Day Out in Bangkok looking at the past Final
(This is the ninth and last in a series of monthly articles 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)
Taking the BTS and alighting at the Asok station, it’s a quick walk to the Siam Society building. This is the permanent home of the Siam Society and although designed in what might be described as a traditional Thai shape, it was the work of British architect Edward Healey. He was asked to draw up plans in 1929. Construction commenced in 1932 and the building officially opened on 28 February 1933.
The Siam Society is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday between 9:00am and 5:00pm.
Back on the BTS and head to the Phra Khanong station and just near the expressway is the Sluice Gate Phra Khanong. It is one of the oldest in Bangkok, dating from 1908. Created by the Dutch engineer Horman van der Heide, the man considered to be the ‘father’ of modern irrigation in Thailand, and one of the founders of the Thai Irrigation Department. The engineer worked from 1902 to 1909 in Siam and had a vision for what he termed a Greater Chao Phraya Project, but did not live to see the work completed. This occurred in 1957 with the opening of the Chainat Dam.
The sluice gate is visible from the Phra Khanong Canal.
This is the furthest east that any European-designed project or work exists.
Coming back to Asok BTS where it interchanges with the MRT, take the underground train to the Thailand Cultural Centre station. Here you will see the Rudi Pillen painting ‘The Travellers’. This is a mural which covers much of the main exchange level of the MRT station and done by the Belgian artist Rudi Pillen.
Finally, head back west towards the Victory Monument area of the city to experience one of the more unusual sights, Phaya Thai Palace. From the Victory Monument BTS head west in the direction of Chitralada Palace and Dusit Zoo, and the distinctive tower of this Italian-designed structure should come into view. Although it looks more like a Germanic romantic castle, it was Mario Tamagno who designed the building, which opened in 1909 as a royal countryside resort. It must be remembered that at the time the bustling city which now surrounds the palace did not exist; instead it was farms and plantations and simple bushland. King Prajadhipok converted the palace into a deluxe hotel in 1926. It became a military hospital in 1932.
The palace is open every day to the public and free tours are offered on weekends.