On March 16th, 1864 a new road was inaugurated in Bangkok, symbolically and literally paving the way for Thailand’s progress towards modernity. At the starting point of this historic road remains a little noticed remnant of one of the oldest modes of transportation.
Do you know where the oldest paved road in Thailand begins? Charoen Krung, meaning prosperous city, starts not in the former European district that housed consulates and foreign owned businesses, but at the southeastern corner of the Grand Palace (known as Mani Prakan Fort), where it intersects with Sanam Chai Road, it is also anchored by the imposing neoclassical Territorial Defence Command HQ (1922), The Temple of the Reclining Buddha and Saranrom Gardens.
Construction on the road began in 1862 at the time when the city was still dominated by canals. Boats, not BMWs ruled the way. In fact, the very first automobiles where nowhere to be seen on what was then commonly known as ‘New Road’ until over thirty years later in 1897 — most likely astonishing locals who were probably still adjusting to the shift from river sampans to horse drawn carriages and trams. Today’s view looking directly outwards onto Charoen Krung Road has remained hardly unchanged in nearly 160 years.
Near one corner of this intersection where Thailand’s push towards modernity began, is one of my favorites — an almost whimsical, largely unnoticed reminder one of the oldest modes of travel — an elegant platform for boarding or alighting elephants.
The Footpath Files
Stories from the Streets of Bangkok
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