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Why Neilson Hays Library is special ?
Housing more than 20,000 books, the Neilson Hays Library is one of the largest collection of English language titles in Bangkok. Offering a wide variety of contemporary fiction and non-fiction, fresh books arrive every month. Designed by Italian architect Mario Tamagno, the library's harmonious, symmetrical building wisely incorporates practical features such as double walls to help keep the books well-ventilated and dry. The Building was awarded the status of "Historic Landmark" in 1986 by the Association of Siamese Architects. As one of the few remaining examples of secular period architecture in Bangkok, it is to be hoped that the building will always be treasured by both the Thai and expatriate communities
What to explore at Neilson Hays Library?
Inside you’ll find one of the most extensive English language collections in Southeast Asia stowed thoughtfully in the original wooden shelves. Browse through contemporary fiction, childrens’ books, travel guides and a fine assortment of academic volumes with a special focus on the history and cultures of Thailand and Southeast Asia. With spacious wooden tables amply laid out amid the gorgeous air-con hall, there’s no better place in Bangkok for a few hours of casual reading or study.
Although many of the library’s most prized possessions disappeared after Japanese imperial army troops occupied it during World War II, history buffs can still appreciate hand-written letters from Dr Neilson Hays to Thai royalty that date from the early 20th century. Officially recognised as a historic landmark by the Association of Siamese Architects, it’s easy to picture cultured colonial era Westerners sipping tea and reading in the library courtyard, which at that time was surrounded by fruit groves and swamp.
While Neilson Hays is best known as a centre of learning, it’s also an important venue for the arts in a city currently experiencing an artistic renaissance not unlike it did during the era when the library was founded. The distinctive circular dome-roofed room that faces Surawong Road was once the library’s main entrance way, but it has more recently been transformed into Rotunda Art Gallery, which shows paintings and photographs by a rotating mix of Thai and foreign artists.Outside the library’s new front doors, the branches of old tamarind trees almost sweep the ground of a courtyard next to the attached Garden Gallery Cafe. Built in more recent years, this bright and spotless space boasts wall-length windows and feels like a plush railroad dining car that would have been lounged in by brandy-sipping movie stars during the roaring 1920s.
After perusing the art exhibitions that continue here, sit back with a good book, a glass of wine or excellent espresso and a slice of cake, cup of clam chowder, Australian beef burger, full English breakfast or any number of Thai dishes provided by the neighbouring British Club. Look no further than Garden Gallery if seeking a refined but casual spot for a brunch date.
How to get to Neilson Hays Library?
The library is about a 15-minute walk from either the Chong Nonsi BTS station or the Sala Daeng BTS/MRT station.
- Extensive English language collections in Southeast Asia
- For art lovers the oldest non-profit in Thailand
- An alternative Art Café
- Good British food courtesy of the Brit Club
- Quiet Art Cafe
195 Surawong Road Bangkok, Thailand
Tips for you
For a lazy Sunday with nothing much to do, the Neilson Hay Library Cafe is a good option for your Sunday brunch. Located next to the famous English library in a well manicured garden with shaded trees, the surrounding is perfect for an unhurried relaxation. The past weekend the place was full and no parking space was available. Many local residences must have the same idea and brought their family to this oasis in the middle of the city. Try the place in one of the coming weekend and you will enjoy the peace and quiet atmosphere there.