Lighting up our spirits

Awakening Bangkok returns to neighbourhoods across the country with 52 installations under the ‘Revive’ theme after two years of disruption

‘Paint What You Like’ in Talad Noi.

When the night falls, the neighbourhoods of Charoen Krung, Talad Noi and Soi Nana in Yaowarat are once again flooded with young visitors snapping selfies. Until Sunday, ancient buildings and ethnic communities along the banks of the Chao Phraya River are being lit up to provide cheerful sentiment as Awakening Bangkok returns to the City of Angels for its fourth edition.

This year, the colourful 10-day art festival presents a collection of 52 thought-provoking lighting and mixed-media installations in 31 venues under the “Revive” theme to broaden its creative horizon and stimulate the local economy. It’s a collective effort between Time Out Bangkok, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, Grab Thailand and Diageo Moet Hennessy.

“In 2020, Awakening Bangkok attracted 126,681 visitors and a number of hashtags with its names were formed on various social media platforms, generating 158.6 million baht in economic effect. We aim to boost the nightlife economy and Awakening Bangkok is a festival of lights that will provide local vendors with opportunities to earn extra income throughout the event,” said Pongsiri Hetrakul, executive director of Time Out Bangkok and festival director of Awakening Bangkok.

“To bring the local community back to life, the artworks are displayed in narrow alleys and several historical structures like a theatre built in the reign of King Rama V and a century-old residence where visitors can take in the beauty of neighbourhoods. This year, the festival will also expand its boundaries from Charoen Krung to Khao San, Khon Kaen and Chiang Mai.”

Three Stages Of Us takes over Baan Rim Naam’s pavilion. (Photos: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Cycle Lantern welcomes visitors to Royal Orchid Sheraton.

Based on social distancing measures, the festival has developed its own web-based platform,, to provide visitors convenience during the walking tour. Visitors will receive a personal QR code for tracking and can use the online map to monitor the number of people at each site in order to avoid long lines. At the same time, you can learn about the ideas behind the lighting installations, check out the activities programme, and find some recommended dining venues.

To fuel up before starting a sightseeing art tour, GrabFood is turning the ground in front of the Grand Postal Building into a vibrant Foodie Night Market, where visitors will be enticed with tempting culinary options from Grab Thumbs Up.

Just a few steps away, a giant box titled Up Rising in collaboration between Yimsamer and Johnnie Walker serves as a mythical portal to transport visitors to the visual world. The idea is to promote the streets of Thailand after the world and our lives have been disrupted for more than two years.

‘Paint What You Like’ in Talad Noi.

With the motto Keep Walking, it boasts a multimedia background in lively neighbourhoods such as Bang Rak and Yaowarat in Bangkok, Tha Pae Gate in Chiang Mai and Khao Niao Road in Khon Kaen to encourage people to leave their homes and bring cheerful spirits to the towns. A pile of glitter paper will be blasted into the air to resemble fireworks in the festival, while visitors may pose for a movie in slow motion using a combination of visual and tactile aspects.

Specialising in stage lighting designs, Saturate Designs brightens up Si Phraya pier’s entrance with Disco Or No Disco 2.0. It’s a mixed-media installation in which visitors can travel back to happier times by pressing a red button switch to start a 30-second loop of dazzling lights synced with energetic music to create a disco-tastic experience.

Then return to the real world and continue exploring the Portuguese Garden, which stands on the left side. Ripples illuminates a shady walkway and leads you to serenity after a long day at work. As we experiment with light and shadow, it may feel as if we’re walking on the water’s surface.

On the ground floor of the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel, the gigantic Cycle Lantern by artist Witaya Junma catches the eye of visitors before heading to the lobby. Inspired by a traditional Lanna-style Yi Peng lantern, he has created a layered background of 12 zodiac animal-like animated cartoons using paper cutting techniques to play with light and shadow. This rotating lantern represents people’s lives, which will continue to progress as long as we’re alive.

The Catcher on the 2nd floor of Patina Cafe.

“A Yi Peng lantern is a cultural influence from Xishuangbanna. It was formerly a popular form of entertainment, with nature-inspired designs and 12 zodiacs to commemorate various occasions. On layers of black and yellow backgrounds, I experiment with light and shadow to create dynamic patterns,” said Witaya.

The Krung Kasem Pump Station has been taken over by GrabFood and H-Lab. The Supper-Man lighting installation transforms Superman’s iconic phone booth into an illuminated portal to culinary wonders, where visitors can learn about the longitude and latitude of popular GrabFood restaurants.

GrabFood and H-Lab illustrate the modern gourmet scene through G-Wave, which is exhibited at Bunny Burrow Hostel. This G-shaped tunnel allows visitors to keep up with today’s fast-paced culture as grab-and-go convenience grows increasingly popular in modern life, signifying that we rely on speed to survive in the digital age.

Nestled in Talad Noi, a century-old Thai-Chinese house has been turned into the popular Patina Cafe, in which visitors can take a break and enjoy a cup of good coffee while admiring an astonishing collection of artworks.

‘Paint What You Like’ in Talad Noi.

27 June Studio created a majestic visual river, Fish And Wish, in a backyard set against a towering waterfall-like wall. Following Buddhist beliefs, visitors can scan a QR code to release a flock of vivid fish in prayer for prosperity, good health and peaceful life.

On the 2nd floor, De-selected uses its expertise in interactive contemporary art and lighting design to create The Catcher, a tool for removing nightmares. A three-minute visual performance using LED lights and sound effects lets you explore your dream as the beaming stage is designed to resemble a dream catcher’s net.

Visitors are welcome to stand in the middle and pretend to be on a bed. The blue lights signify falling asleep and trance. The red represents falling into a nightmare and the white lights symbolise waking up from a dreadful dream.

The next room is reserved for Silk created by new-wave artist Chantisa Tetanonsakul. Inspired by traditional silk weaving techniques, she uses a computer graphic programme to produce digital teen chok designs and project them on a handcrafted silk curtain. It exemplifies the coexistence of old and new while bringing value to Thai textiles.

Clouddreaming on the 1st floor of Mother Roaster cafe.

“On a trip to Chiang Mai, I fell in love with hand-woven silk with a distinctive teen chok pattern. The silk used to be a high-end textile, but it’s no longer valued by young generations. However, craftsmen have maintained their knowledge and traditions,” Chantisa said.

“People value modern technology in the digital era, but I want them to value something around them as well. Japan, for example, has prompted its unique craftsmanship. The country develops when what is original is valued.”

At Baan Rim Naam, computer engineer Kamin Phakdurong and his girlfriend Promphon Chaichirawiwat illustrated a flood situation in Nakhon Pathom in Nam Tuam Fah Pla Kin Dao (Flooded Sky And Star Eating Fish).

Visitors can take advantage of AR technology to experience creative effects for short video clips on Instagram and Facebook while diving into the underwater world with a bunch of black shark whales and jellyfish.

Nam Tuam Fah Pla Kin Dao (Flooded Sky And Star Eating Fish) lights up Baan Rim Naam.

In a shady garden, actress Lapisara Intarasut, who graduated in Fine Arts from Srinakharinwirot University, presents a mixed media installation titled Three Stages Of Us, based on Buddhist philosophy. Visitors can engage with artworks and learn about their mental states, while people are compared to different groups of lotus — a lotus rooted in the mud, a lotus floating in the water, or a lotus blossoming above the water.

Just a stone’s throw from Baan Rim Naam, Saturate Designs has set up the magical Sphere garden in the heart of So Heng Tai. The massive pond and pathways are lit by spherical lights in various colours, allowing visitors to absorb an infinite supply of positive energy around the house.

Just a few metres away, 27 June Studio has converted Talad Noi’s iconic Fiat mini car into a lovely projector, allowing visitors to “Paint What You Like” on eight colourful graphic backdrops using real-time computer software.

Dam Pid Pee Studio on Soi Nana was my last destination. Arn Creative Studio plays with light and shadows in the installation Revive – Life Light Like. It reminds people of life’s cycle, in which everything happens, exists and then vanishes.

The Krung Kasem Pump Station houses Supper-Man.

Silk celebrates local wisdom at Patina Cafe.

The mythical Sphere garden in So Heng Tai.

Revive – Life Light Like is another highlight at Dam Pid Pee Studio.

Three Stages Of Us takes over Baan Rim Naam’s pavilion.

En-Light-En on view at Dam Pid Pee Studio.

The mythical Sphere garden in So Heng Tai.

Above G-Wave at Bunny Burrow Hostel.

The Grand Postal Building is home to Up Rising.

The Portuguese Garden showcases Ripples.