From the 14th century to the mid-18th century, Thonburi was an important garrison town due to its location on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. It only became part of Bangkok in the 1970s, but has kept its name; Thon means wealth and buri means fort. Its full name is City of Treasures Gracing the Ocean. Indeed, there are many treasures there today and I set out in search of some of them. Plus it gave me a chance of getting there by boat on the Chao Phraya River, which is one of my favourite ways to travel in Bangkok.
I took the boat from Saphan Taksin and got off at Yodpiman Pier. The ferry from there across the river to Thonburi costs around 5 baht and it takes no more than five minutes. The first place I wanted to see was the Kuan An Keng Shrine, a wonderfully rustic looking building, said to be one of the oldest shrines in Bangkok.
Next was Santa Cruz Church, which I have visited before, but it always pleases me when I see the cream and brown colours of this Italian designed building against the blue sky.
I walked up Arun Amirin Road, and turned down one of the many narrow lanes that run alongside the canals, which are very much still in use in this part of Bangkok. I was looking for Bang Luang Mosque, but it was quite hard to find, so I asked a kindly gent and he told me where to go. This mosque is the only one in Thailand which doesn’t have a dome.
Back to the main road, the next place that I came across was Tonson Mosque. Dating from the 17th century, this mosque was the first in Bangkok. Outside, there is a cemetery where high ranking individuals from the Ayutthaya period are interred.
Over the road from Tonson mosque is Wat Kalayanamit which was established in 1825 and donated to King Rama III. There is a poem on the side of the temple which says “True friend temple was built by a close friend of the King, as glorious, beautiful, and prominent as the city of heaven, it is respected and worshiped by all people, because it is cherished by the Chakri Dynasty King.”
I continued my walk up Arun Amarin Road and found Wat Arun, also known as Temple of the Dawn. Its name comes from the Hindu god Aruna, who was embodied as rays of the morning sun. The central tower has been in the process of being renovated for the last few months, and is covered in scaffolding, but the seashells and pieces of porcelain, which were previously used as ship’s ballast, can still be seen.
I doubled back on myself and went to Wat Prayoon which was built in the 19th century by King Rama III. As I was wandering around, a friendly monk said hello and he told me that when the large white chedi was reconstructed, many amulets and Buddha statues were discovered. They are now on display at the museum there.
In the grounds, there is a large mound which is covered with shrines and spirit houses. Surrounding the mound, is a pool which is home to turtles which like to sun themselves in the quiet surroundings.
There were two places where I wanted to go. Baan Kudichin Museum, where you can learn about the history of the Thai-Portuguese who still live in the area. The second was Thanusingha Bakery House, which has some nice coffee and cakes on offer. But, could I find them? I had google maps and I knew I wasn’t very far away, but there are so many little lanes that twist and turn I just couldn’t fathom how to get there. So, I gave up. They can wait for another day’s exploring.