Day Out in Bangkok looking at the past 7
Moving into the Silom Road area in the direction of Surawong Road are two contrasting buildings, one open to the public, the other only open to members. The latter is the British Club, a Georgian-style edifice dating from 1910. The original structure was erected in 1903 but required extension because it quickly proved too small. Although visible from the outside, the British Club is only open to members.
Nearby is the Neilson Hays Library. This is in a building designed and constructed in the neo-classical style by Italian architect Mario Tamagno in 1921. This structure replaced an earlier one on the same site which housed a small library for the Bangkok Ladies Bazaar Association. The library function remains the same today, and it also doubles as an art gallery.
The Neilson Hays Library is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday between 9:30am and 5:00pm.
The next series of places on the agenda are, unfortunately, some distance away, back on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Nor are they on the BTS or even the MRT lines, so it’s either a longish walk or a taxi to the Yannawa area and Charoen Krung Road down near the Rama III bridge.
The Protestant Cemetery and its Henry Alabaster memorial are the attraction. The land for this cemetery was granted in 1853 and a chapel added in 1894. A joint committee to administer the grounds was formed in 1907 and made up of people representing the British Consulate and Christ Church. Most of those interred here are from Britain, Germany, and Denmark, with a number of Thai-Chinese Protestants as well. The most impressive of the gravesites is that of Henry Alabaster, his neo-Gothic memorial was erected by King Chulalongkorn in memory of this favoured government adviser. The cemetery is open to the public.
Next along is the East Asiatic Company Warehouses, the buildings extant today dating from the 1930s and restored as part of the Asiatique the Riverfront series of shops. The Danish-built godowns were part of King Chulalongkorn’s desire to develop maritime trade, and the East Asiatic Company was commissioned to construct the warehouses and a pier to accommodate ocean-going vessels. A regular service to Europe emanated from these docks.
Finally, as part of the Asiatique the Riverfront, there is a reproduction of a tramway. Siam was one of the first countries in the world to use electric trams, granting concession to two Danish companies in 1895 and 1898. Both of these were eventually taken over by a Belgian company, Tramways et Electricite de Bangkok, which ran the tracks until 1951. The last tram to operate in the city made its final trip on 1 October 1968.
Both the East Asiatic Company Warehouses and Tramway are open to the public from 5:00pm until midnight, seven days a week.