Day Out in Bangkok looking at the past
In the last issue we brought you the first in a planned series of articles based around the European heritage map produced by the European Union National Institutes for Culture in Thailand (EUNIC).
Representatives from Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and the United Kingdom collaborated on putting out a guide to places with which many visitors to Bangkok may well have been familiar with, but might not have realized had such a European connection.
As mentioned last issue, it’s the area around the Grand Palace in Bangkok which has probably the largest collection of heavily European-influenced structures and we covered it and three other nearby structures.
We finished with Saranrom Palace and, moving on from here is the Hok Bridge. This is in front of Saranrom Park, and was, according to EUNIC, ‘inspired by a traditional Dutch lift bridge.’ It was first constructed, of wood, during the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV; 1850-1868) but was reconstructed using iron in the 1980s. The bridge is open to the public.
Heading north from the Hok Bridge towards Kalayana Maitri Road is Wat Ratchabophit. Building began in 1869 and although it is a traditional Thai temple to all intents and purposes, the Ordination Hall, or Ubosot, ‘is totally inspired by Venetian gothics.’ The Italian designer Carlo Allegri, who had a hand in the Saranrom Palace, was involved in the gothic and renaissance style designs of the funeral monuments around Wat Ratchabophit. The Wat is open to the public from 8:00am to 5:00pm each day.
Going north again, across the Sanam Luang park and towards the river, you come to yet another Italian-influenced building, this time the National Gallery. This was ‘built in neo-classical style by Italian engineer Carlo Allegri…’ It was completed in 1902 and operated as the Royal Mint until 1968. It became the National Gallery in 1974 and is open to the public from Wednesday’s to Sunday’s between 9:00am and 4:00pm.
Walking west of the National Gallery is Thammasat University and within the grounds of the Prachan campus and inside the Dome bulding is the Statue of Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns. A Belgian, Rolin-Jaequemyns (1835-1902) was an adviser to King Chulalongkorn (Rama V; 1868-1910) and is credited with modernizing Thailand’s legal system. He had the title Chao Phya Abhai Raja conferred upon him, ‘the highest non-royal distinction in Siam and became the first foreigner to receive this distinction’.
The campus is open to the public from Monday to Friday between 10:00am and 3:30pm.
Continued next month