A world of antiquities
Apart from the National Museum, the best places in Bangkok to scope artefacts from Asia’s rich and diverse artistic traditions are the commercial antique art galleries off Charoen Krung Road.
These galleries are all spread over a couple of shopping centres and side lanes that can be easily visited on foot in a single afternoon. Here is a cheat sheet to get going. All of these galleries are located within walking distance if heading south from Saphan Taksin BTS Station or north from Si Phraya river ferry pier.
Built in the 1980s and recently renovated, the city’s largest art-focused shopping centre is hard to miss when cruising on the Chao Phraya River—it even has its own ferry pier. Some of the finest antique art galleries in Thailand display ancient religious statuary, ceramics, woodcarvings and more from Thai, Khmer, Burmese and other realms. Of the roughly two-dozen galleries, some of the best include Amata Collection, Angkor Antiques and Adul Gallery.
You’ll also find contemporary works by Southeast Asian artists at galleries like 333 Bababa and Kalyani. Viva and Aviz is a great place for a meal and cocktails with a sunset and river view on the ground floor.
River City Bangkok: Charoen Krung Soi 24 (next to Si Phraya river ferry pier); http://www.rivercitybangkok.com/en ; open daily 10:00-22:00
Occupying a classy building constructed by the French more than a century ago, this smaller shopping centre sits near the ultra-luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the old European quarter. Though lacking the selection of River City, galleries like Ashwood and Tibet Shop feature museum-worthy pieces for sale. Afterwards you could wander into the nearby OP Garden to check out contemporary art at Serindia Gallery, or stroll down to the old Customs House beside the river.
OP Place: 30/1 Charoen Krung Soi 38; open daily 10:30-18:30
The top dog beyond the shopping centres is Fifty Years Gallery, founded by a Belgian collector/dealer who spent five decades exploring Asia and Africa. We could spend hours gazing at the Balinese stone carvings; Ayutthaya-period khon masks; Ming dynasty warrior statues; centuries-old sets of Samurai armour; and second century CE Greek-style busts discovered in Afghanistan that are among the oldest depictions of Buddha in the world. Though not quite as captivating, the nearby Lek Gallery also has a fine collection.
Fifty Years Arts and Antiques: Soi Charoen Krung 30 (down the side lane shooting south just before the Portuguese Embassy); T: (02) 267 2297; Open Mon-Fri 10:00-18:00, Sat-Sun by appointment
Lek Gallery: 1124-1134 Charoen Krung Rd; T: (02) 639 5871; open daily 10:00-18:00
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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