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Category: Writing In Bangkok

inspiration in bangkok

5 Places Where I Find Inspiration In Bangkok

Just recently I spoke about the best spots for writing in Bangkok.

Now I want to talk about where I find that initial inspiration that makes me want to write and create in the first place.

This city is such a sensory overload that you might think it simple to find inspiration here.

While that’s true occasionally, at other times it can be nothing more than overwhelming. Anyone who’s ever visited the incredibly grandiose Grand Palace will know what I’m talking about:

  • Ostentatiously beautiful architecture? Check.
  • A tangible taste of Thai culture, history and religiosity? Check.
  • So many Chinese and Korean tour groups armed with umbrellas and megaphones that you’ll want to retreat to the quiet sanctity of neighboring Wat Pho? Double check.

Not to mention the sweltering heat…

But there are spots in Bangkok that combine the 3 elements that, for me, make for an inspiring locale:

  1. The opportunity to people watch — it shouldn’t be so busy that you’re jostling for space, but there should be some people around that you can observe subtly enough to get a glimpse into their world
  2. A degree of unfamiliarity — I have my particular Bangkok haunts, but they’re almost at a point of familiarity for me now where I stop noticing the small details. Somewhere new — or at least somewhere I visit only rarely — allows me to see it like a visitor and take in all its aspects
  3. Buzzing quiet — When somewhere’s really noisy — think plenty of shouting or traffic (two of Bangkok’s specialties!) — I find it pretty hard to find inspiration. At that point, my only focus is really what’s immediately in front of me, whether I’m having a conversation or attempting to cross the road. Conversely, I’m too acutely aware and uncomfortable of near silent places too. The happy medium that I find most conducive to creativity has to be a quiet hubbub — a steady rumble of noise that’s quiet enough that I can’t easily lock into someone’s conversation but buzzing enough not to be distractingly silent.

Here are some of the places that I find that bliss in Bangkok…

1. Suan Luang Rama IX

#suanluang #suanluangrama9 #garden #bangkok #thailand

A photo posted by Bud Grote (@budgrote) on


Bangkok is notoriously short on green space, but there are a few parks dotted throughout the city.

Suan Luang Rama IX is my favorite one of these, sitting just outside the centre of the city near the Rod Fai Night Market. It’s low on tourists, but attracts many locals throughout the day and so is a great spot for people watching.

The park itself is beautiful, divided into a number of country-focused gardens, including Japanese, Chinese, English, French and Italian. There’s also a quasi-museum to explore in honour of King Bhumibol.

At around 200 acres, there’s plenty to explore and lots of opportunity to find something you haven’t seen before.

2. The Green Lung of Bangkok

A photo posted by Thai Trails (@thaitrails) on


In keeping with the green theme, my next inspiration spot is Bang Krachao — a small island just outside central Bangkok that’s shaped a bit like a lung. It’s just a short boat ride away from Klong Toei and Bang Na piers.

You can hire a bike here and explore the island and all that it offers, including the floating market and the beautiful park. The traditional architecture and classic Thai village life on display is enough to propel you far away from the skyscrapers and pollution of Bangkok.

It’s quiet here but certainly not deserted, with a mix of locals and tourists attempting to find somewhere off the usual tourist trail.

3. Victory Monument


I know, I know — Victory Monument is probably the epicentre of overwhelming chaos in Bangkok and not usually conducive to any sort of creative inspiration.

But I love standing on the skywalk, looking over the chaos and soaking it all in from my perch above the action.

You see the minibuses overflowing with bodies to take to the provinces, the hundreds of motorbikes whisking local workers to their companies, the street vendors boiling up their vats of boat noodles and, in the middle of it all, Victory Monument itself looming over all both physically and symbolically.

4. The Old European Quarter

A photo posted by Maninthorn J. (Nan) (@nisney) on


While Thailand is proud of having never been colonised, there’s no doubt that the 19th century saw the start of the European expat movement to the city, and they tended to gather together in an area of the lengthy Charoen Krung Road, near the Chao Phraya River and where the magnificent Oriental hotel is located.

Walking these sois, spotting the beautiful Old Customs House and East Asiatic Company buildings and Assumption Cathedral, it’s humbling and inspiring both to imagine the literary greats who once stalked these haunts — Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, Noel Coward and Graham Greene, to name but a few.

5. Soi Cowboy


Hear me out — yes, Soi Cowboy is certainly not a space for quiet reflection, but it’s a cracking spot for people watching, creating strangers’ back stories and getting a peek into the infamous Bangkok night scene.

The short alleyway between Sukhumvit Sois 21 and 23 is a neon blur come nightfall, with lingerie-clad women galore, juice-laden cocktails and an enthralling atmosphere of lust, commerce, sadness and survival.

It’s no surprise to me that Soi Cowboy pops up so regularly in the works of the Bangkok noir fiction genre, as it’s just a pretty emotive place.

 

Where do you find inspiration in Bangkok?

Image is by m-louis .® (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

writing in bangkok coffee shops

5 Of The Best Bangkok Coffee Shops For Writing

The writing process is delicate, imperfect and profoundly impacted by your environment. For some writers, where you write is just as important as how you write.

Perhaps you need the quiet solitude of an office to best plumb those creative depths. Or the relaxing vibes of a vacation to inspire you to start tapping away. Or — my personal favourite — the low buzz of a city cafe.

Coffee shops and cafes have long been the location of choice for writers wanting to get outside of themselves, take in the world around them, while still being keyed in enough to make good art.

Malcolm Gladwell has said that he writes in cafes for a living (“That jerk at the cafe? C’est moi”), Hemingway was a legendary cafe frequenter, while some cafes themselves are internationally famous thanks to their lofty literary history.

writing in bangkok coffee shops

The legendary Les Deux Magots in Paris — once a haunt for famous writers

New York, Paris, London — all of the world’s major cities are hubs for cafe writing.

But what about Bangkok?

God knows that this city has enough creative expats to start a cafe writing movement. But there’s not yet that literary pedigree here to immortalise any of the coffee shops around town.

Yet.

There are, however, some cracking coffee shops; perfect for sipping and supping while observing and writing. Here are some of my favourites.

Casa Lapin X26

sukhumvit soi 26


Around halfway down Soi 26 is the quirky Casa Lapin — a coffee shop cum cafe cum co-working space cum hostel cum… flower shop? Who knows. There’s a lot of stuff going on here.

The best thing about Casa Lapin is the homely interior decoration – low chairs, plenty of wood and plants, a feel of creative community and a cracking selection of drinks on offer. The perfect spot to while away a couple of hours on Scrivener.

I did once pay 180 baht ($5) for a pot of tea here though so remember to gather your satang.

Gallery Drip Coffee

BACC, Rama I


Whereas Casa Lapin is all about the cosy atmosphere, Gallery is all about the coffee. Drip coffee, to be exact. With single origin beans and excellent cold brews, this is the writing spot for the coffee purist.

But it’s a great space to hang out, people watch and imbibe in the vibe as well. Located in the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre, it’s a hub for the city’s creative and artistic elite. Plus some students.

Wonderwall The Kaffebar

Sukhumvit soi 31/33

#wonderwallthekaffebar

A photo posted by Wonderwall l The Kaffebar (@wonderwallthekaffebar) on


This is my local coffee shop and it’s fabulous — if a little on the small side. The coffee is creamy and delicate, with lots of options to try new batches from international and local artisan roasters.

There’s usually some acoustic covers on the stereo and a choice of tasty sweet treats too. An outdoor terrace with fan and rain shield means you can take in the sights (and traffic) of the road below too.

Great spot for dog watching too.

Hands & Heart

sukhumvit soi 38

Happy Friyay, everyone! Swing by and spend your weekend right. 📸by @chingkaichingkai

A photo posted by Hands and Heart Coffee (@handsandheartcoffee) on


Located halfway down the former street food Mecca of Soi 38, Hands & Heart is a serene coffee shop perfect for scribbling. It’s decked out in all black and white decor, and is quiet enough to allow for contemplation.

The coffee’s amazing too: hand brewed and selected from seasonal, AA grade, single origin beans. You can catch them baking cakes and daily and take away some of their cold brew products for any morning-after-the-night-before sessions.

Rocket Coffeebar

sathorn soi 12, sukhumvit soi 49, central embassy and 72 courtyard (soi thonglor)


Rocket is probably one of the fastest growing coffee/cafe chains in Bangkok right now, with branches popping up all over the city. Their Nordic-inspired design is calming and tranquil; their food delicious; their coffee creamy; and their clientele full of characters.

Sounds like the perfect recipe for an opening scene.

 

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