Day Out in Bangkok looking at the past 3


Day Out in Bangkok looking at the past 3

In our continuing series looking at the places featured by the European heritage map produced by the European Union National Institutes for Culture in Thailand (EUNIC), we come back to the southern area from the Grand Palace.

The first of these is on Sanam Chai Road and is the Museum of Siam. This building is yet another owing its style to the Italians, being built in 1921 and designed in a classical mode by Mario Tamagno. It did service as the Ministry of Commerce but in 2004 it was converted into the National Discovery Museum Institute. It then underwent restoration and in 2006 was opened as the Museum of Siam. The building is open to the public from 10am to 6pm Tuesdays to Sundays.

Heading down to the Chao Phraya River is Chakrabongse Villa. This was built as a riverside pavilion in 1909 for Prince Chakrabongse and the style is Art Nouveau. Italian architect Ercole Manfredi was responsible for most of the design although the third floor, which was added later, is the design of British architect Edward Healey. The building can only be viewed properly from the river, and as a luxury boutique hotel is really only partially open, and only for those who might be coming to be served lunch or dinner in the restaurant.

Almost directly opposite, on the Thonburi side of the river, is the Wichai Prasit Fort. This was originally constructed in about 1685 under the supervision of the French engineer De la Mare. The fort was intended to prevent unwanted vessels sailing up to the-then capital at Ayutthaya. Nowadays, the fort is part of the Royal Thai Navy Headquarters and not open to the public.

Nearby is the Santa Cruz Church, first built, of wood, by the Portuguese in 1770. It was replaced by a second wooden church and then, in 1916, was rebuilt in neo-baroque style by the Italian architects Annibale Rigotti and Mario Tamagno. It can be seen but only visited during religious observances.

On the Bangkok side and heading south-east along the river you will come to the Memorial Bridge. Construction on this 230-metre long bridge began in December 1929 by the British company Dorman Long. It was opened in April 1932 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Chakri Dynasty and the making of Bangkok as the capital of what was then Siam. Of course, just two months later came the coup which led to the abolition of the absolute monarchy and the beginning of parliamentary government.

The Memorial Bridge builders also constructed the famed Sydney Harbour Bridge, although they had begun work on that in 1926, but it had been finished and opened the month before the Thai span.