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Strolling through time

Posted on 14 April 2016 by admin

Sculptures of bhikkhuni (female monks) sit facing the principle Buddha image in the vihara of Wat Thepthidaram. Each of the 52 figures has a different posture, reflecting the manners of women while sitting, including holding a handkerchief, squatting and putting one’s palms together in the wai position.

Within one kilometre from Bangkok City Hall, there are walking routes that visitors can tour to know more about the cultural heritage of the capital.

Right in front of City Hall stands the Giant Swing. It was built in 1784, two years after King Rama I had founded Bangkok as a new capital of Rattanakosin Kingdom. The swing was built for the Brahmin New Year Ceremonies of Triyampawai and Tripawai (the swinging ceremonies performed for Shiva and Vishnu, respectively).

According to records in the Fine Arts Department, the ceremonies had been celebrated since the Sukhothai Kingdom. It was a ceremony for blessing the city, but was discontinued in 1931 during the reign of King Rama VII, due to economic problems.

In 2004, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) brought the ceremonies back to celebrate the 222nd anniversary of the capital. The pillars (21m tall) of the Giant Swing have undergone three major renovations, the latest in 2007 using six golden teak trees from Phrae. The BMA expects the pillars will last another century.

As for the old wooden plank used for carrying four men on the swing for the Triyampawai/Tripawai ceremonies, it’s kept and displayed in Devasthan Bosth Brahmana, a temple for worshipping Hindu Gods. Also built in 1784, the temple is located on Din So Road, a short walk to the northwest portion of the Giant Swing.

The Devasthan Bosth Brahmana consists of three shrines. First is the shrine for worshipping Shiva. This shrine houses 32 statues of other deities and two black stone Shiva Lingams. The second shrine is for worshipping Ganesh. And the third shrine is for worshipping Vishnu. Photography is not allowed within the shrines.

The panoramic view of Wat Ratchanaddaram from the top floor of Loha Prasat.

Located next to the Giant Swing on Bamrung Muang Road is Wat Suthat Thepwararam. Built in 1807 during the reign of King Rama I, the temple has a huge ubosot (ordination hall) to house the Phra Si Sakkayamuni, or Luang Pho To statue, brought in from Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai. Construction of the temple was completed during the period of King Rama III, a devout and faithful follower of Buddhism who built or repaired more than 50 temples during his reign.

One of the highlights of the temple is Phra Buddha Setthamuni, also known as “Luang Pho Klak Fin” because the seated Buddha image was made of brass opium boxes (called klak fin) and pipes (see page 4).

According to records in the Bangkok Tourism Division, the Buddha image is the only one in the kingdom built with such materials. The image is housed in the sala kanprien (a hall for conducting religious ceremonies).

From Wat Suthat, walk further on Bamrung Muang Road to the west until you reach a small alley called Thesa Road on the left side of Bamrung Muang Road. Here you will see a fresh morning market. It’s called Talat Trok Mo, and is a place where those living in the Giant Swing neighbourhood can purchase fresh or dried materials for cooking.

This seated Buddha is made of brass opium boxes and pipes confiscated in 1839, during the reign of King Rama III. It was displayed because the King wanted people to stop smoking opium. During that year, more than 200,000kg of opium was seized and burned, while the boxes were melted down to build the Buddha statue, called Phra Buddha Setthamuni. Also shown here are the sculptural arts of King Rama III. The face shows impassivity and the robe covers the chest from the left shoulder, and must not show the right nipple.

One attraction in this area recommended by the Tourism Authority of Thailand is Ban Mo Waan, whose formal name is Bamrung Chat Satsana Ya Thai. It’s a traditional herbal pharmacy now in its fourth generation.

It’s best-known product is ya hom, long used as a cure for fainting spells, dizziness, heat exhaustion and upset stomach.

The house was built colonial-style. Inside is a room where visitors can see the old tools used in making traditional herbal medicine.

Walk further west to the old communities of Sam Phraeng (literally, three junctions), which consists of the roads Phraeng Sanphasat, Phraeng Nara and Phraeng Phuthon. The roads were named after the three princes of King Rama IV who lived in the area. During the period of King Rama V and VI, Sam Phraeng was a popular shopping area where people could shop for luxurious imported goods.

Today, visitors stop by Sam Phraeng to observe colonial-style houses, old shophouses and antique shops, as well as obtain delicious food and snacks whose recipes have been passed on from generation to generation.

To the southeast of the Giant Swing on Maha Chai Road is Wat Thep Monthien, where visitors can pay homage to Hindu gods and goddess.

To the northeast of City Hall on Ratchadamnoen Road is Wat Thepthidaram and Wat Ratchanaddaram. Both temples were established by King Rama III.

Wat Thep Monthien of the Hindu Samaj Association is located at Bharata Witthayalai School on Siriphong Road. The fourth floor of the temple houses various Hindu gods and goddesses. Among them is a sculpture of the Buddha, as Hinduism regarded Buddha to be the avatar of Vishnu, one of the three supreme gods (the others being Brahma and Shiva).

Wat Thepthidaram was built in 1836 to honour the King’s eldest daughter, HRH Princess Apsorn Sudathep.

Highlights include the image of the white stone seated Buddha (Phra Bhuddha Dhevawilat), the principal image of the ubosot and 52 statues of female monks paying respect to the principal Buddha statue inside the vihara (prayer hall).

Nearby Wat Ratchanaddaram was built as a gift to King Rama III’s beloved niece Princess Soammanas Vadhanavadi, later to become queen to King Rama IV. The temple is home to Loha Prasat, a seven-tiered metallic structure whose 37 bronze and copper spires represent the 37 virtues of enlightenment. The architecture, from 1846, is believed to have been modelled after that of India 2,ᒴ years earlier, and was intended as a dhamma practice centre.

This structure is the only existing Loha Prasat in the world, now that those in India and Sri Lanka no longer exist.

Fresh seafood including sliced salmon, crabs and prawns, as well as grilled foods and fruits, are available at Trok Mo market. It’s hard to believe there’s such a fresh market located right in the heart of old Rattanakosin. The market is open daily from 5am until late morning on Thesa Road, linking Bamrung Muang and Ratchabophit Roads.

Visitors are allowed to go inside Loha Prasat. The ground floor houses Buddha images and space for people to practice meditation, while the top floor houses the Lord Buddha’s relics, enshrined by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1995 to celebrate his Golden Jubilee.

Next to Loha Prasat is Mahakan Fort, the one that’s recently made headlines, as the Bangkok Metro Authority wants to remove the old community behind the fort, replacing it with a public park.

Out of 14 forts built to protect the city during the reign of King Rama I, only two remain: the Mahakan Fort and Phra Sumen Fort on Phra Arthit Road.

Visitors can wander through a small public park where Mahakan Fort is located. There is a deserted white building in the area, a royal pier built in the period of King Rama VI.

Apparently Bangkok, which will turn 234 on April 21, offers much more charm than just that found in Wat Phra Kaeo, Wat Pho and its shopping malls.

Travel Info

Ban Mo Waan ( is open daily from 9am-5pm. Call 02-᎝-8070.

Wat Thepthidaram is open daily from 8am-5pm. Admission is free.

Loha Prasat of Wat Ratchanaddaram is open daily from 9am-5pm. Admission is free.

Devasthan Bosth Brahmana is open daily from 11am-8pm. Admission is free. Visit or call 02-222-6951 for more details.

Wat Thep Monthien is open daily from 6am-8pm, but closed during lunchtime from 12pm-3pm. Admission is free. Call 02-221-4360 for more details.

This century-old building used to be the Preedalai Theatre, built on the compound of Prince Narathip Prapanpong (1861-1931), son of King Rama IV. After the prince died, his mansion was demolished to give way to city development that included Phraeng Nara Road and a string of shophouses. This ruined building is the only feature remaining from the heyday of the royal stage plays, which welcomed high-profile audiences that included King Rama V and King Rama VI when he was still a prince. The facility used to be the Talaphat Suksa School, before closing for its current purpose of public visits.

Oora Woraphok has been a Thai herbal pharmacist since she was in her 20s. Now 85-years-old, she can still make ya hom, the aromatic herbal medicine of her father Waan Rodmuang, a traditional-medicine doctor who lived from 1870-1946. Ban Mo Waan is open not only for customers who want to buy Thai traditional medicine, but also for visitors who want to see the century-old colonial-style house. To attract younger customers, Ban Mo Waan has redesigned its packaging and refurbished its products. This includes the ya hom lozenge, which can help freshen the mouth and even cure dizziness, as well as inhalers and analgesic oil.

Choices of food are plentiful in the old community of Sam Phraeng. One of the famous shops is Khanom Buang Phraeng Nara whose owner, Somsri Hiranwathit, has learned how to make this khanom buang (crispy crepe) from her mother-in-law, who worked in the royal kitchen of Prince Narathip during the reign of King Rama V. The shop has been open for 80 years, and she belongs to the second generation. Her khanom buang has two choices of filling. One is sweet, with dried fruits and foi thong (sweet golden treads made of egg yolks), while the other is salty, with chopped shrimp, grated coconut flesh and chopped coriander leaves.A short walk from the dessert shop on Phraeng Nara Road is a grilled-pork-ball stall famous for its good-looking vendor. On Phraeng Phuthon Road, there is the coconut ice cream of a Nattaporn shop that’s been open 70 years. Picking a main course in Sam Phraeng is tough because of the mouthwatering selection. Among the choices are Udom Phochana, which for more than 70 years has been selling crispy pork and rice with beef curry Bami Phraeng Phuthon, which has offered an egg-noodle dish for಼ years; and the Nai Mak fish-noodle shop, which has been open for 50 years.

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