Sunset on Rattanakosin Island

The core of Bangkok is the old city, the section of Phra Nakhon district known as Rattanakosin Island. It was here, in 1782, that King Rama I established Krung Thep Maha Nakhon – what we foreigners call Bangkok.  In addition to being the home of the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and many government buildings, there are many vibrant communities on Rattanakosin Island and plenty of great food. The other evening, I took a canal boat into the old city as a brilliant sunset bathed the City of Angels (for that is what the Thai name for Bangkok means) in gold.

This is a fascinating little neighborhood nestled just next to Fort Mahakan (see the map below) looking east towards Wat Sakhet, also known as Golden Mount. Fort Mahakan is one of only two forts that remain from the original 14 that defended the old city. Wat Sakhet itself predates Bangkok by many years, but the man-made hill was built during the reign of King Rama III. It was originally meant to be a giant chedi, or stupa, but the ground could not support the structure and it collapsed mid-construction. Over many years, it was covered with brush and locals came to refer to it as “Phu Khao” or Golden Mount. Under King Rama V (late 1800s), a small chedi was built on top of the hill and is said to contain relics of the Buddha, brought from India.

Looking the opposite direction from nearly the same spot as the first picture, you see a plaza with a statue of King Rama III. Wat Ratchanadda is in the background. This plaza used to be filled with a grand old cinema – the Chalerm Thai (pics here) – that was torn down in 1989 to create more inviting views along Ratchadamnoen Avenue. While I generally hate the idea of destroying old single-screen movie palaces, the view at this important corner was definitely improved with its removal.

A few blocks away, we stopped for an early dinner on a small soi just off Thanon Tanao, is the center of the map below, right north of the intersection of Thanon Bamrung Mueang. This cute little neighborhood, called Phraeng Phuton, features one of the first automobile repair shops in Thailand (still in business and has a collection of classic Aston-Martins and Mercedes parked inside) and it was also Bangkok’s first driver’s license bureau. 

This is one of the corners of the city, just a few blocks away from the noisy (and very foreign) Khao San Road backpacker neighborhood, that deserves more attention from visitors to Thailand. In many ways, it is a time capsule, very easy to slip back and see what life was like in Bangkok many decades ago.

The Wikipedia map, in case you want to reference the locations of the above pictures. Original and larger versions here.

0 thoughts on “Sunset on Rattanakosin Island

  1. I hope the gov’t will preserve these old parts of the city. I had no idea Khao San Rd. has such a long life as a backpacker enclave. It always struck me as a bit odd that people will travel so far just to stay in familiar surroundings.

  2. I’m glad to see entries like this one, showing parts of the city which I used to roam around! Well, I hope to visit again someday, and have a eating trip as well! πŸ˜›

  3. Love the first photo of the sun setting and I can see why it is called the City of Angels in gold. Amazing colors.The skies are amazing in the back ground of the photos. What an amazing place to have an adventure.

  4. @rudyhou – Streetfood – lots of good places. We can go on your next visit.@Grannys_Place – Every so often, we get a spectacular sunset that makes you forget all the dingy aspects of the city.@Fatcat723 – Of course, one group’s idea of “preservation” clashes with another’s, so we have to sort that out.@oxyGENE_08 – Please let me know when you plan to come. There are certainly plenty of suggestions I can provide.@murisopsis – You should come and find out!@CurryPuffy – Someday? Just grab W and fly on over.@ElusiveWords – That’s what I don’t care for about the Khao San area. It is “Thai” only in a superficial way. If you are backpacking around the country, make an effort to see the real country. If most of the people around you look just like you, you aren’t seeing the real country.

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