Hidden Gem Bangkok Photo Walk
I recently joined a photography group in Bangkok to sharpen my skills and meet new people. The organizers host various workshops and events throughout the month, including photo walks to undiscovered places throughout the city. Last month, I got the chance to attend my first walk and wrote a little piece about it for the premiere issue of the Bangkok Photo Walks magazine. Check it out below, along with a few more of my photos that didn't make it into the magazine.
Tucked away on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, lies the small, sleepy district of Khlong San ~ a seemingly forgotten stretch of riverbank with a history dating back to the 1600s.
Once a thriving transit point at the center of the old harbor district, the area is now comprised of quiet residential streets and a collection of temples, shrines, mosques and monuments left behind as a reminder of the original inhabitants. Influences from Portuguese, Hokkien Chinese and Cham Muslim settlers, combined with the liveliness of true Thainess, make Khlong San a site for all the senses full of hidden secrets just waiting to be discovered.
Today, the Khlong San District doesn’t hold much importance for anyone but its residents, but that’s not to say it isn’t worth making the trip to the west bank of the river to experience a more tranquil side of Bangkok you may have never even known existed.
On June 22nd, our Bangkok Photographers Group set out to uncover the “hidden gems” of Khlong San through the lenses of our cameras, hoping to tell the story of modern-day life in an area steeped in history.
Starting from the Saphan Taksin pier, we took a river taxi boat to Memorial Bridge. Opened in April 1932, the bridge was built to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Chakri Dynasty and the foundation of Bangkok. At 678 m (2,224.4 ft) in length, it offers extensive views of the muddy-brown Chao Phraya River below and connects the bustling east bank of Bangkok to Thonburi ~ the old capitol of Thailand back in the day’s of King Taksin (1767-1782).
Although it’s a sight within itself, the real gems of the walk were revealed after we crossed Memorial Bridge. While we could’ve spent an entire day perusing pagodas and visiting wats, we only hit a number of major highlights in the few short hours that we had, including the Goowatin Islam Mosque, the Gong Wu Shrine and the Princess Mother Memorial Park.
Our first stop was the Goowatin Islam Mosque, a small place of worship established by two different Muslim groups when the area was still a thriving port town. It was once owned and operated as a warehouse by the powerful House of Bunnag, a Siamese noble family of Persian descent, but transitioned into a full-time mosque during the reign of Rama IV when a group of Muslims arrived from the city Indian city of Surat.
Traveling on through the maze-like alleyways, we visited the Gong Wu Shrine. The vibrant Chinese shrine dates back to 1736 when the first of three statues of Gong Wu were delivered to the site by Hokkien traders. Over the years, the shrine has grown to encompass three ornately decorated buildings bursting with a rainbow of colors and symbols of Chinese mythology.
From there, we made our way to the Princess Mother Memorial Park, which King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) had built in remembrance of his mother ~ the late Princess Srinagarindra ~ in 1997. The Khlong San area once served as her stomping grounds when she grew up as a commoner near Wat Anongkharam. The peaceful, green park holds a replica of the royal mother’s childhood home, along with two exhibition halls displaying photos and memorabilia of the royal family and a life-size bronze statue of the princess overlooking the area.
To finish off our photo walk, we got ourselves lost in the tangled maze of alleys and small sois in Khlong San to get acquainted with the families who now call this haven of history home.
This piece first appeared in Bangkok Photo Walks "Hidden Gems" issue.Click the link to see all the awesome photos by some very talented photographers!