings like the WW II bunker, Sawmill and warehouses are used as different commercial zones. One of the main attractions at Asiatique is the 60 meter high Ferris wheel offering breathtaking views of the river and the 400 seat theatre with performances by renowned shows like the Joe Louis Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre.
9. Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse – Catering to all lifestyles
We circle back to the heritage area of Surawong Road, where the Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse is proud to do its part in rejuvenating the Surawong community with its modern offerings of accommodation and multiple food and beverage dining and banquet venues. It is the ultimate place to hang-out.
The 32-storey building is the first Marriott hotel in Bangkok that offers 303 guestrooms and residential suites. The hotel design, reflects stylishly and soothing earth-toned palette that exemplifies the Marriott Modern aesthetic of balancing utility with style.
In addition the Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse is the new haven for foodies with 3 exciting food and beverage outlets. Praya Kitchen, all-day dining restaurant, serves authentic Thai cuisine with international dishes in the mix. Yào Restaurant & Rooftop Bar, perched gracefully on the hotel’s 32nd floor, is a unique, residential-style complex that pairs contemporary Chinese cuisine with stunning Bangkok views. Savor Cantonese and Shanghainese cuisine prepared by Chef Bruce Hui from China. Enjoy pre and post crafted drinks at Yào Rooftop Bar with the panoramic view of Chao Praya River.
High above the streets, the recreational activities are located on the 18th floor. Guests can indulge in an array of signature treatments at the serene Quan Spa. The fitness center is accessible 24 hours for fitness aficionados or guests can simply laze in the infinity pool sipping classic cocktails from the pool bar.