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Bangkok Travelbug August 09 Bangkok then and now
July 31, 2009

Bangkok then and now

Welcome back to our August 2009 issue of Bangkok Travelbug, the monthly newsletter of Tour Bangkok Legacies. May I add a big welcome to those who just joined us last month. We wish you an informative experience.

In this August issue

The major event this month is HM the Queen’s birthday on 12 August. This day is also National Mothers’ Day in Thailand. The fragrant white jasmine, symbolizing the purity of a mother’s love for her children, is the flower for Mothers’ Day.

This month we view some photos of old Bangkok and compare them with present day photos of the same sites. What has changed? (click on the link to go directly to the topic)

Sanam Luang – then and now

This old Bangkok photo of the Sanam Luang area was taken in 1904. It is a shot of the Phan Phipob Lila Bridge at the northern end of Sanam Luang near the Royal Hotel. The bridge is still there today though considerably different.

The bridge over the Lod canal, the first canal ring around the Grand Palace, links Inner Ratchadamneon Avenue (top of picture) to Central Ratchadamnoen (bottom of picture).

Sanam Luang is to the right of the picture and you can see the spires of the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the distance.

It was a time when horse carriages and old automobiles were still sharing the same roads. Wonder what the area is like today?

Phan Phipob Lila Bridge 1904

This was taken on 29 June 2009 from about the same angle during a brief break in the traffic between changes of the lights.

Phan Phipob Lila Bridge in 2009

The Phan Phipob Lila Bridge is very much wider today, almost three times more. The original railings of the bridge have also been replaced.

Ratchadamnoen Avenue has been widened as well. But you can’t see Sanam Luang which is completely hidden by the trees, so is the Grand Palace. At the centre of the photo, where there’s a break in the tree line, you can just about see a single spire from the Grand Palace.

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Democracy Monument – then and now

This old Bangkok photos is relatively more recent, but equally rare. Have you seen the Democracy Monument like this? This was taken in 1942 when the great flood hit Bangkok. Several parts of the city were under water.

Democracy Monument in 1942

In 1942, the Prime Minister of Thailand was Field Marshall Plaek Phibunsongkram. Thailand declared war on the USA and Britain on 25 January 1942 and was technically allied to Japan. In reality, Thailand was occupied by Japan.

A month earlier on 7 December 1941, Japan requested for the passage of Japanese troops through Thailand for the invasion of British Burma, Malaya and Singapore. When the Thai government baulked, Japan simply invaded the country.

Japanese forces invaded Thailand from Battambang, Cambodia, bombed Don Muang Airport and landed at seven points along the eastern coast of southern Thailand. The main effort landed at Songkla to secure the airfield for the invasion of British Malaya and Singapore.

To the south, the Japanese 25th Army under General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the Tiger of Malaya, overran Malaya and Singapore in 70 days, (50 days for Malaya and 20 for Singapore). The Japanese occupation of these countries lasted for three and a half years until liberation on 4 September 1945.

1942 wasn’t a happy time for many countries in the world.

October 1973 was a tumultuous time in Thai politics. Almost a quarter million demonstrators massed at the Democracy Monument to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachon.

Democracy Monument in October 1973

Events reached a climax on 14 October 1973 when the military cracked down on the demonstrators. Many lost their lives or were missing. In the aftermath, Field Marshall Thanom resigned and left the country.

Democracy Monument in 2009

This is a picture of the Democracy Monument today with all things back to normal. Please click on this link for a history of the Democracy Monument.

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New web page Ko Kred the island in the Chao Phraya

I visited Ko Kred an island in the Chao Phraya River in late June this year. So this article couldn’t make it for the July issue.

Ko Kred is an artificial island created in 1772. It is home to an old Mon community and the island is also famous for its pottery.

Ko Kred pottery

The local bazaar there has lots of interesting souvenirs as well as some very good snacks and deserts.

Local bazaar

If you haven’t visited the page yet, I won’t spoil your surprise about the food. Take a look at Ko Kred.


What I found most pleasant about Ko Kred is that it gives the city dweller a chance to enjoy some peace and serenity in a rustic atmosphere just outside Bangkok.

Quiet country lane

Imagine this is just an hour or so from Bangkok. So do drop in at Ko Kred and see for yourself.

Country home

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Correction – Thai Labour Museum

In May this year, I reported that the Thai Labour Museum has moved as I couldn’t find it when I visited the Makkasan area. Looks like I was wrong! I couldn’t find it because I was looking in the wrong place.

My Bangkok map showed the museum just next to the Makkasan railway station. As I haven’t visited the museum for years, I assumed that the location was correct. It wasn’t.

If you are coming from the Makkasan junction, you have to pass the railway station, the level crossing and the entrance to the Bangkok Palace Hotel before you get to the museum. I visited the museum again on 12 July, a Sunday and a day when it was meant to be open. Unfortunately the place was locked and nobody was around.

I am sorry for the confusion. After visiting so many places, my memory slipped up.

I must thank you Suluck Lamubol of Bangkok for pointing this out. I wouldn’t have realized my mistake if not for her. The updated map can be viewed at map to the Thai Labour Museum.

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An old Hainanese restaurant in Bangkok

This is one place that hasn’t changed for decades. I first read about Fu Mui Kee restaurant in a tourist brochure in Thai given to me by a Thai friend visiting Bangkok. It’s a gem. If you have read about this earlier in my blog, thank you. But please read on. This article features a different menu.

Entrance to Fu Mui Kee

In the quaint atmosphere of this old Hainanese restaurant, time stands still. Many restaurants would have discarded these old coffee shop tables as being old fashioned. Today they are collectors’ items.

Inside Fu Mui Kee

It’s rare to see Worcestershire sauce in restaurants these days. It wasn’t the familiar Lea & Perrin brand though but some unrecognizable bird which turned out later to be a turkey.

Worcestershire sauce

Fond memories of Hainanese shops serving pork chop, beef steak and ox tail soup date back to my boyhood in Singapore. Good old Ah Ko. At Fu Mui Kee I wanted ox tail stew but somehow ordered ox tongue instead. I would have thought that by now I should know one end of the ox from the other! Still no regrets, it was just as good.

Wrong end of the ox

This crispy pork chop just melts in the mouth.

Right side of the pig this time

Western food prepared by a Hainanese in Bangkok just isn’t complete without these fiery chillies.

Added fiery touch

All this including a bottle of water for 231 baht (approx US$6.80)

The complete meal

I skipped dinner that night.

The present shop in Silom Soi 22 is 30 years old and the former shop in Charoen Krung 40 years. The waiter who gave me this information has worked there for almost 20 years.

Fu Mui Kee is open every day from 11:00 am – 9:00 pm. To get there, please see map to Fu Mui Kee.

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Next month

More nooks and corners in old Bangkok, till then see you.

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