Regular readers will know that I’m a bit of an architecture buff, not least because it’s a good excuse for a long walk. Below I describe one that could easily take a whole day, or two if you break it up and include Wat Pho which I’ve given its own post. However I start with a couple of places, Hua Lamphong Station and the Scala Cinema, which could be destinations in their own right, even if just to catch a train or see a film. My map with everything on is here.
Hua Lamphong Station was built in an Italian Neo-Renaissance-style in 1910.
The architect was Turin-born Mario Tamagno who was responsible for a few other major buildings in Bangkok.
The Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof in Germany was a prototype.
The station is scheduled to be closed in 2021, after which it will become a museum. You can click on these photos to enlarge them.
Another favourite building is the Scala Cinema in a back street off Siam Square in Pathum Wan.
It has a Modernist shell with Art Deco interior decorations.
Back in Siam Square the Skytrain tracks bring you back to brutal modern times.
Also known as the BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System) the Skytrain was opened in late 1999. I presume that an underground system wasn’t feasible due to the river flooding regularly.
The first road to be built in Bangkok was the Charoen Krung Road in 1861. Ironcially, the English name for the road is New Road. It stretches from Wat Pho and the Grand Palace and continues for 8.5 km to Dao Khanong. The first few kilometers in the old town make for a good walk as there are quite a few historical buildings along its route. After seeing Wat Pho (see next post), a logical starting point would be Saranrom Park.
The park was originally part of a palace built by Rama IV in 1866 but he died before it was completed. The basic layout of the park remains today is as it was designed by Rama IV. A couple of examples of traditional house architecture can seen be inside. The park is now used as a training school for city gardeners.
There’s a bit of neo-classical around the outside of the park.
Fairly soon after starting you’ll cross the first canal ring, Lod Canal or Asadang Canal.
Fairly soon after that you come to the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre www.salachalermkrung.com. The cinema was opened in in 1932 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Bangkok but nowadays it hosts performances of classical Thai dance.
The modernist building isn’t particularly exciting although it does have a few nice features inside.
A show about Hanuman the monkey god was on when I went.
Of more interest to me was the Art Nouveau exterior of the cafe next to the theatre.
I tend to wander of the path a lot, to go and look at architecture that catches my eye. From here I deviated from the route and headed south along Ti Thong towards the Old Siam Shopping Centre which has a few interesting buildings around it. Not sure what style you’d call these. Thai Deco perhaps.
There are a few more easily recognisable Art Deco buildings dotted around.
There’s this lovely piece of Brutalism just over the road from the shopping centre.
From here you could deviate even further south to Little India but I wouldn’t bother as there’s not much to see, unless you fancy a curry for lunch at Royal India (see my Eating in Phra Nakhon post).
After you cross over the second canal ring, Banglamplu-Ong Ang Canal, you are in Samphanthawong, the location of Bangkok’s Chinatown.
I came across this Chinese temple somewhere around here.
Chinatown’s central street Yaowarat Road runs parallel to Charoen Krung Road to the south. The streets seemed a bit narrower and more chaotic here. A bit of dereliction seems to be creeping in as well.
I did brieftly consider staying in Chinatown but was quite glad I didn’t as its a bit full on. I looked at two hotels, Loy La Long www.loylalong.com; a cool little hostel in a choice location on the river, and the more luxurious Shanghai Mansion Bangkok www.shanghaimansion.com on the frenetic Yaowarat Road, both good in their own ways.
I enjoyed checking out all the street vendors along Yaowarat Road.
From here it’s just a short stroll to Hua Lamphong Station which is where this post started.
Back to Wat Pho for the next post though!