By: Text and photos PATSINEE KRANLERT
Newspaper section: Horizons

Bangkok Noi was established as an amphur on October 15, 1915. Originally called Amarin, the area was renamed Bangkok Noi in July the following year, before being elevated to the status of a district in 1972 when Thon Buri was merged with Bangkok.

Road construction on Thon Buri side subsequently brought greater convenience and provided easier access to the old agricultural area once solely dependent on waterways in terms of transportation and etching out a living.

The continuous arrival of newcomers transformed the small residential enclave by the Chao Phraya River into a large urban community where concrete houses, factories and office buildings have replaced lush paddy fields and abundant orchards.

Today, although many aspects of the locals’ traditional way of life and character have vanished, along with the transformed physical conditions, the simple, relaxed and genial community-oriented lifestyle of Bangkok Noi residents still holds some fascination when compared against the fast-paced, chaotic community surrounding it.

Various nooks and crannies, quaint old-fashioned shops, rare handicraft products as well as culture-rich sites scattered throughout the community allow visitors to peel back the layers of history to reveal Bangkok Noi’s vivid past and priceless heritage.

Aventure through Klong Chak Phra uncovers Bangkok Noi’s most unspoiled ambience. Wat Choeng Lane is a secluded oasis of peace nestled amidst verdant natural surroundings. These days you don’t find many temples like this in Bangkok.

Within the Ban Bu community is Jiam Sangsajja bronze factory, the only remaining maker of Khan Long Hin or stone-polished bronzeware, an ancient craftsmanship handed down the generations since the Ayutthaya era. There are six steps to creating it, the toughest being the first, which involves heating of the alloy and skilfully beating it into shape. Since the process is very sophisticated, and relies entirely on proficient skills, Khan Long Hin has ceased to function as a utensil of daily use; these days it is more of a high-priced decorative item.

Sanguan Osoth, located behind the Wat Thong market is the only pharmacy, founded over 70 years ago by Sanguan Laotrakul, the community’s renowned doctor, still standing from that time. Run by his third-generation descendants, it sells a variety of Thai herbal and traditional medicines prepared according to old recipes.

Wat Suvarnaram is an ancient monastery from the Ayutthaya period. The interior walls of the ubosoth are wonderfully decorated with murals depicting scenes from the ‘Nameraj’ and ‘Mahosatha Jataka’, enhancing the spiritual beauty of the principal Buddha image, Sasada, which is believed to have arrived here, along with the renowned Phra Sri Sakayamuni of Wat Suthat, during the reign of King Rama I.

Luang Por Bot Noi, literally meaning the priest of a small church, is housed in the ordination hall of Wat Amarintraram.This highly revered Buddha statue miraculously survived Allied bombing that caused extensive damage to the temple and nearby areas.

Originally known as Thon Buri station, the Bangkok Noi station you see today dates back to the reign of King Chulalongkorn in 1900. It stands as a silent memorial for the trauma and devastation wreaked by the Second World War. During the war, this railway station was the main route the Japanese troops used to transport weapons to Kanchanaburi, making the area a target of Allied bombing on March 5, 1945. Left in a state of ruin, the old station was rebuilt in 1950.

The Royal Barges National Museum showcases fine craftsmanship of elaborately carved royal barges that come in various types and designs. The highlights include, the Narai Song Subhan constructed to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of King Rama IX as well as the Suphannahongse and Anantanakaraj built during the reign of King Rama VI in 1911 and 1914 respectively. Early historical evidence of the royal barges dates to the Ayutthaya period when they served as flagships of ruling Thai monarchs. These more recently built versions displayed inside the museum are nowadays a vital part of the Royal Barge procession ceremony.

The Bangkok Noi Museum, located within the compound of Suvarnaram Witthayakhom School is the recommended starting point before venturing deeper into this canal-side community. Exhibits at the museum feature the history, traditional culture, local wisdom and people’s way of life in the days gone by. The display boards with a thorough map of Bangkok Noi, suggested highlights, as well as travel routes and public transportation service make for a wealth of information.

Tasting local delicacies must be on your mustdo list if visiting Bangkok Noi. Try beef noodle from the old-style restaurant near the Wat Thong market. Freshly-prepared traditional sweets such as ‘sodsai’, a coconut custard with a kernel of palm sugar and grated coconut wrapped in banana leaf, or ‘ray rai’, a rice thread with coconut meat, should not go unsampled.

Bron: Bangkok Post /