As cities go, Bangkok doesn’t have much of a reputation as a destination for museum lovers. Sure, you can wander the capital’s countless exquisite temples or drink yourself to a stupor on Khaosan Road – but you might not think of Thailand as the place to go for culture, art and history in the same way as you would make a trip to, say, Paris, Berlin or Amsterdam.
It’s a shame, then, that spots like the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre don’t get more attention. This exhibition centre, large, imposing and rounded in shape and centrally located opposite MBK Centre with direct access from the Skytrain station at National Stadium, attracts a young and predominantly Thai crowd – think artsy and studenty, with lots of (pleasingly interested and well-behaved) school kids. The building has the feeling of somewhere that has really managed to pull off a genuine community space, with people coming to read, work or just chat at the tables dotted around the public areas of the centre. Best of all, the BACC is the opposite of all those wretched places that charge you a different admission fee depending on the colour of your skin – in fact, admission here is free for everyone!
Though quieter towards the top (and with no food, drink or photography allowed in places), the whole building has a buzzing, informal atmosphere – in typical Thai style, this is somewhere to come and enjoy the artwork in others’ company, not to come and silently peer through your spectacles at it. The circular nature of the building means it is easy to wander around among the artwork, largely hung on the walls around the central escalators on the first five floors and in more traditional style gallery rooms on floor seven and up. Exhibitions rotate regularly and the place seems to just go on and on, with always a little more to see – the last stretch to the top is accessed not by escalators but by a rolling circular ramp, which adds to the centre’s fun factor and affords some inspiring views down to the bottom of the building.
One online review referred to the centre’s combination of galleries and shops as a strange mix, but the truth is it works – the shops here are cute, artisan ventures ranging from handmade jewellery workshops to art book shops, and they compliment both the galleries and the whole feel of the place. Alongside are a few great refuelling spots that trail-blaze in combining bookshops/art galleries/art studios with the café/restaurant/noodle shop setting – again, the sort of place you’d expect to see abroad but not so much in Bangkok. And for real coffee whose scent wafts up as you descend by escalator, don’t miss the fantastic nameless coffee shop on the ground floor.
Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 939 Rama 1 Road, Bangkok (BTS National Stadium, exit 3)
02 214 6630; www.bacc.or.th; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.facebook.com/baccpage; www.twitter.com/baccnews