If life in the city ever starts to feel like a drag, then remember — there are plenty of quick and easy escape routes to the quiet life. In case you want to get away from the crush of Siam and Sukhumvit for the far side of the river, then try this arts enclave on the Chao Phraya’s banks.
It feels like a little slice of old China: wood and cement pops with dashes of red in the form of lanterns and umbrellas. The outdoor U-shaped plaza offers opportunities to relax, shop, eat, drink, and get a glimpse of what Bangkok might have been like 170 years ago, when the structure first went up.
Lhong 1919 has been open for just under a year, but we couldn’t give it a solid recommendation before now because many of the spaces were empty and unrented, meaning it was cool to go there and snap a few photos, but there wasn’t a heck of a lot else to do there (and yes, we’ll admit, it’s kinda out of the way).
A recent visit confirmed what we hoped to be true: The place is fully up and running. Along the riverfront side are a few bars and cafes that don’t get hopping (or even open) until 5pm or so. Along the inner edges, there is a great coffee shop, Plearnwan Panich, serving up old school Thai snacks and drinks, like iced plum juice, soy milk with black sesame, and watermelon with savory ground fish. There are also several great boutiques offering artisanal Thai products, pottery, and artwork.
The new Karmakamet Conveyance restaurant opened there last week as well, serving up Chef Som’s conceptual tasting menu based on memories.
Around the back edges are several shops selling handmade jewelry, clothing, and kitschy Thai and Chinese items for mid-range prices. In many of the shops, the artists are on hand to answer your questions about their wares. This is a great place to shop for presents for arts-loving friends.
The place has notable cultural and historical aspects as well. The pier was built in 1850 as a port for ships bringing goods — and immigrants — from China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. There is a Chinese shrine, a vintage apothecary that will make you feel you’re in old China, and exhibits on rice farming to peruse.
Along the middle and behind the far side of the main promenade are the murals that are making the place a favorite for the Insta-happy. Paintings of birds, maidens, warriors and more line the walls, hard to look away from and even harder not to photograph.
The restored Mazu Shrine is upstairs at the back. It has been in the structure since it was built, only now restored to its former glory. Mazu is the goddess of the sea, protecting fishermen and seafarers from professional woes. There are three figures of Mazu inside, each representing a different stage of her power. The figures arrived at Lhong 1919 on a boat from China and have sat in the same spot ever since.
Now that Lhong 1919 seems to have hit its stride, we can heartily say it’s worth the trip and easy to pass a few hours (or more) wandering the picturesque riverside promenade.
248 Chiang Mai Rd.
Open daily, 10am-10pm
BTS Krung Thon Buri