Thonburi: exploring the west side

Thonburi: exploring the west side

Dig into the oldest part of Bangkok

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Many visitors feel like they’ve “done” Bangkok after hitting the big-name attractions in the historic district, perusing the malls, taking a ferry up the Chao Phraya River and maybe munching on some street food. Few of them know about the more modest but equally intriguing slice of the city that exists on the west side of the river in the oldest part of town: Thonburi.

Travelfish says:
With a name thought to derive from “Bang Makok” (bang means village and makok is a type of tropical nut), the original Bangkok was probably located at what is today part of Bangkok Noi district in Thonburi. Prior to the 18th century, it was little more than a stop-off point for sailors travelling north up the Chao Phraya to the old Siamese capital at Ayutthaya.

Khlong scenes. Photo by: David Luekens.
Khlong scenes. Photo: David Luekens

Before a canal was dug in the 1500s that redirected the river to its current path, the Chao Phraya flowed much further west in a horseshoe-shaped loop along a waterway that is now the Bangkok Yai and Bangkok Noi canals. The villages nestled along these and other canals did not become known as Thonburi, meaning “Fortified City,” until King Narai commissioned Vichai Prasit Fort in the 1660s. Parts of the fort’s thick white walls still stand beside the river.

After the fall of Ayutthaya and a successful series of counter attacks that repelled the Burmese in the 1770s, the leading Siamese general, Taksin, became king and built a new palace close to Vichai Prasit Fort, briefly making Thonburi capital of Siam. In the process he made Wat Arun a royal temple now famous for its towering spires, a signature Bangkok landmark. Nowadays, this wat is the only part of Thonburi that most travellers ever ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,100 words.)

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Reviewed by

David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.

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