Walk 2 starts where walk 1 ends at the Tha Chang market in front of the ferry pier. If you have just finished walk one there are plenty of restaurants and refreshment stalls here in which to take a break before continuing to explore more of the area immediately surrounding the Grand Palace. We shall be passing a major temple, two museums and lots of historical sites.
We start by walking south along the Thanon Maha Rat. On the left we will walk past the magnificent
Walls of the Grand Palace
They were originally made of teak when the fortress was hurriedly erected in 1782 as there was a threat of Burmese invasion – indeed the Burmese did make a large scale invasion the next year, but did not reach Bangkok. As a period a relative peace followed after the Burmese defeat, much of the bricks from the ruined walls and buildings of the former capital of Ayutthaya were brought down river by barges, and used to build the new palace walls and fortifications.
The most southerly part of the palace complex was originally the accommodation of the King’s wives and concubines. Behind these walls was a population of over three thousand, which included the female royal personages, the concubines of non royal rank, their servants, titled females of former reigns, all guarded by female soldiers. The only male allowed access was the King and various princes of young age. This part of the palace fell into decline during the reign of Rama VI and Rama VII, who kept no courts of female royal companions. Today the Royal Household makes use of the old residences for various purposes.
On the right is
The landing pier for the royal palace
Still used for the arrival and departure of senior members of the royal family by the river, which was once the main communication artery for Bangkok with the north and south of the country. In 1951 it was also the scene of the failed Manhattan Rebellion, where the then Prime Minister was arrested by Royal Thai Navy officers who objected to the growing power of the Royal Thai Police and the Royal Thai Army, at the expense of the navy. The PM was imprisoned aboard the navy flagship, the Sri Ayutthaya, anchored mid stream opposite the pier – which was bombed and sunk by the army and airforce, leading to the crushing of the coup. The Thai navy was severely punished, officers concerned imprisoned and navy funding halted. The coup cost the lives of over three thousand, mainly innocent civilians killed by erratic bombing and shelling.
Walking south we see the
Tha Tian Shophouses.
A busy area in former times, it was the location of a palace during the first reign which burned down during the fourth reign. Accommodation for foreigners were built during the fourth reign, including the first house outside of the palace of Anna Leonowens. The shop houses replaced these structures during the fifth reign. The name Tha Tian commemorates the fire which destroyed the foreigners dwellings during the fourth reign.Today it is a busy market area. Previously it was a place for foreign diplomats to gather prior to royal audiences.
Go to the river front.You can see on the opposite side of the river the
Royal Thai Navy Banqueting House
This was built for various naval functions, from funerals ( the naval temple and cremation ground is behind) to royal occasions such as viewing the Royal Barge Processions.
Looking down stream you can see.
The Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun)
This is one of the symbols of Bangkok, often shown illuminated at night. It predates the capital city and was partially restored by King Taksin after the fall of Ayutthaya when he made his capital on the other side of the river, Thonburi. The temple, then known at Wat Mahkok, was located in his palace grounds. It housed the Emerald Buddha when it was first seized from Vientiane, and later transferred to the new temple built in it’s honour in the Grand Palace complex where it can be seen today
Return to the road. On the left is
Wat Po (Chetuphon Temple)
This temple predates the establishment of the Grand Palace when it was Wat Potaharam – shortened to Wat Po.
Walking south on the left are the gates to
This private house, now an hotel was built during the fifth reign by the father of Prince Chula Chakrabonse. The house exhibits a three storied tower to view the river. As the prince married a foreigner ( a Russian) he was taken out of the line of succession. If this had not occurred he may have been the king as his line of decent was senior to that of the present monarch, at the time of the abdication of King Rama VII in 1934, who chose the present King’s brother to be his successor. The present monarch succeeded his brother who died from a gun shot would in the Grand Palace in 1946.
Looking right along the many side streets one can see the river and the on the other side
Royal Navy Headquarters
This is marked by the Wachaprasit Fort. This property was restored to the navy in the 1980’s – they were removed from this site in 1951 following the failed Manhattan rebellion.
Keep walking south
Now fully modernised, this school was buit in honour of one of the favourite wives of King Rama V, Queen Sunanthakumarirat. She died in a tragic boating accident together with the child she was holding. Unable to swim,palace laws of the time prevented any from touching the royal person and therefore she could be given no assistance by the more than 50 people watching from the shore of the lake. The heart broken monarch established this, one of the oldest schools in the kingdom, in her memory.
Charoen Rat 31 bridge
Constructed in 1910, the year of the death of Rama V, and the accession of Rama VI, this concrete and plaster bridge was given the name Charoen (‘Progress”) and the number 31, the age of the new monarch on it’ completion.
Phra Rachawong Municipal Police Station
This is built on the site of a former royal palace which existed from the third to the fifth reign. The present station was built in 1914 during the sixth reign.
Now we go left past the Police station and turn north. To your left is
The Museum of Siam
This modern museum tells the story of over 1000 years of human habitation of Thailand. Using the mediums of shows, exhibitions and games visitors can explore history directly.
The Drum Tower.
This reproduction of the original was built in 1982, near the location of the original, which was built by King Rama 1 during the construction of the Grand Palace. It followed the tradition of the Ayutthaya period, where the drum tower was used for noting time, signals and alarm. The drum on the first story signaled dawn and dusk, on the second sent the alarm for fires and on the third for attacks on the city. All the drums were of different tone. The original structure was demolished during the reign of Rama V to give a wider access to a favourite garden.
Next to the Drum Tower is
The Clock Tower.
This reproduction was built in 1982 to commemorate a clock tower which was erected during the fourth reign near the present Ministry of Justice. During the fouth and fifth reigns many clock towers were erected around metropolitan Bangkok
Keep heading north
The Army Reserve Command (Territorial Department).
This was originally the site of five palaces during the second and third reigns. The present building was erected during the reign of King Rama VI, following the military reforms commenced by his father, whereby ministries were removed from the homes of selected and appointed princes and specific ministry building established. This branch of the army was responsible for domestic defence and volunteer recruitment. The King established his own volunteer force – the Wild Tigers, which the Territorial Command now recognize as their origin. Amongst his many accomplishments, he designed the present Thai flag which replaced the white elephant on red field of traditional Siam.
Turn right here and walk along the road until you see the entrance of the Saranrom Royal Gardens on the other side of the road. Cross the road ( with care) and go inside the park
Saranrom Royal Garden
This open space is was the front of the Saranrom Palace, the residence of Rama VI when he was Crown Prince, which since the 1960’s is a public park.
Shop houses and bridges
To the rear of the park is an entrance which looks onto the Thanon (Avenue) Rachini and the parallel Thanon Asdang, which are separated from each other by the original defensive moat of the palace complex.
Return to the Army Reserve Command Building by retracing your steps through the park. Turn right on Samanchai Road and walk past the park. You will see on you right
The Offices of the Privy Council
The king appoints the members of this advisory body, comprising no more than 18 members.
On the other side of the road in the middle of the eatern walls of the Grand Palace is
The Phra Thinang Suthaisawan Prasat
This was built as a palace for public audiences by Rama 1, and Rama III had this open sided hall roofed and walled as it appears today. In 1829 the last Prince of Vientiane in Laos rebelled against Rama III, his titular master. This Prince, Anouvong remains a hero to the Laos people for his fight against Siamese overlordship, but he was betrayed and captured together with four of his wives, two daughters, two sons and one niece and escorted to Bangkok. They were deliberately subjected to ridicule by Rama III, Anouvong initially paraded naked around the city in an iron cage, which gave the local population the opportunity to give the grossest insults. The cage was then hung from the walls of the Phra Thinang Suthaisawan Prasat. Here he was continually tortured with hot brands, stones and having filth thrown at him ( in the evening he was released from his cage and given somewhat more comfortable accommodation, but at dawn returned to the cage). Chao Anouvong died on the sixth day of this treatment, already weakened by illness before his humiliating ordeal at Wat Chakrawat in Chinatown. His corpse was chained, impaled and exposed from the palace walls. The others of his family were released.
Reception Building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Located on land previously occupied by three royal palaces during the third reign and then was rebuilt as the Saranrom Palace i the fifth reign, it was previously the residence of King RamaVI before he acceeded to the throne in 1910. It was transferred to the government in 1926 to function as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Restoration of the building was completed in 2013, and it now has a reception and hospitality function for foreign guests to the state – whereas most of the daily tasks of the ministry have been moved to new premises in the Chaeng Wattana district.
The Minstry of Defence Building
This was originally the site of several palaces which were replaced and incorporated into a new headquarters building for the Defence Ministry, built in the Russian style in 1881, and completed in 1884. It was the first time the Kingdom had a centralised military command – previously various princes had been separately in charge of the defence of the north, west, east and south, and the King’s order for greater unification of a permanent command was driven by the threats to the kingdom from foreign colonial powers. This impressive building was a marked improvement to the horse and elephant stables inside the palace where the old office of the Samuha Kalahom ( chief of the southern defence army) was located. The guns in the front were turned from facing the palace in 2002, to their present “none threatening” position.
Keep walking north
The City Pillar Shrine
The Lak Mueng – the city pillar erected by Rama 1 on April 21st, 1782, at 6.54 a.m. to mark the foundation of his new capital. This was the first building erected in the new capital. The city pillar is the spiritual centre of the city.
Our walk ends here