One day you may come across a group of artists with their noses deep in their sketch books and a coffee cup cooling at their side, on another you will hear giggling and raucous laughter echoing down the stairs from a private laughing yoga session. Most evenings you will see familiar faces enjoying a carafe of wine or a cool beer as they chat about the latest goings on. Sometimes the debate will be heated as members of a philosophers’ club continue their discussions after a weekly meeting, and if you are lucky you will come across the owner of Sangdee giving his all with a warbled rendition of an old Thai classic on karaoke night. It’s an eclectic venue. And the people even more so.
Sangdee is in fact the epitome of what is good in this city. It’s not just a bar, not just a restaurant, not just a gallery, not just a foundation – Sangdee is a community centre, with its doors open to anyone looking for a free venue to host pretty much anything they wish (within reason of course). In fact, despite most people knowing Sangdee for its parties and art exhibitions, what is less known is that Sangdee Gallery is actually a flagship project for the much more important D Foundation — a foundation set up by the owner, 42-year-old Po Garden to aid in the distribution and transparency of funding to NGOs and community events across Northern Thailand. Who’d have thought!
It is because of the D Foundation that Sangdee exists. Apart from being the centre of the D Foundation, it is also a popular bar party venue, and gallery that supports local and regional talent. Sangdee offers nearly daily activities such as art exhibits, concerts and talent contests as well as photography, dance, film, fashion and many other workshops.
Just opening the events calendar on their comprehensive website shows just how much is going on there. It may even come as a surprise for those who frequent Sangdee at night, either attending a party or grabbing a quick night cap before bed.
Regular slots fill their often full calendar, from laughter yoga to spirituality meetups, running workshops to Improv theatre classes. There has even been rumours of nude figure drawing and secret tantric meetups. The rental is also totally free — as long as you grab a coffee or a drink while you’re there. No wonder then that so many people think of Sangdee when planning such events, as it is private, quiet, close to Nimmanhaemin and bursting with energy.
For us editors at Citylife, the bar at Sangdee is a regular haunt (no surprise there). No doubt if you have paid a visit to Sangdee in the evenings, expect to see our editor Pim, Pastis in hand, waxing social with someone or another or maybe you’ll see Aydan sneaking outside for a quick puff of ‘fresh air’ before heading back in for his sixth gin and tonic of the hour.
But let’s not fail to mention the other, more permanent, regulars. Po Garden may be the big boss, but is very much ‘on-site’, sipping his Pastis (which seems to be the Sangdee drink of choice), giggling away with some tantric yogis or discussing theology with a regular meetup group, offering funny quips and quirky factoids that leave you laughing and often scratching your head in confusion or curiosity.
Then there is the real power behind the man, Sirikul ‘Aor’ Leardpasuk. The foundation’s manager is the point person for all requests, whether you want to have an exhibition, use the space for a lecture on travel, organise a party or make a pitch for funding. If you need anything from Sangdee, then Aor is your lady.
Over the last few months, Sangdee Gallery has become more and more popular with artists wishing to showcase their latest collections and revellers looking for a good place to party. Right now it is known to many as one of the only later-night haunts of the Nimmanhaemin area (shhh!), with a range of events being organised and hosted with the help of Yanyong ‘Yo’ Mongkolsut, such as local hip-hop nights, vinyl parties and other events by big city names such as Joob Joob and Puretek. Just last month Sangdee celebrated its 6th year anniversary, and the crowd was so big it spilled out into the soi.
So as Sangdee Gallery gears up for yet another successful year, expect to see an even busier schedule that always seems to bring something new to this city every month. For those who like to hold events, don’t forget about Sangdee. It is free, fresh and open to pretty much anything…within reason. It is a place in our community, for the community…with a bar of delicious drinks too.