Riverside revelry

From a traditional market to the new centre of cool, Klong San has a surprise in store.

Ask any Klong San local what’s there to see and do, and they’ll probably draw a blank. It’s a bit hard for them to understand why people, especially teens and millennials from the other side of the river, are deciding to brave traffic, train or ferry to visit the district once known for its quiet river life and traditional residences. But with Bangkok’s centre so saturated and chaotic, it’s only a matter of time before city folk seek new quality places to hang out.

Klong San, on the Thon Buri side of the city, is rich in history, famous for its tiny walking streets, waterways, markets, street food, and communities of Thai, Chinese, Muslim and Hindu traders. However, the area, like most other districts in Bangkok, is starting to change and develop fast.

In the past five to 10 years, the once-serene residential district is now seeing an influx of urban sprawl. More guest houses and hotels are opening up, and IconSiam, a multi-million-baht mixed-use project that will cover 520,000m² of the Chao Phraya riverfront, is set to be finished by late this year.

Locals are definitely curious about the change that will follow, but for now, Klong San still has its rustic charm, known among urban developers and artists as one of Bangkok’s creative districts, for its distinct personality and commercial and creative studios.

Life scouts some Klong San spots that are worth the trip.

Around Klong San Pier and Market

The Jam Factory

Brainchild of famous architect Duangrit Bunnag, the chic warehouse-turned-multi-use-compound sits right in front of the Chao Phraya River, next to the Klong San Pier and Market. Always pulsing with activities and creative minds, the spacious and green area consists of Anyroom furniture store, packed full of niche furniture and decorative accessories; Candide Bookshop, a warm and inviting independent bookstore attached to the lovely and spacious li-bra-ry cafe (try the 85-baht Library Waffle); the Jam Factory Gallery, which often holds exhibitions or talks on the lush green courtyard; the Never Ending Summer, a charming and atmospheric Thai restaurant; and lastly, the Summerhouse Project, its sister restaurant serving Western food.

Open 11am-8pm every day. Facebook.com/TheJamFactoryBangkok

Candide Bookshop.

Chiang Mai Road

A 15-minute walk from the Klong San Pier is Chiang Mai Road. As Fifa describes it: “You can come and take pictures — only if you’re into the feeling of being in a historic place, maybe 60-70 years ago, in the area where our [Chinese] grandmothers and grandfathers immigrated to. This area still has that old essence that you can experience.”

WangLee House.

At the end of Chiang Mai Road sits WangLee House, a private and traditional Chinese courtyard-style house built in 1881. Having received the ASA Architectural Conservation Award in 1984, the WangLee House is one of the last 19th-century merchant houses left standing in Bangkok. Since it is private property, the best way you’ll get to view the house is by climbing up the nearby Jee Jin Khor Temple, an eight-story Chinese pagoda at the Jee Jin Foundation for the Moral Teachings Society on 494 Somdet Chaophraya Soi 17.

The Jee Jin Foundation for the Moral Teachings is open from 8am-4pm.

The WangLee House gates close at 6pm daily.

Around BTS Wongwian Yai

Sorry I’m Hungry Burger Cafe

It doesn’t matter how far away the restaurant is. If the food is good, Thais will be there. Sorry I’m Hungry Burger Cafe, located in the dingy Krung Thon Buri Soi 4, serves tasty, juicy American-style burgers for exceptionally decent prices. The small converted town house holds roughly 10 tables, so don’t expect any parking space. Must-tries include the stomach-filling Hungry Extra Cheese Burger (199 baht), a beef burger overflowing with melted cheese topped with mushrooms and the Hungry Mix Tower Burger (219 baht).

Open noon-10pm daily. facebook.com/sorryiamhungry

Taste of Trees

Taste of Trees cafe is a petite and cozy spot located inside Soi Mana Wittaya, a five-minute walk from BTS Wong Wian Yai. Describing itself as Coffee Etc, the cafe serves a myriad food and drinks, from smooth, flavourful coffee made from 100% local and imported Arabica coffee, to imported premium organic tea, to chocolatey desserts, to savoury plates like Spicy Olive Oil Pasta and the Mushroom Cheese Sandwich. At night, the cafe serves a selection of beers, as well.

Open Tuesday to Saturday, 9am-11pm. facebook.com/tasteoftrees

Somsak Pu Ob

If Western food isn’t worth dropping by the district for, then maybe Somsak Pu Ob will change your mind. With two chains, both in the Klong San area, their speciality, “Pu Ob Woon Sen”, or baked crab with vermicelli, is one of the most delicious and well-known in Bangkok. Customers are known to wait in line more than an hour just to get a taste of the fresh and perfectly cooked seafood.

Open 4-10pm daily. Call 081-823-9706 for the Krung Thon Buri Road branch and 089-494-1000 for the Lad Ya branch.

Somsak Pu Ob. Photo by Sunan Lorsomsab

The Summer House Project.

Sorry I’m Hungry Burger Cafe.