Charoenkrung, Bangkok’s first functional road, cultural melting pot, and home to many historic buildings, has enjoyed a creative reinvention in recent years. The relocation of the Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC) in 2017 has ushered in a wave of young business owners, trailblazing entrepreneurs, and talented artists. A spate of cool bars and galleries has taken over dilapidated shophouses, while the area’s weathered walls light up with vibrant colorful street art and graffiti. With a film camera in hand, I’ve captured some of the hidden and not-so-hidden murals around the neighborhood.
Start off your street art crawl at Charoenkrung Soi 32. Thanks to the Bukruk festival back in 2016, the faded walls on both sides of the soi are licked with electrifying artworks from many influential local and international graffiti artists. For example, the sensational three-eyed child in a ragged rabbit suit by Alex Face; the faceless portraits by Kult; the badass tigers with hammerhead sharks and a funky tiger with a gun by Bonus TMC; the outstretched, skeletal dog by Lolay; and the chaotic, purple-flamed black bear by Spanish artist Sabek.
Take a shortcut through Warehouse 30 to Charoenkrung Soi 30 and turn left. Here, you can’t miss this outstanding wall carving by renowned Portugese artist, Alexandre Farto, a.k.a. Vhils. Part of his Scratching the Surface project back in 2017, the mural features a bas-relief carving technique on the wall of the Portugese Embassy, showcasing local faces of the old community plus Portugese patterns, portraying the centuries-long Thai-Portuguese relationship. The piece took five days to complete.
Walk a little further down soi 30 and turn right on Si Phraya Road. Cross over to the back-end of Charoenkrung Soi 28 heading towards Jua and Tropic City, and you’ll come across two wonderful art pieces.
The first is a large bird mural on a unicycle by Muebon. Widely considered among the pioneers of Thai street artists, Muebon is best known for his cast of colorful characters, including the flightless cartoon bird Pukruk, and the television screen-faced man Mr. TV. Despite their cheerful and optimistic appearance, the characters deliver serious messages about social issues on subjects spanning from environmental activism to the influence of media.
On the opposite building is another beautiful (although now quite faded) bird mural by Romanian artist Saddo, whose works are heavily inspired by French post-impressionist painter Henri Rousseau. According to the artist, for this piece, created as part of the 2016 Bukruk festival, he was influenced by floral patterns and Islamic art.
Before making your way deeper into Talad Noi, keep an eye out for a snazzy Steampunk gekko crawling on the wall of 80/20. It was painted by local artist Panyawat Pitaksawan for the Colour of Charoenkrung street art project in mid-2020. The gekko is said to symbolize his childhood encounter with local animals in the area.
The best place to spot street art is Talad Noi. From Charoenkrung Soi 26, where the gekko piece is located, make your way to Charoenkrung Soi 24, where you’ll be greeted by whimsical remnants of the Colour of Charoenkrung event, created by Thai artists to reflect the local community. The star attraction is arguably street artist Jayoto’s towering yellow mural, featuring colorful Talad Noi locals and cats on the wall of the Thai Fish Sauce Factory (Squid Brand).
More wonderful pieces can be found along Soi San Chao Rong Kueak, which is lined with colorful and light-hearted street art that references the area’s Thai-Chinese heritage. What’s unique about the artworks here is that a lot of them playfully interact with the shophouses’ facades and physical objects around the area.
While many of these aren’t from any particular famed artists, they’re no less worthy of recognition. Some favorites include the paintings along the walls of Mother Roaster, which cleverly incorporate window shutters and used car parts; the vivid Caishen, the Chinese God of Wealth by artist Taeogawa; and the retro, Chinese propaganda-style painting by Studio Dialogue. Both of these are located near the Rong Kuak Shrine.
From there, get lost shooting more photos as you uncover more obscure gems in the labyrinth of back alleys. Make sure to stroll down Soi Duang Tawan, where you’ll see another impressive mural of a Chinese man eating noodles on a rickshaw.
Round out your street art adventure at Song Wat Road, which is home to three giant murals produced by international artists during the 2016 Bukruk festival. Just past Wat Pathumkhongka is the hard-to-miss, pink floral mural by Romanian artist Aitch taking up the whole side of a run-down shophouse. Although the artwork is now pretty washed out, Aitch’s intricate floral and folk art motifs are still wonderful to look at.
The next two masterpieces, located a little further down the road at a large car park, belong to celebrated Belgian artist Roa and Spanish artist Aryz. Roa’s creation showcases two upside-down elephants in his signature monochrome palettes, while Aryz’s mural features two deconstructed bicycles painted in his trademarked muted colors.
These outstanding pieces, located directly opposite each other, underscore Bangkok’s potential as a street art city. All the better that great art is so widespread in this district.
This feature was originally written for BK Magazine.