Explore Thai history and culture

The downpour dissipates as we stroll through the Phra Nakhon district and the sun is now shining brightly in the clear sky. Despite the upcoming weather change, it is a wonderful time to get out and sightsee.

“The Legacy of Philosopher King Vajiravudh” exhibit at King Vajiravudh Memorial Hall.

Sitting in a cafe and gazing out the window, a thread of historic structures, classic shops and bustling old markets will transport travelers back in time to the day when Siam modernized itself with contemporary innovations during the transition from the reigns of the King Rama V to King Rama VI.

As part of the “Secret Of Phra Nakhon” tour organized by KTC, the first stop is the King Vajiravudh Memorial Hall to learn about the evolution of the country before and during the First World War. Standing within the grounds of the National Library of Thailand, it was established in 1981 by ML Pin Malakul to commemorate the 100th birthday of King Rama VI.

The 3rd floor gallery features “The Philosopher’s Legacy King Vajiravudh” exhibition, which was revamped in 2019. With sleek modern decor and new lighting design, it resembles Madame Tussauds, with a collection of more than 10 realistic fiberglass figures representing King Vajiravudh. fulfilling his royal responsibilities.

Behind the entrance, visitors are greeted by a figure of King Vajiravudh dressed in a Durham light infantry uniform. He trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst before serving in the British Infantry. Upon his return to Thailand, he donated money to the families of fallen British soldiers in World War I, and King George V made him an Honorary General of the British Army in recognition of his generosity.

Ban Phibuntham combines neoclassical architecture and Italian Renaissance art under one roof. (Photos courtesy of KTC PR Press Club)

A collection of photographs illustrates the way of life at that time. You will see that a clock tower was built in response to King Rama VI’s call for the adoption of Universal Time. The royal train was started as a result of the union of the northern and southern railways. King Rama VI established the Football Association of Thailand in 1916, and in 1925 it became a member of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

Visitors can watch a foundation stone laying ceremony for the first building of Chulalongkorn University, which was held in 1915 to mark the beginning of higher education in Thailand.

Outside of the conventional military structure, King Rama VI established the Wild Tiger Corps in 1911 to form a peasant force to guard Thailand’s southern and eastern borders against Western nations. At the same time, visitors can witness his second coronation, which took place the same year and was attended by royals and presidents from 14 countries.

The adjacent Red Room is adorned with a collection of black and white photographs depicting the growth of financial institutions, public health, the coronation of King Rama VI, which was held in the Charoen Krung district and gave traders and villagers a direct way to complain, and Thailand’s first airport, which was once hosted by the Royal Turf Club of Thailand.

On the 2nd floor, the Ramjitti Library is a quiet place where bookworms can find a rare edition of plays and royal literature as well as a folder of 6,432 surnames that King Rama VI granted to officials and to members of the public. Also on display are a stack of his private books as The digital saying bookwhich has the monarchs handwriting on its cover.

The Thailand Railway Museum tells its story through a large collection of antiquities.

Just a five-minute drive from the Memorial Hall on Nakhon Sawan Road, the 126-year-old Seng Chong store was a pioneer in Bangkok’s leather goods industry. As Western fashion spread to Thailand, Chinese craftsman Liu Sengchong from Guangdong established his own shop in Charoen Krung and began selling a collection of handcrafted leather shoes in 1896.

He then expanded his product line to include leather equestrian gear such as saddles, boots and bridles, long popular with riders and equestrians.

The store moved to its current location in 2013 and is currently operated by Artrit Paditbatuka, a fourth generation owner.

“The Hakka specialized in craftsmanship. We were the first leather goods company in Bangkok to manufacture a selection of horse accessories for the royal court. Due to their affordability and durability, our products are more appealing to Thais on tight budgets. Now we’ve developed our designs and added fashion accessories to our product range,” Artrit said.

To ensure quality, the store uses only genuine leather from local, Italian and Pakistani manufacturers, as well as buffalo and sheepskin. Visitors can browse the latest collection of men’s shoes, belts, wallets, bags and dog training supplies.

“The outside of the shoes is made of cowhide, while the inside is lined with soft sheepskin, and the thick components are made of buffalo leather. We also provide customers with after-sales service,” Artrit said.

Artrit Paditbatuka is at the controls of Seng Chong, known for his quality equestrian equipment.

Turning left onto Krung Kasem Road, we arrived at the Raweekanlaya Bangkok Wellness Cuisine Resort, just in time for lunch. A traditional Thai dinner is served in a dining room overlooking a swimming pool and a lovely courtyard with a towering tree, local plants and flowers, giving us the feeling of being at home.

Phranom Tat Phungbun Na Ayudhya, the royal housekeeper of King Vajiravudh, once lived in this neoclassical style complex and her two sons had important historical roles. Major General Phraya Aniruthdeva (ML Fuan Phungbun) served as Rector of the Royal Army and Master of Ceremonies, and ML Fua Phungbun became the youngest member of Siamese nobility to hold the rank of chaophrayaor the highest ranking officer.

“King Vajiravudh allocated his land to build this house for Phranom Tat. It was made of wood and cement and the design seems simple to reflect its unambitious features. After the house was depreciated, his sons restored it to imitating the original and expanding its landscapes before the TCC Group turned it into a boutique hotel and restaurant in 2017,” said Thanat Bhumarush, secretary of the Thonburi Community Historical Information Center, who served as the special guide.

After lunch, we learned how to produce a unique Thai perfume using royal recipes from local expert Tivaporn Sektragool of Tevapirom Namprung Thai Classical Perfume. The main ingredients are niam, Chinese borneol, small Indian civet oil, kaffir lime and ethyl alcohol. The essential oil is a blend of jasmine, honey, chan kapo, orange jasmine and smoked candle floral water.

Raweekanlaya Bangkok Wellness Cuisine Resort was once the residence of Phranom Tat Phungbun Na Ayudhya, the royal housekeeper of King Vajiravudh.

The resort offers classic rooms and traditional Thai cuisine.

Tivaporn Sektragool leads a workshop on creating classic Thai fragrances at Raweekanlaya Bangkok Wellness Cuisine Resort.

“Thai perfume originated during the reigns of Kings Rama IV and V. It was extracted from flowers and medicinal plants for use in palaces. This celebrates local wisdom modifying Western perfume techniques to suit our Western perfume has a strong smell, but Thai people prefer something refreshing and sweet,” Tivaporn said.

“Herbs, plants and flowers are good for your health. For example, oil from small Indian civets can nourish the heart and stimulate the nervous system, while kaffir lime and Chinese borneol can uplift your spirits and help relieve stress, so you can sleep better.”

Leaving the complex, we continued to Ban Phibuntham, which is at the Ministry of Energy. Formerly known as Ban Nonthi, King Rama V gave Phraya Anurakratchamonthian (MR Pum Malakul) this 3 rai land to erect a house in 1897 before expanding its landscape during the reign of King Rama VI.

With a budget of 150,000 baht, it was designed by Italian architect Ercole Manfredi to offer an eye-catching fusion of neoclassical architecture and Italian Renaissance art. Superb gilded stuccoes of plants and nok karaweks with a dragon’s head and lion’s claws adorn the ceiling of the first building.

“Ban Nonthi was badly damaged by explosions during World War II, and his successor sold it to Plaek Phibunsongkharm in 1955. The house was renamed and rebuilt to serve as a reception hall for state visitors, including US President Richard Nixon,” Thanat said.

A little further on, the second building houses a meeting and reception area whose walls are covered with beautiful paintings by the Italian artist Carlo Rigoli showing some scenes from the Ramakian epic, angels in the sky and Ramasoon pursuing Mekhala.

The guided tour ended at the Thailand Railway Museum. Located on the ground floor of Bangkok Railway Station, it was opened in 2015 to showcase a wide range of old railway artifacts and instruments from all over Thailand.

There are classic crockery from the historic Railway Hotel in Hua Hin, as well as telegraphs, vending machines, and absolute block systems that limited the number of trains on the track to ensure safety. The 2nd floor is designed to look like a train cabin and houses a collection of steam and diesel locomotives as well as colorful vintage signs of various designs.


  • The King Vajiravudh Memorial Hall is at the National Library of Thailand, Samsen Road, Dusit District. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visitors must make an appointment in advance. Call 02-282-3264 or visit nlt.go.th for details.
  • Seng Chong is located at 85 Nakhon Sawan Road. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more details, visit facebook.com/sengchongequestrian.
  • Raweekanlaya Bangkok Wellness Cuisine Resort is located on Krung Kasem Road in Phra Nakhon District. Visit raweekanlaya.com for more details.
  • Ban Phibuntham is located at the Ministry of Energy. It is open to the public on weekends.
  • The Thai Railway Museum is located at Bangkok Railway Station. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit facebook.com/trftrm.

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