Despite having been overshadowed by the neighboring tourist hub, Khao San Road, Bang Lamphu is home to hidden interesting arts and rich culture more than you could ever imagine. Here is why you shouldn’t miss a chance to explore Bang Lamphu!
After moving the capital to Bangkok, King Rama I created Rattanakosin Island as the original center of Bangkok and home to the Grand Palace in 1782. Located in the strategic area next to the Grand Palace and city wall, Bang Lamphu had become a bustling multicultural district and important trade and commercial center where many ethnics and races resettled here including Thais, Patani Muslims, Chinese and Mon.
Phra Sumen Fort, one of the last two forts remained in Bangkok, was constructed in the reign of King Rama I in 1783 along with 14 other octagonal fortresses to protect the capital from possible invasions. As it is surrounded by green atmosphere of Santi Chai Prakarn public park named by King Rama IV meaning the park with a fort that symbolized the victory of peacefulness, you can enjoy a pleasant walk and see nice views of the river with the Rama VIII bridge.
We suggest you to begin your Bang Lamphu exploration here, at the local museum where you can learn more about this community ‘Pipit Banglamphu’ which located right next to Phra Sumen Fort.
Originally Thailand’s first printing school under the auspices of the Treasury Department, Pipit Bang Lamphu became the local heritage museum that portrays the long history and the living culture of the neighborhood by recreating some old disappearing shops and facade such as Tang Hua Seng Mall, Busayaphu Cinema and Nunthiya coffee shop where Thai teens were hanging out long before teens crowded into Siam Square and exhibiting about the old traditional crafts and highlights in various sub communities like Kao Tom Num Woon desserts, Khon costume embroidery, banana trunk carving, handicrafts from palm leaves (Bailan), working station of Bang Lamphu’s last goldsmith. With no admission fee, you can visit this interactive museum from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 6pm.
Behind Pipit Banglamphu museum, there is a bridge called Ang Au Thit Bridge which connects to Wat Sangvej community which known for its music and entertainment hub. Since its establishment in 1898, the Thai Music House of Duriyapraneet Band (or Bang Lamphu Band) has been actively engaged in preservation Thai music for over a century. One of the founder’s daughters, Sutchit Anantakul, who was also the Princess Sirinthorn’s music teacher became Thai National Artist in the performing arts (Thai music) and her daughter, Ms. Noi still continues her mother’s to offer classes for those in her community. Here you can learn Thai dance and Thai musical instruments like Khim, Ranat, Sor, etc.- Click
Adjacent to Bang Khun Phrom where Thailand’s first TV station, Channel 4, known locally as Chong Si Bang Khun Phrom and other production houses was situated, the rising Thai stars in the 60s and 70s often hung out in this area.
The ancestors of Ban Pan Thom residents can be traced back to silversmith and gold nielloware craftsmen of Ayutthaya. They set up shops forming Ban Pan Thom community and became famous for their silverware and elaborate nielloware with beautiful decorations, especially the bowl with supporting stand that can be a gift from small rank officials to nobleman. Unfortunately, after the arrival and influx of cheaper stainless steel bowls, which are mass produced, the art slowly died. Only one shop — Thai Nakon Nielloware — retains the age-old skills of ancient nielloware craft.
Famous for its unique nielloware, Thai Nakon was established in 1926 as the first and oldest Nielloware maker in Thailand. The ‘niello’ came from Thai word ‘niel’ (นิล) for black which it is enriched on the smooth surface of stering silver after using the acid reaction. Originally from the Southern province, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, the founder persuaded a number of these artisans to come to Bangkok. As it is the last place in Bangkok which still makes nielloware, there are only few artisans who still continue the exquisite arts of nielloware making.
Most Chinese people who settled here since early Rattanakosin era were merchants and governmental officers. Yet, there were two important sites that is standing still for many decades; Chao Pho Nu Shrine and Tang Hua Seng department store.
Tang Hua Seng Department Store is one of Thailand’s oldest local department store that still opens since 1962. The department store is started by family business and which later turned into a heaven for those who love arts and crafts. Known among locals for its handicraft items and equipments, they also hold the craft workshops occasionally.
Located by Norarattana Sathan Bridge, Chao Pho Nu Shrine has been protecting this neighborhood from time to time. Chao Pho Nu, a small Buddha statue (Nu is a word to call small kid), was founded floating in the canal more than four decades and the villagers respectfully installed to be spiritual anchor of the community. People started to believe that Chao Pho Nu brought good fortune through auspicious dreams. So they set the shrine and celebrate every year ever since. People come to make wishes here especially for happiness, good fortune, and success in business.
Nearby, there is a 20-year-old Boi Kia dessert place which is a Hainanese dessert with a Thai flavor infused to it featuring glutinous rice flour dumplings and so many other things from cooked beans to water chestnuts to Chinese grass jelly to candied tubers to fresh jackfruit — all served in the same bowl with brown sugar syrup and crushed ice.
In the past, the Chakrabongse Mosque Community was known as home to professional goldsmiths who served the Royal Court and taught their exquisite skills among their neighborhood until almost all of them worked in the refined craft industry. Sound of hammer hitting gold from morning til night rang through the community.
Nestle in the hidden and narrow alley, Chakrabongse Mosque is known as the center of Muslims in Bang Lamphu. As the mosque was constructed by the remaining colonists during the reign of King Rama I, its architecture reflects Islam modern style which brings the highlight of Arab architecture.
Originally, the ancestors of people in Chakrabongse muslim community migrated from Pattani province in Southern Thailand following their Sultan who was taken to Bangkok during King Rama I era and has been residing in this area since the beginning of Rattanakosin era. The community was known for their good craftsmanship by goldsmiths. Sadly, the last gold craftsman Ms. Lek Lorprayun passed away.
Regarding Islamic cuisine, there are lots of muslim street food stalls in this area. Try Chicken Biryani (Khao Mok Gai) and other highlighted muslim dishes like chicken/beef satays and oxtail soup at Aisa Rotdee restaurant on the corner of Tani Road.
Despite Kao Sarn Road is also the new melting pot of multiculture in this era, don’t overlook the true hidden gems of multicultural district of Bang Lamphu since the past. Experience the real shade of Banglamphu! These are hidden and overshadowed, but from with your help, together we can bring them back into the limelight again and save them from disappearing by visiting and sharing about them.
When to visit: Daily during the daytime. (*Reminder: Thai Nakon closed after 4pm and Pipit Banglamphu closed on Mondays)
How to get there:
- Bus No. 3, 6, 9, 15, 53, 56, 64, 68, 127
- Chao Phraya Express Boat : Phra Athit Pier
- Skytrain: BTS Ratchathewi (then grab a Taxi)
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