The name is not familiar and it seems quite far away if you travel from central Bangkok. But Hua Takhae market in Lat Krabang, east of the city, has been established for more than a century and is now in vogue among art lovers.
A Frame is one of the art shops in the area.
"Hua Takhae market is charming," said Bordin Sinhaseni, a teacher at the College of Fine Arts. It boasts a rural atmosphere, with people still living in old wooden shophouses lined along a small alley on the banks of Khlong Prawet Burirom. From time to time you can see locals driving their long-tailed boats along the waterway. For more than a decade, it has been a location for art students to hone their drawing and painting skills.
"This community is a perfect place for drawing, a venue where our students can learn about composition and shade. Admittedly it looks a little messy, but it's quiet and pleasant. It also has an old ambience which is hard to find in Bangkok," Bordin said.
During school days, the place is a classroom for art students from the College of Fine Arts and King Mongkut's Institute of Technology, Ladkrabang (KMITL). They show up with their drawing boards, sit cross-legged along the canal and start drawing.
Students will come back for a whole week or more until they have their perfect pictures. With that in mind, a group of locals has joined hands with the two educational institutes to promote Hua Takhae as an art flea market on the first weekend of each month. The event regularly features exhibitions and corners for art teachers from both campuses to hold workshops teaching visitors how to create lacquer pieces, sculptures and kites. The nearby Protpittayapayat School also sends students to perform dances or sing in the market to create a lively atmosphere.
The monthly art flea market attracts a couple of hundred visitors each time it takes place.
"We have recently started the art activity so things might not be that extravagant, but simple and small," said Ampha Boonyakate, one of the locals who initiated the flea market.
She said there are 57 shophouses in the market today. They are old houses and some of the owners still live inside, while others have been abandoned and only a handful are regularly open.
Walking along the alley through this small community takes less than 10 minutes. But for some visitors it might take hours to take in the old atmosphere.
Along the way, you will see grocery stores, a barbershop and a television repair shop as well as food stalls selling som tum, grilled chicken, noodles, boiled chicken with oily rice and a variety of snacks.
When you walk towards the end, you will see two shops dedicated to the arts. One is A Frame, where dozens of old pictures of Their Majesties the King and the Queen are hung all over the walls. The other is Fiam, which sells hand-made products and souvenirs some of which were created by undergraduates. Fiam stands on the banks of the canal and also has seats on the upper floor where you can have hot or cold drinks and yummy chocolate cake while enjoying the canal-side scenery.
The canal used to be very busy in earlier decades, said Ampha.
"Hua Takhae market was a trading hub where farmers paddled their boats to sell their fruit and rice. The market was crowded not only with shoppers, but also people who wanted to catch a train to Bangkok," she said.
However, urban expansion and development have changed many things including the way people commute. Roads were built, making travel between this part of town and the inner city more convenient. People started to move out from the canal area and a new Hua Takhae market was established near a main road. Then two tragedies hit the old market.
"The market has been burned down twice. The worst case was in 1998 when fire destroyed every shophouse on the other side of the canal," Ampha said. People moved out, paving the way for an investor who later bought the land for a development project, which is now under construction.
"Only this part of the market survived, so we want to keep its spirit and let other people know what we have," she said.
The market might not be for every weekender, but rather for those who want to know what Bangkok was like in the past. If you love the arts, you can attend art workshops or learn how to make a kite with Veera Jaemsai, an expert kite-maker. He has materials as well as instruction leaflets and offers lessons free of charge.
"I'm here every month because I like people to know how to make our traditional kites. Those who want to learn must put in the effort as it takes time and commitment too," he said. You can also learn how to make a small Chula-style kite and take it home as a souvenir.
Although the market is small, it is impressive with warm-hearted and friendly locals.
"We want our market to stay like this. We don't want it to be big or like other popular old markets," said Ampha. "Hua Takhae should be a place where you can relax and enjoy art."
Hua Takhae market is located in Lat Krabang district. It can be reached via the College of Fine Arts on Chalong Krung Road or via Lat Krabang Soi 17 on On Nut-Lat Krabang Road.
The art flea market is held on the first weekend of every month. For more information, visit http:/ /www.facebook.com/LoveHuatakhe.
About the author
- Writer: Karnjana Karnjanatawe