Day Out in Bangkok looking at the past 8
Now we move right away from the riverfront and sweep up Sathorn Road to the junction with Lumpini Park, right at the entrance to the Lumpini MRT. Look across the road and you’ll see the well-marked Thai-Belgian Bridge. This was the first fly-over constructed in Bangkok, opening in 1988. The Belgian’s contributed preliminary and general design as well as donating some elements of the bridge, from a fly-over which had been built in Brussels in the 1970s. Belgian engineers also supervised the construction work.
An exhibition to mark the 25th anniversary of the bridge’s construction was opened in March 2013 and attended by members of the Belgian Royal Family.
Next to Lumpini Park is the long-established Alliance Francaise. This particular building, designed by a French architectural firm, and location only opened in September 2013. Alliance Francaise was first established in September 1912 with the purpose of promoting the French language in Siam. It is the oldest of Europe’s cultural institutions in the country. In 1926 it moved to premises on Sathorn Road and remained there for the next 87 years. The building is open to the public from 8:00am to 7:00pm.
Inside Lumpini Park is the Chinese Clock Tower which was actually designed by the Italian architect Mario Tamagno in 1924-1925 in an Art Deco style. King Vajiravudh had been planning on opening a fairground in the park, hence the desire for the clock tower. Lumpini Park is open from 4:30am to 9:00pm, seven days a week.
Coming out of the northern side of Lumpini Park and heading down Soi Ton Son towards Ploenchit and Wireless Road, there is the Residence of the Ambassador of the Netherlands which is not visible from the street and only has restricted opening to the public. The building was constructed around 1911 and first belonged to Princes of the Royal Family before being acquired in 1949 by the Dutch government for its new embassy.
Further down, and situated on Wireless Road, is the British Embassy, which is also not open to the public nor visible at street level. However, if you are on the BTS heading between Chid Lom and Ploenchit stations you can briefly observe the building and appreciate its architectural structure.
The compound houses the ambassador’s residence, office buildings, and staff quarters. William Alfred Poe Wood, Vice Consul, was among those who put together the plans for the design of the area in 1922. The ambassador’s residence was completed in 1926 in what is termed ‘tropical colonial style’. A statue of Queen Victoria (reigned 1837-1901) is in the rear gardens of the ambassador’s residence, having been moved from the old British legation on the Chao Phraya River.