The Cho Who, What, How and Why anchoring Chinatown’s burgeoning scene

Since opening its doors last year, Cho Why has hosted everything from craft brewers and photojournalists to hipster flea markets and a street-art block party.

Situated on Soi Nana near the Hua Lamphong railway station, it sits as an anchor to that whole Yaowarat / Charoen Krung renaissance that is bringing an old part of town to life again.

Cho Why and friends have bringing residents out to a part of town usually reserved to tourist guidebooks for its overrated street food. In a short time they’ve brought combined coolness with relevant social and cultural happenings that not too arty and not too drunky.

Behind the success of the place are its crew of creative founders, from kombucha brewer Tibb Phungtham, fashionista Kay Jotikasthira, Dudesweet-in-Chief Pongsuang “Note” Kunprasop, Soulbar cofounder Romain Dupuy, photojournalist Nick McGrath and restaurateur Victor Hierro and cultural evangelist David Fernandez.

We wanted to catch up with how it’s been and where it’s going, so we sent some questions to Fernandez to give us the story.

First things first: Why Cho Why?

That´s why! It just sounded good. But truth be told, we used the Chinese name for old-style convenience stores and corner-shops. It sounded very similar to our final choice “Cho Why,” but we had to modify it a bit just enough to avoid potentially obscene mispronunciations.

We decided to open the space because we loved the building so much at first, we didn’t want anyone to take over and open another nonsense business, and then we started doing the sort of events we would like to see in town more often.

Cho Why is part of the arts infrastructure in Chinatown housing a project space to actively pursue independent programs benefiting from Cho Why’s communal action to generate collaborations and production both on-site and much further afield.

Much has been made of the Chinatown / Charoen Krung area being Bangkok’s new cultural center. What does it add to the BKK art scene?

We believe the neighborhood still holds a different charm architecture-wise, compared to the rest of the city. In fact many of us live here also, and of course, loads of potential for creative, cultural development. Opposite to what´s happening everywhere else, Chinatown still remains decayed, old-fashioned, shopping mall-culture free, so it kind of feels more authentic yet human. Yeah, it´s noisy, dirty and chaotic, but it´s real, unlike Thonglor, to give you an quick example.

How’s it gone so far?

Last couple of events have been a big success, especially the Soi NaNa Craft+Jumble Trail, hosted not only at Cho Why but all around the street and also the latest, Craft Beer Is Not A Crime.

Not even a year has passed since we took over and now the street, Soi Nana, and the rest of the neighborhood seem to pumping up nonstop with new venues opening up around us, old ones doing the right job while attracting new crowds, which makes us feel we weren’t wrong when we first decided to open Cho Why as a unique “project space.” Our focus now is improving the venue and expanding our program while we make sure the project is financially sustainable.

What’s the plan for Cho Why and what impact will it have on Bangkok’s art scene in the future?

Truth be told we have no master plan. We wanna keep opening our doors and welcoming interesting content inside while having a good time. Today may be a charity art exhibition; tomorrow a photo screening. The day after a book launch. As for how are we gonna influence Bangkok art scene, I guess you better wait and see, we have no plan neither to influence no one. If only we manage to make the local creative scene being more inclusive, less class-conscious / snob, that would be enough for us.

Who’s the team making it happen? Bangkok’s art scene must be very vibrant, lots of new galleries opening all over, is your main goal to make money or to showcase exciting art and artists?

We are a chaotic collective of creative individuals manically working on a diverse range of projects across Bangkok including music, photography, art, gastronomy, film and digital media. Certainly we are not a regular gallery, nor a bar, although we usually serve both creative ideas and ice-cold drinks. Our usual offerings are community art and crafts; film screenings; photography talks and workshops; rare performances, culinary pop-ups; rooftop casual parties; and, lately, street entertainment!

What kind of events and shows do you want to bring in the future?

Any kind of art happening; not only those of our interest. We are not a serious “gallery,” so sometimes our events don’t need to be “arty” per se, just interesting, entertaining yet singular.

Check out Cho Why and friends 4pm to midnight on Sunday at the Soi Nana Craft & Jumble Trail.

Image: Soi NaNa Craft+Jumble Trail, poshrocha


Cho Why

Soi Nana 17

Pom Prap Sattru Phai

MRT Hua Lamphong

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