Day Out in Bangkok looking at the past 4

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Day Out in Bangkok looking at the past 4

This is the fourth article covering the quite substantial number of places still extant in Bangkok that owe homage to any one, or sometimes more, of nine modern European nations. This series of pieces is based around information in a European heritage map produced by the European Union National Institutes for Culture in Thailand (EUNIC).

We finished at Memorial Bridge in the last issue, so, heading south-east and following the line of the Chao Phraya River, we come to the Talat Noi branch of the Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), Thailand’s oldest commercial bank. This is another building constructed by the Italian architect Annibale Rigotti, built in 1910 in a neo-Renaissance style. It was SCB’s first headquarters and the top floor served as the residence of the bank manager. The building’s compound is open to the public between 9:00am and 3:30pm Monday to Friday.

Virtually next door to the SCB building is the Holy Rosary Church. This is open to the public after 4:00pm or on weekends and was built in 1898 in neo-Gothic style. Portuguese residents first settled on this site in 1786, moving over from the other side of the river. The area became known as Calvario and in 1787 King Rama I gifted a parcel of land to allow for the construction of a church. The Dominican monk Francisco das Chagas arrived from Portugal and built a church called Rosario. The modern version sits on the same parcel of land.

Heading south along the river bank is the Residence of the Embassy of Portugal, which is only visible from the river itself. This was the first diplomatic mission from Europe to be established in Bangkok and this has been in Portuguese possession since 1820. The first residence was constructed of bamboo and wood but the current version was completed in 1875 after being started in 1860 in classical Sino-Portuguese style, of the kind still visible in Phuket Town.

Next along is probably the most famous hotel in Thailand and one of the most famous in the world: the Oriental Hotel. Now known officially as the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, the hotel was the first in Siam and opened in 1876 by Danish sea captains. In 1881, Hans Niels Andersen, a Dane, along with his partners, decided it was a good idea to build a luxury hotel and so they employed Italian architects Stefano Cardu & Rossi to make the design and construction. The Oriental officially opened on 19 May 1887 with 40 rooms, ‘a restaurant with a French chef, smoking and ladies rooms, a billiard room and a bar.’ One of the key features of the modern building is the two-storey ‘Authors’ Wing’, celebrating the many literary figures who have stayed at the Oriental.

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