Jamming at the Jam Factory, Bangkok


Vendors churning out food for the throngs of visitors

Street food & live music. Locally sourced goods, many of which are hand made. Food trucks made from vintage VW vans. Sounds like Portland, Oregon, but it is actually the Jam Factory, resting in the shadow of the Hilton Millennium Bangkok. And it is pretty damn cool.

Vendors churning out food for the throngs of visitors
Vendors churning out food for the throngs of visitors
My (main) dinner at Jam Factory, Bangkok. Delicious!
My (main) dinner at Jam Factory, Bangkok. Delicious!

The vibe is a mix of street fair and cook-out, with families and young couples sharing the long tables to go at skewers of grilled meats or fresh pastries, all while local bands are jamming in the background. There are a couple permanent shops and even an art gallery, but the vast majority of the setup is ephemeral, seemingly ready to pack up on a moment’s notice. Not that it is expected to anytime soon.

A flutist and her guitarist/drummer partner rocked the stage at Jam Factory in Bangkok; the crowd loved them!
A flutist and her guitarist/drummer partner rocked the stage; the crowd loved them!

The space is an old warehouse, cleaned out and converted to the performance and shopping area which exists today. It is a great example of urban renewal taking deteriorating space on the “other side” of the river and reinvigorating it, giving it purpose and structure and more than a little bit of flair. It works very, very well.

The current art exhibit at the Jam Factory, Bangkok
The current art exhibit at the Jam Factory, Bangkok

And yet.

The space is adjacent to a more traditional Bangkok market area, they alleyway extending from the main road to the waterfront where the ferry runs back and forth. That is the old version of Bangkok, a little dingy with cracked plastic chairs at the food stalls and imported goods – from fashion to toys to cosmetics – sold cheap, looking to make a little profit on the volume. A quarter chicken meal might set you back 50 baht (including a bottle of water) at the old market; a honey lime soda icee costs more than that in the Jam Factory; both were delicious. Everything is 2-3x more expensive inside, which I suppose comes with the territory; someone has to pay for providing that infrastructure, keeping the art exhibits fresh and the lights on inside. No doubt the costs are higher.

Food worth waiting for at The Jam Factory, Bangkok
Food worth waiting for at The Jam Factory, Bangkok

And 2-3x doesn’t mean all that much to me when we’re talking about the difference between a $5 dinner and a $10-15 one; I can afford both just fine. And based on the crowds and the lines to get at some of the more popular food stalls it seems that plenty of locals can afford it, too. Plus more of the vendors speak English which is nice, even if my ordering is still mostly by pointing at things. And the old market seemed to be doing okay as I made my way out to the street and around the corner to get back to the hotel, though definitely different demographics. I wonder just how much and how quickly of this sort of change will spread.

Finally, huge thanks to @Veritrope for mentioning it to me; I likely would have missed it, even though it is literally the bright lights directly below my hotel room window.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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