Think of Bangkok as just a gray, concrete jungle? Head over to the historic Bang Rak neighborhood and maybe you’ll think again. Located around the famous Charoen Krung Road and close to the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers, the area has been given a colorful makeover with the BUKRUK Urban Arts Festival earlier this year. This 10-day event saw some of the world’s most talented street artists converge on the city, with numerous building blocks, old houses and walls around the area being transformed into vibrant masterpieces, creating a superb new attraction in Bangkok.
Those traveling to the hotel from the city can catch their first glimpse of the street art next to Saphan Taksin Bridge, the point of transit for many switching from the BTS to river ferry. Look out for the giant duck mural painted on a green background across a giant factory wall. Guests staying at the Royal Orchid Sheraton can use the complimentary boat service from the hotel’s pier to Saphan Taksin (and catch the street art on the way). From there, the BTS Skytrain is just a few steps away, providing quick and easy access to the rest of the city.
The main collection of street art is best explored on foot; the closest to the Royal Orchid Sheraton can be found just footsteps away from the hotel on Charoen Krung Soi 28, 30 and 32. Start your journey on Soi 28, where you can check out a very Banksy-style mural by Daehyun Kim that appears to look into the side of a building. Hop over to the next alleyway and then onto Soi 32, which is actually where the majority of BUKRUK festival’s artwork can be found. Artists from across Asia and Europe including Bonus TMC, Phai, Lolay, Sabek and Alex Face have all delivered a splash of color, from a cartoon girl holding a rifle, to a mysterious furry creature holding a food basket over its shoulder.
For those wanting to venture a little further afield, more street art from the same project can be found throughout the Bang Rak and surrounding Talad Noi area, which is packed full of charming shop houses, museums and shrines. Perhaps the most colorful example of the street art here is located north up river from the hotel on Song Wat Road: a bright pink mural covering the entire face of a building.
Talad Noi also has other examples of older street art created by local artists over the years. The artwork takes on a distinct graffiti style, using physical objects on the street (such as windows, pipes and doors) to complete a more dynamic picture. For example, down the alleyway signposted as ‘Trok San Chao Rong Kueak’ – named of the Chinese temple found here - you’ll find a traditional long boat painted along the length of a wall in bright red. There are also some cool cartoonish scenes from Thai family culture (including children looking through a window with a cute cat jumping up). A lot of these works are reminiscent to some of the iconic pieces found dotted around the colonial streets of Penang or even Phuket’s old town area.
Aside from the street art, the surrounding Talad Noi area is bursting full of galleries, great if you need a break from the heat on your walking tour. Doubling up as a backpackers’ hostel, Speedy Grandma is a cool space on Charoen Krung 28 showcasing local artists’ work in various forms, while MoST Gallery showcases cutting-edge exhibitions over three floors of an old renovated shop house.
Finally, after a long day’s walking tour of Bang Rak’s cool street art scene, it might be time for a refreshing drink. Guests, as well as outside visitors, are welcome at the Sheraton’s luxurious Lobby Lounge, which serves savory bites, sweets, cocktails and soft drinks throughout the day. If you’re arriving a little earlier, the comfortable lounge space serves up afternoon tea from 2.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m. daily.