Hip hangout for Bangkok’s artisans and art lovers alike
Since opening its gates in mid-2017, the ChangChui art night market has quickly became the go-to place for art-loving and free-spirited Bangkokians. The complex is the brainchild of Somchai Songwattana, owner and art director of Thailand’s beloved vintage fashion brand FlyNow.
The unique style of this market definitely sets it apart, making it stand out and rise above all the other night markets in Bangkok in terms of artistic flair. Basically, ChangChui was created with three main ideas in mind: First, nothing is useless; second, art above all; and third, to create a destination for a new generation.
The vintage Thai-style wooden houses add a shred of overall architectural nostalgia, while the eccentric art displayed in every corner, and at every bar, restaurant, and open space available, underscores the rich artistic world that has been a part of Thai people’s lives for centuries. Here Bangkok’s artists and creative minds have been given a new and vibrant place where their works can shine.
A full day can be easily spent at this market, and your stay can easily extend well into the night. Art shops, food courts, unique restaurants, street food set ups, a vintage cinema, hundreds of art displays, designer bars, and live music during the evening hours all combine to make for the ultimate in an entertaining and culturally rich night out.
ChangChui’s biggest and most beloved beast has to be the decommissioned Lockheed L-1011 Tristar airplane that welcomes visitors when they arrive to the center of this bohemian brainstorm. The plane even has a nickname. It’s called Na-oh—a variation on Noah, the gentleman with the famous Ark—and the interior’s eccentric décor includes vintage style furniture, sculptures, luxury chandeliers, and a trove of taxidermized wild animals (in February of this year a fine-dining restaurant was added so visitors can now dine among the beasts as well). Meanwhile, under the airplane sits the Runway Bar, one of the best places to enjoy a cold beer and listen to some quality music at sunset and/or after hours, as Bangkok’s young artists show off their musical talents.
But first and foremost ChangChui is a creative space where a new breed of young artists, designers, and creative minds can display their creations, and where art lovers can enjoy some quality time (without spending a lot of money). It’s a perfect place to come with friends, family, or even alone. There never needs to be a boring moment here, as something new will grab your imagination every second if you let it. And even if you’re not an art buff, and worried you can’t understand or can’t find art, don’t fret—the art will find you.
Art is “in the air”, or at least that’s how it feels here. The moment you step inside the confines of this complex you’ll feel as if you’re visiting an open air museum, as opposed to just another night market. From the buildings, sculptures, and paintings, to the design of the bars, shops, and even the clothing displays, it’s all intended to get your imagination moving. There are also new and inspiring exhibitions every month or so, and you can also find plenty of creative programmes (some for the whole family). All this activity invites you to become an active part of the overall experience.
See & Do
For some vintage vibes, and to learn about art from the past, visit the gallery behind the huge smoking skull sculpture, where the owner’s personal art collection is displayed. This private museum, called Chui Samosorn, creates a bridge between the past, present, and future. These unique antiques will give you a good impression of what kind of art was preferred by Thai people in the days of yore.
Along with vintage vibes can also find the works of modern Thai street artists exhibited as you walk around the market. Probably the most famous and beloved of the outdoor artists is Alex Face—aka: Patcharapol Tangruen—who is as talented as he is prolific. You can find some of his oversized work displayed in the back garden (for more on Alex Face, see pg. 27).
You can also take art home if you like. There are many peculiarly designed clothing shops to visit, as well as boutiques offering unique home décor items and souvenirs—perhaps one of the most eye-catching is Lamp of Industry. You can also sit in a galaxy-themed barber shop, or get lost in a flower wonderland at the gardening and plant shop.
Cinema buffs can also find something to lure them in, as the Dujit Arai Kor Chang is a bygone era theatre where you can find everything from documentary screenings to scheduled live performances (depending on the date and time).
If you want to find out more about what’s on at ChangChui, be sure you check out the full schedule listings online at: en.changchuibangkok.com.
One of the most intriguing restaurants at ChangChui is Insects in the Backyard (pictured), a fine dining spot that showcases edible insects on the menu. Eating insects is certainly not new to Thai culture, however it’s a first to have them as part of the city’s gourmet scene. So what does an insect taste like?… surprisingly good. They’re crunchy, and often have a little fatty flavour as well (the ones I had were a bit of a mix between crispy bacon and a biscuit). This unique eatery makes ChangChui even more special and a true destination dining experience for die-hard foodies. The restaurant is easy to spot as the giant grasshopper outside will certainly grab your attention, and no doubt make you curious about what’s hiding inside. The beautifully decorated interior is a mix antique dark wood furniture, exotic taxidermy displays, and playful sculptures. Meanwhile, Chef Thitiwat ‘Mai’ Tantragarn’s exquisite Western-style fare, that feature or is garnished with insects, will make sure you get your daily protein intake.
Another dining spot of note is Thé, a branch of Hua Hin’s most famous tea salon. It’s ideal for those who prefer a more traditional, classical feel when it comes to both art and food. Sitting down for a pot of tea, or a quick bite, will feed not only your artistic curiosity but also your Instagram account. This is an exquisite, creatively designed, museum-like space and it is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the taste buds—where the air is filled with the scent of Marriage Frères tea, sweet nibbles, and savoury brunch dishes. From the intricate wood-crafted Mogul-style arches to the stuffed wildlife creatures on display, it’s a sophisticated sensory stimulation.
The Future of Art & Our Planet
While ChangChui has a strong, undeniable vintage vibe, it also focuses heavily on being a place that has a commitment to the next generation. Their ‘Nothing Is Useless’ motto underscores a way of thinking that sends a strong environmental message to us all, and teaches the younger visitors—from an early age—how important it is to take care of our planet. And they “creatively” put their money where their mouth is, as ChangChui itself is made of reused structures and its art displays were created only with recycled materials. One of their biggest projects is The Yard Hostel which was entirely created with reused materials, such as shipping containers.
ChangChui teaches us to appreciate and to learn from the past, but also to look to the future. It’s a place that encourages you to be yourself and embrace what makes you unique. For Western visitors, it shows Bangkok’s and Thailand’s lesser-known face and helps newcomers to get more insights into the Kingdom’s rich and ever-changing cultural heritage. Art enthusiasts should head here if they want to get a fascinating look inside this country’s art worlds—past, present, and future.
As it says ChangChui’s the official website: “When creativity is applied, discarded objects acquire value. Every bit of ChangChui is therefore created through a mixture of optimism, inspiration, and wisdom.”
Words and photos by Jella Erhard