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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Khlong San neighbourhood is full of historical treasure not found on any tourist map.

Wat Phichaya Yatikaram Worawiharn
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The Khlong San neighborhood is full of historical treasure not found on any tourist map


ONCE A thriving trade hub on the west bank of Chao Phraya River, today the Khlong San neighborhood is a popular biking and walking route with travellers, both local and foreign, and a treasure trove of history dating back to the Thon Buri and early Rattanakosin kingdoms. 
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Despite being a stone’s throw away from downtown Bangkok, it’s a place to escape the city’s fast pace while indulging in a diversity of cultures. Thai temples stand proudly beside Chinese shrines and mosques along the riverside mixed in with old houses and businesses that pay testament to the craftsmanship of the past. 
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In 1829, Thad Bunnag, a regent serving as Somdet Chao Phraya Bor om Maha Pichaiyat, restored an abandoned temple built in the Ayutthaya period and dedicated it to King Rama III. King Rama IV later renamed it Wat Phichaya Yatikaram Worawiharn.
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Located on Somdet Chao Phraya Road, the temple blends classic Thai and Chinese style architecture. A mix of such materials as cement, ballast, coloured tiles and Chinese stones add an exotic touch. 
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The entrance has an auspicious arch decorated with Thai-style ornaments, while a pair of lion-shaped stone statues act as the gatekeepers. 
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 “In the past, most of the properties in Khlong San district were owned by Bunnag family. During his reign, King Rama III had a project to renovate many temples around the town, and Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Pichaiyat was in charge of Krung Thonburi and Phra Nakhon districts. To save time and money, King Rama III renovated all temples with plain walls and roofs. There were no longer any gables or tooth-like ridges on the edge of gables because they made from wood and were therefore not durable,” explains Thanat Bhumarush from the tourism division of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. 
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 This fine mural at Wat Phichaya Yatikaram Worawiharn depicts auspicious symbols such as a falling flower, pomegranate and butterfly.
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A soaring Ubosot stands in middle showcasing a pink Chinese-style pediment on its roof, adorned with beautifully crafted coloured tiles and ceramic-ware that looks like dragons flying in the sky.
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The temple is home to an ancient Sukhothai-style Buddha statue from Phitsanulok province with an oval, smiling face, spiral-like hair and a bulging chest. There’s also a boundary maker fashioned from granite and engraved with a breast chain motif.
The walls are covered with murals depicting such auspicious symbols as a falling flower referencing goodness, a butterfly referring to long life and pomegranate representing numerous descendants.
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“The two-dimensional murals were influenced by the Ayutthaya period. Skilled artisans used organic colours made from natural materials. For example, the white came from shells, the red was blended from sealing lac, the brown was extracted from bark and the yellow obtained from ore,” Thanat says.
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Inspired by Mount Meru, the white beautiful stupa is a combination of Khmer and Indian styles and borrows from the shapes of corn and bells. It houses four gold Buddha statues and four footprints, paying tribute to the four lords of Buddha.
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During the reign of King Rama III, Somdet Thad’s wife built Wat Anong Kharam. This temple is lined with stone boundary makers imported from China and a sacred ubosot that’s home to a Phra Chulanak statue from Sukhothai province. There’s also a small Buddha statue called Phra Phuttamongkol, created by the Bunnag family, that is plated with bronze and copper and contained in a movable gold pavilion and a refined painting that plays with Thai proverbs.
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A little further along on the riverbank stands the Gong Wu Shrine. It was erected back in 1736 as a place of worship by Teochew migrants. Refurbished in 1901, this sacred shrine features a collection of three Gong Wu sculptures from China and a stunning mural telling the story of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang as he travelled with his followers from China to India.
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“The design is based on the principles of feng shui and uses crab-like sculptures to represent the monk’s followers and shows two Western men carrying a shoulder pole,” Thanat explains. 
A short walk from the shrine is the old Laem Thong salt factory, which 50 years ago produced 1,000 tons of salt every month for export to Malaysia and Singapore. Today, the factory is located in Khlong Dao Khanong and distributes saline to Malaysia and Borneo Island for use in the tofu industry.
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Surrounded by old shophouses and warehouses is the Saifee Mosque, a white masjid that mimics the design of the original mosque in Bharuch, India.
Its history dates back to 1907 when an Indian diamond merchant and his family transformed an old warehouse into a two-storey mosque using premium-grade granite and marble left over from the construction of Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall.
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Source - TheNation
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