Spooky plots by the river
Published/Last edited or updated: 18th July, 2017
The macabre yet poignant Bangkok Protestant Cemetery encourages you to reflect on what life and death was like for foreigners who ventured to Siam in the past.
Dating from the early 19th to mid 20th century, most of the graves mark the remains of British, Dutch, Scandinavian, German, American and Chinese expats. While most of those buried here were Protestant, the cemetery also contains the remains of expats from various cultures that called for burial rather than cremation. Some tombstones are engraved with brief obituaries while others consist of little more than a few crumbling bricks.
One of the largest tombs features a bust of Henry Alibaster, an influential British diplomat who died in 1884. Also buried here was Jennie Neilson Hays, a prominent Danish missionary who founded Neilson Hays Library in 1869; and Admiral John Bush, an Englishman who spent four decades as a sea captain for kings Rama IV and Rama V until his death in 1905—a side street still bares his name a few kilometres further up Charoen Krung Road. At one of the less conspicuous graves, a single rectangle of stone marks a child-size crypt with nothing but the words, “Our Dear Little Arthur.”
On a rainy season visit we had to balance beside deep puddles and moist mounds of earth holding skeletons inches below. The Chao Phraya River joins a crumbling old warehouse and a recently built high-rise, providing a surreal mix of backdrops for the drooping gravestones. One of the spookier spots in Bangkok, the cemetery is well worth a visit if you appreciate the more offbeat shades of a city.
Above all, the cemetery makes it easy to appreciate how difficult life and death must have been for foreigners who embarked on multi-week sea voyages to work for their governments abroad, serve as missionaries or toil as sailors and soldiers. It’s an evocative spot to cap off a walk down historic Charoen Krung Road.
The entrance to Bangkok Protestant Cemetery is off the west side of Charoen Krung Rd, just north of Charoen Krung Soi 74 and south of Ramada Plaza Hotel. Saphan Taksin BTS Station is two km to the north. You could take the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat to Asiatique Pier then walk through the bazaar, take a left and look for the entrance around 200 metres up on the left.
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.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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