SketchWalk Chao Phraya, Bangkok – Feb 23-24, 2013

December 24, 2012

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Sawatdee! In less than a few days of its announcement, this two-day urban sketching event has attracted more than 30 participants including a very large contingent from Singapore.

To honour one of the sponsors, here’s a ‘virtual’ sketch of the Church of Santa Cruz, one of the principal landmarks of this part of town.

Santa Cruz Church Bangkok

I was momentarily surprised to see a ferry boat landing by the side of the river which looked so similar to ferry stops around Sydney Harbour. But this one was built probably around the time of the church which was re-built in 1909, making it contemporaneous with many similar facilities here in Sydney: all manner of wooden-clad public buildings, such as those at the sporting facilities at Moore Park for instance.

Apparently in Bangkok architectural circles, they teach something called “vernacdoc” or Vernacular Documentation, i.e. drawing in great detail what the eye can see. For more, see http://www.behance.net/gallery/VERNACULAR-DOCUMENTATION-l/3615457 and for more on traces of (Western) multiculturalism in Bangkok,  see http://www.asian-oasis.com/multicultural-trace-chao-phraya-river/

From a tourist’s perspective, the ‘other’ side of the river, including Dhonburi (Thonburi), is somewhat off the beaten track in terms of must-see landmarks, but is nonetheless apparently great for those who fancy urban exploration. Which makes it a natural for urban sketching. Guidebooks for tourists describe it as ‘seemingly forgotten yet visit-worthy for its sleepy residential districts connected by klorng canals’. The word “sleepy” is code for no noisy dining and drinking venues. I suppose too that means it offers some perspectives on authentic, rather than ‘international’ Bangkok life. I assume it’s not as modern or contemporary as the suburbia of Greater Bangkok in the north; perhaps it’s a less ritzy version of Banglamphu known as “Old Bangkok”. They say the best time to see it is in the early morning – before the touts come out and the heat too oppressive – , made somewhat difficult by the fact that the area is not abundant with hotels and accommodation. In terms of transport to and from this part of town, I’m guessing it’s easiest approach by the river, the Mae Nam Chao Phraya of the event’s title. Perhaps its sleepy residential character means on-location may be more productive here than elsewhere in Bangkok.

Certainly the Australian Government currently advises its citizens not to visit Thailand because of the political unrest there, but if we all adhered strictly to these DFAT guidelines we’d be contravening broader cultural government policy to embrace the region as part of our active involvement in the “Asian Century”.

Lah gorn!

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