Great for art lovers and kids
Published: 31st August, 2017
Accessible by land or boat, the canal-side Artist House at Khlong Bang Luang includes a gallery, cafe and daily puppet shows in an old slice of Thonburi filled with temples, noodle shops and art studios. We come here when needing a break from Bangkok without actually leaving the city.
Sporting an open area where you can lounge by the canal and a centuries-old chedi from the Ayutthaya period that rises from the open-air belly, Baan Silapin (Artist House) was established in 2010 by Thai artist and conservationist Chumphon Akhpantanond. Other artists joined students and creative types who already lived in the area to help turn the space into a grassroots art hub, which tips its hat to a traditional lifestyle focused on the canals.
The restored teak house’s upper rooms are now a gallery full of paintings and photos, while prints, drawings, sculptures, puppets and khon masks dot the spacious ground floor. Visitors can purchase postcards or T-shirts, or give donations in exchange for a blank mask to paint. When the kids are busy painting or poking around, adults can relax with a strong espresso or Thai iced tea at one of the art workshop-style tables.
The most popular attraction is a traditional Thai puppetry troupe, Kum Nai Hun Lakon Lek, performing scenes from the Ramayana on most days at 14:00. Donning jet-black costumes with expressionless masks over their faces, the performers bring the characters to life in thrilling and humorous shows that always leave kids smiling. On one visit, our friend was fetched out of the audience to operate Hanuman the monkey-warrior’s abandoned right arm.
There’s no admission charge to see the show, but you can expect a smack in the face from Tosakan the demon king if you don’t slip a 20- or 100-baht note in the donation box. Princess Sita might blow you a kiss if you’re extra generous, and spectators are welcome to take photos with the troupe after the show.
In other stilted houses you’ll find artists at work and shops selling antiques, artsy souvenirs and bags of fish food for the catfish and carp that teem in the canal. You’ll also find noodle shops and barbers that could have been plucked from the 1930s. If you’re feeling lazy, dangle your feet and wait for a boat vendor to bring grilled chicken or coconut ice cream straight to you.
Before you go, take a stroll down the lane running away from the canal bridge and then turn left to hit Wat Kamphaeng, an Ayutthaya-period temple that’s another one of our go-to spots to find a quiet moment. One of the ancient halls contains a dusty collection of antique Buddha images, while another has Chinese prayer sticks complete with fortunes in English.
Although Khlong Bang Luang remains a relaxed affair, it has grown in popularity as more travellers include it on canal tours and locals visit on weekends. Come on a weekday to avoid the crowds, but keep in mind that the puppetry troupe takes Wednesdays off. If you’d like to stick around, Bang Luang House has a couple of lovely rooms across the canal from the Artist House.
The village is reachable by a pedestrian/bicycle bridge that extends from the west end of Charan Sanitwong Soi 3, a 60-baht taxi ride from Talad Phlu BTS Station (ask the driver to take you to “charan-sanitwong soi sam” and then “suk soi” meaning end of the lane). After the bridge, turn immediately left alongside the canal to reach the Artist House. You could also ask to include Baan Silapin on a canal tour.
Address: Baan Silapin (Artist House): Across the canal from the end of Charan Sanitwong Soi 3 (near Wat Kuhasawan), Thonburi
T: (02) 868 5279; (081) 258 9260;
Coordinates (for GPS): 100º27'47.55" E, 13º43'53.09" N
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David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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