Growing Up in Banglumphu, Old Bangkok
As I remembered (30 years ago) when I was a kid, my neighborhood, Banglumphu was once the center of the old Bangkok’s trading area surrounded by historic attractions such as Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, the Golden Mount at Wat Saket and Khao San Road which was quiet back then etc.
The location of the neighborhood, which was believed, has long been a residential area for over 400 hundred years old dated back to the late Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 16th century according to the age of an old temple, Wat Intharawihan, or Wat Bangkhunprom Nok, its original name, located nearby. Temples are another way to indicate the history of local community since they have been used as the center of community for ancient people. This means that wherever this is a temple, there shall be a community.
Banglumphu in the old day was a well known market for the people since it was an important market area located close to Chao Phraya River, one of the most important rivers connecting the country with Gulf of Thailand, which has been used by Thais and oversea merchants for trading and commuting for centuries. Therefore, Banglumphu which is close to the Grand palace, the center of administration back then and other commercial ports along the river, functioned as a product distribution channel selling textiles, clothing, restaurant and street food.
The neighborhood is also the home of royal family and high ranking noblemen who served the Kings of Rattanakosin Era because it is very close to the Grand Palace where the Kings lived in the past and the Font Palace, the Vice King’s Residence. With a short distance commuting to the palaces, therefore, nobleman and high ranking civil servant were given land by the Kings to live nearby. When I was a kid running around the neighborhood, I saw many big old beautiful houses in traditional Thai house design and many with 18th century European design palaces hidden in back street alleys close to canal and river. These day some of them are changed to modern house and building but many still remain the same.
Additionally, my neighborhood is also home of the traditional Thai Folk song community, traditional dancing performance, gold smith making etc. Over hundred years old passed by, a few families inherit the practice and are preserved and supported by the government.
Khaosan Road is another area in my hometown that is famous for tourists especially for those young backpackers who like to meet and hangout with new friends from around the world. In the Thai language, Khaosan means rice and of course as the name suggested, this street used to be the place selling rice. Thus, the street was named for that reason. The street is also called the world famous backpackers and has many inexpensive accommodation, restaurants, bars, massage shops and souvenir shops. This street was once the area where civil servants living but after WW I which was when a lot of civil servants were dismissed from the government due to the change of governing regime, many of them moved to Sukhumvit and Thonburi area. Their residences as a result, were sold to Chinese business men. The street then started to change to commercial trading area.
Another major change to the street and the neighborhood was during Vietnam war when American soldiers based in Thailand visiting the area creating business for the local. This was the start of guesthouse business, restaurants, bars and other relevant business. The local people modified their houses and buildings to accommodate the need of the American soldiers bringing business to the area and its people. Even though, the war was over, these American veterans still came back to visit Bangkok for travelling purpose.
Growing up in Banglumphu is like growing up through the history of Bangkok. Everything I have seen and experienced from my childhood until the present is charming, amazing and unique in its own way and it is even more so when I realize the value of the history written by my ancestors. the history that took hundred years to write. My task from now on is to preserve this history of Banglumphu and Bangkok and present it to the world.