Those who are into café and cultural heritage should celebrate the opening of a new café which incorporates three historic Sino-Portuguese buildings on the riverside.
Hong Sieng Kong, opened in June but was interrupted by COVID-19 lockdowns, is now attracting enthusiastic customers who come to enjoy coffee, cakes, beer, foods and live music – and a unique ambience. The biggest draw is the ambience of the three well-restored Sino-Portuguese buildings, the oldest dating back to 200 years during the early decades of Bangkok as the kingdom’s capital. The three buildings are not for dining but turned into galleries and filled with antiques.
“My mother has always wanted to have a river-side land,” said Thongdee Sae Bae, one of the two brothers running the new café in the Talad Noi area in the periphery of ChinaTown.
His parents run a well-established antique business at the nearby River City, one of the centers of Oriental antique trade in Southeast Asia, which is just a 12 minutes’ walk from the café. Their dreams came true when the family purchased a land with historic Sino-Portuguese buildings and decided to turn it into a café for others to enjoy not just the riverside views and buildings but food and drinks.
This is what makes Hong Sieng Kong a rare and welcomed addition to the numerous new cafes sprouting in Bangkok and beyond.
The camera-shy Thongdee said running a café is something new for the family although he seems to ceaselessly enjoy acquainting visitors and customers about the history of the area through a long conversation.
Thongdee told me about how a number of the few remaining old Sino-Portuguese and Thai-Chinese buildings in Bangkok changed hands. Some Thai-Chinese families have many descendants and some think it best to sell the property or lease it out on a very long-term basis and split the income.
It’s a blessing that the new proprietor of the former charcoal factory and warehouse decided to preserve the buildings, filled it with antiques from China, Southeast Asia and Japan and opened it as a café.
The café is split into outdoor, semi-outdoor and indoor areas and seats around a hundred. One can watch the sunset from the other side of the river. Recommended readings would be books on Thai-Chinese that would bring the place to historical life such as “A History of the Thai-Chinese ” by Jeffery Sng and Pimprahai Bisalputra. At tables and benches on the riverside, one can take in the lovely views of the Wanglee Mansion and Chinese pagoda – another rare treat.
As for drinks and cakes, they are a little pricey but fair given the ambience and quality offered.
When I visited the place on Saturday afternoon, I ordered a hot Americano (140 baht) and a carrot cake (also 140 baht). They are both good, particularly the cake.
A bottle of beer starts at 140 baht as well and there’s a decent selection of imported and craft beers. (Not sure what it is with the number 140). Finger foods such as beef pepperoni & BBQ sausages with salad is 280 or French fries topped with stewed beef gravy (240 baht).
You can order wine by a bottle as well.
While the café closes early at 8pm, Thongdee said he and his brother Decha will consider keeping the place open beyond 8pm, subject to the COVID-19 situation next year. Live music takes place every Friday to Sunday from 3pm to 6pm and 6.30 onward and it makes the place even more chill. Hong Sieng Kong was already quite popular when I visited and there is no reason why the place would not do even better in the future.
Do not forget to spot either Thongdee or Decha for a pleasant chat. It shouldn’t be too difficult to locate them as they guide one group of visitors after another.
Hong Sieng Kong opens daily, except Monday, from 10am to 8pm. It’s located at 734-736 Trok Vanich 2, Talat Noi, Samphanthawong, Bangkok. The easiest way to access the place is by foot from the River City but make sure you have your GPS map ready. Call 095-998-9895 for details, or if you are lost.