The old heart of Bangkok throbs with a sleepy, timeless and gritty beauty.
This is a collection of sketches of Bangkok’s older districts done over the last couple of years. As a walking fanatic who loves getting off the beaten track, I stumbled on the following scenes by chance. On a short visit to Bangkok you might miss these places if you’re confined to the main tourist sights like the Grand Palace or shopping amidst the glitz of Sukhumvit Road. Bangkok is a true mega-city with many sides to it, but the never-changing, unhurried essence of these old districts will always be why I love this city most. Please click on the images to see larger versions.
Song Wat and Khao Lam Rd
The streets surrounding Bangkok’s manic China Town are comparatively quiet and lined with small restaurants and manufacturing shops.The beautiful building in this sketch stands at a small roundabout connecting Song Wat and Khao Lam Rd. The decorated balconies and shuttered windows hark back to a grander era.
No sooner had I started sketching, an Argentinian man, out for a mid-day stroll without a shirt on, took great interest in what I was doing. He took the time to tell me about other sights I might find interesting, walked off, then came back to tell me some more. He repeated this one more time before finally disappearing.
China Town Junk Shop
On a blazing morning, while having breakfast at my hostel in Bangkok’s old town, I spied a junk repair shop across the road. The random chaos of bike parts, boxes, and heaps of scrap somehow sang together in harmony as they sizzled gently in the heat. I was especially drawn to an old, rusted car sitting under a cover and wondered if it was remembering the day it first rolled off the production line.
I noticed I wasn’t alone in admiring this view – a western man wearing safari shorts and large sun hat was taking it all in from the opposite curb, a huge grin on his face.
I had been walking away from Khaosan Rd and intending to cross Ratchadamnoen Klang Road and on into China Town, when I found myself face to face with Democracy Monument. I’ve passed by this elegant monument so many times on different visits to Bangkok that it has become for me a symbol of this city. The sudden thought of sketching it lit me with happiness.
I always begin by sketching an outline in invisible strokes to get a feel for placement on the canvas. Eager to get this sketch right, I measured distances with my fingers, particularly the lengths of the wings.
I was sitting on a low, ringed brick wall containing some plants in its center. A motorbike taxi driver was napping further along the wall. Now and then, he peered over my shoulder. When I was done, I showed him the finished sketch and he nodded approvingly.
View From Pen Little
Banglumphoo is the real heart of old Bangkok and concealed between its main streets are a maze of back allies and villages. The shack houses, little restaurants and bars exude a lazy, timeless quality.
This was the first sketch I tried using just pen and black ink wash. The simplicity of this media brought a fresh kind of involvement that I’d felt was getting lost in my color sketches. Perhaps not having to decide about colors let me focus on the fun of capturing all the little details and play around with variations of line thickness.
I sketched this from my seat at Pen Little, an outdoor restaurant popular with backpackers staying in the area. The man running it has the most infectious laugh on the planet.
Walking away from Khaosan Road towards China Town one night, I came across a small street corner where various street food vendors were at work. Wanting to stop and absorb the atmosphere, I sat down for an iced coffee, then began to sketch.
Bangkok seems especially suited to pen and black ink wash style, which compliments the city’s well-worn, gritty character. For this night scene too, it allowed me to explore the shadows and confused web of electricity wires dangling overhead.
All work © Beautiful Diaspora. Sketched on an iPad Mini using Sketches app