Day Out in Bangkok looking at the past 6
(This series of monthly articles are based around the European Heritage Map produced by the European Union National Institutes for Culture in Thailand (EUNIC), a collaboration of representatives from Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and the United Kingdom)
Down on the Chao Phraya River, not far from the end of Silom Road, is O.P. Place. Currently operating as a shopping centre specializing in art and antiques, this impressive edifice was originally opened in 1908 as the Falck and Beidek Department Store, a German company. It was, at the time, the capital’s most luxurious department store and remained in that situation until Siam entered the First World War in July 1917 and declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. The building is open to the public from 10:00am until 7:00pm seven days a week.
Moving away from the river, if you take the BTS to Surasak station on Sathorn Road and head east you’ll come to St Louis Hospital. A non-profit private institution established in 1898 by the French Archbishop Louis Vey, the Apostolic Vicar of the Roman Catholic Church. The Sisters of St Paul de Chartres (the French order of nuns who were also to later run the Assumption Convent near Assumption Cathedral) were given the task of managing the hospital.
There is a statue of King Louis IX of France (Saint Louis) at the hospital entrance. Naturally, the building is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Continuing to trek east, towards Lumpini Park, is Christ Church. Opened in 1905 by American Protestant missionaries, it was originally under the protection of the British Legation. Its stained-glass windows were imported from Glasgow and are done in standard Art Nouveau style. In February 1972 Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Princess Anne attended a church service here.
Christ Church is open to the public from 7:30am to 6:30pm seven days a week.
Another building which was originally part of the British legation in Bangkok is the BNH Hospital, off Sathorn Road and in the direction of Silom Road.
Formerly known as the Bangkok Nursing Home hospital (hence the modern acronym) it is the oldest for expatriates, opened in 1898. Being a working hospital it is open to the public seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
By contrast, the Residence of the Belgian Ambassador which is no longer visible or open to the public, is situated not far from the Chong Nonsi BTS. Originally designed by the Italian architect Mario Tamagno for a Thai family around 1917, the Art Nouveau-style building became the Belgian Embassy in 1927 because it had a telephone connection, among other modern innovations. The house was renovated in 2000, with perhaps a few more modern devices added, and turned into the ambassador’s residence.