From stunning temples and crazy markets to artsy hangouts and innovative food preparations, Bangkok is a designer's dream city
Since launching her Washington D.C.–based creative agency, Design Army, more than a decade ago, Pum Lefebure has become a trendsetter in the design world. Everyone from the Academy Awards and Bloomingdales to the Ritz Carlton and Washington Ballet clamors for her mind-boggling, inventive graphics on everything from swimsuits to packaging to short films.
Pum was raised in Bangkok. With its golden temples, stunning palaces, colorful textiles, and intricate tilework, the Thai capital is a design lover's dream, and helped inform and inspire Pum's unique aesthetic. Here, she shares her top 10 places to visit for the ultimate creative trip.
1. Wat Pho
“As a child, I would come to this temple and just stare at the architecture (and its giant Reclining Buddha) for hours. It’s a rare and beautiful mix of Thai and Chinese design, with amazing graphic tiles, color, and geometry—it’s sensory overload in the best possible way. Growing up surrounded by this kind of beauty inspired me to become a graphic designer.”
2. Chatuchak Weekend Market
“This isn’t so much a ‘weekend market’ (or ‘JJ market’ as the locals call it) as it is a million different little stalls—like 15,000! It’s a must-visit for cool home decor, vintage clothing, antiques, rare books, and art. The market stalls move all the time, so you have to walk it each time you go. Tip: Wear as little as possible because it’s hot. I always go in a tank top and long skirt to easily try stuff on.”
3. Artist Nino Sarabutra's Studio
“Artist Nino Sarabutra is an ex–ad agency creative director turned artist and ceramicist. Her studio is appointment-only, but her work is super-inspiring—Thai sensibility with an international flavor. Check out her site for upcoming exhibitions.”
4. The Jim Thompson House
“The Jim Thompson House is a historic private home, museum, and shop dedicated to the art of making silk—and it’s one of my favorite places. The silk is the best in the world. Interior and fashion designers practically drool over the fabric, and here, it’s a fraction of what you’d pay in NYC. Plus you can get bright colors in Bangkok that you can’t get anywhere else.”
5. Charm-Learn Studio
“At this artist’s workshop, in the heart of Old Town near where my parents live, you can take classes in ceramics, photography, indigo dyeing, or product design. And since the studio integrates with a bike and coffee shop, it makes for the perfect creative hub.”
6. Siam Center
“This is the best place to go clothes shopping as the complex houses over 200 Thai and international designers (the third floor is devoted entirely to leading and up-and-coming local designers). Plus, the window displays and visual merchandising never fail to amaze.”
“Set on Chao Phraya River
’s west bank in Thonburi, The Jam Factory is the ultimate designers’ hangout (think the Thai equivalent of Williamsburg, Brooklyn). It combines a restaurant, art gallery, design shop, and bookstore, so you can spend the day indulging your creative side. There’s also a blissful, leafy courtyard to unwind in between all the shopping and eating.”
8. Lab Ramen Burger
“Talk about creative cuisine! This place specializes in burgers (made from beef or pork) with ramen noodle buns fried until they’re crispy on the edges—it’s like the most incredible hangover food imaginable. The way they serve them is super-creative too, all neatly wrapped in butcher paper with a cool little logo sticker. It’s all these eclectic tastes in an approachable design.”
9. Tep Bar
“Located in Bangkok’s up-and-coming Charoenkrung neighborhood, the interior mixes a raw industrial Western feel with traditional Thai design touches. At night, musicians set up in the middle of the dining area and play regional tunes from central Thailand while the bar serves up Yadong whiskey and Thai tapas.”
10. Sala Rattanakosin
“This boutique hotel on Chao Phraya’s eastern bank boasts incredible views of Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) through floor-to-ceiling windows. But the showstopper is the rooftop deck, where you can escape downtown Bangkok’s congestion, enjoy a drink, and recharge your creative batteries while you savor the cool river breeze and watch the sun set.”
Planning a trip to Bangkok? Let us help you with that. And if you're into design but can't make it to Thailand, check out these three North American design hotels that are worth a trip.