Topics for this issue include:
- Updates about Thailand Pass
- Bangkok Railway Station
- Photo Opportunity in Bangkok
- Views from The Quarter Hualamphong
- Download a Free Bangkok Guidebook
- Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem Canal
- Electric Canal Boat Ride
- The Yellow Line Monorail
- The future of LHONG 1919
- Corrections Museum
- Interesting Tweets
- Bangkok Walking Maps – 7
Updates about Thailand Pass
You’ve probably heard by now that the expected easing of entry rules didn’t materialise. They were going to change RT-PCR testing with the quicker and cheaper ATK test. But then the new variant happened. I personally think that the media and some governments are overreacting to this news. A Bangkok Post headline referred to it as a “deadly virus”. There’s no proof that this is actually true. Obviously, time will tell but we shouldn’t undo all the hard work that has been done in trying to reboot the economy. There are already many safety measures in place, and we really need to start moving forward.Of course, that might be famous last words and so I better stop now. Like I said on social media last week, there is only one certainty about international travel at the moment and that is uncertainty. For expats and Thais to come back to Thailand is one thing. But for someone to come here on holiday with their family, they really need to do their homework and make sure that everything they book is fully refundable. No-one can predict the future. And no-one can predict how the government will react to the new variant. As we have seen before, they can and will change entry rules at short notice.
Bangkok Railway Station
The future of the 105-year-old Bangkok Railway Station, otherwise known as Hua Lamphong, remains unknown. The Italian Neo-Renaissance-style building took six years to build and was officially opened on 25th June 1916. The canal running along the bottom of the above picture was called Khlong Hua Lamphong. Which is one reason why local people today call the main station Hua Lamphong. In fact, between 1893 and 1960, there was another station next to this canal called Hua Lamphong Station which was the terminal station for the Paknam Railway that went to Samut Prakan province. After this railway line was disbanded, the canal and the railway were covered over and became part of the much wider present day Rama IV Road.
The original plan for Bangkok Railway Station was to have a gradual closure. They were going to move the long-distance trains to the new terminal station at Bang Sue Grand Station but keep the local commuter trains where they are now. This is because many people are still using these trains to enter central Bangkok from the northern outskirts. But then a decision was made to close the station completely this month with the last trains expected to leave on 23rd December. They said they will put on shuttle buses for these commuters. Obviously, a lot of people are upset about this.One of the main reasons cited for moving the terminal station to the northern outskirts of the city was because traffic had to be stopped hundreds of times a day at level crossings. According to a story in the Bangkok Post, there are 27 crossings in the capital. Seven crossings in particular cause congestion including Pradiphat, Ranong, Sri Ayutthaya and Phetchaburi roads. This problem was seen as early as 1927 when they built Kasat Suek Bridge, just north of the terminal, so that vehicles on Rama I Road could cross over the railway without being delayed. The picture above is the view looking south from this bridge.
Once all trains have stopped running in and out of Bangkok Railway Station, the land belonging to the State Railway of Thailand will be put up for commercial development. So far, no-one can say for sure if the historical buildings can remain without being demolished to make way for a shopping mall. But one thing is for sure, they cannot rush into anything as they need to get permission to rezone this area for commercial use, which could take two to three years. Which is why they should allow the local commuter trains to remain at this station. At least until the Red Line elevated tracks are built between Bang Sue Grand Station and Hua Lamphong. Yes, I know, they should have done that first.
An old aerial photo showing Bangkok Railway Station and Phadung Krung Kasem canal. Barges brought goods up from the Chao Phraya River and loaded them onto trains. Hua Lamphong Station and the canal alongside it are now the present day Rama IV Road #รถไฟไทย #thaitrain #Bangkok https://t.co/Dk1awcQfxu
Photo Opportunity in Bangkok
Tickets for the Father’s Day steam train trip went on sale last week and sold out within 24 hours. Even if you were unable to buy a ticket, you can still go to the station to take pictures or wait for it along the route. The steam locomotive will leave Bangkok Railway Station on Sunday at 8:10am. It will then make stops at Samsen, Bang Sue, Bang Khen, Lak Si, and Don Mueang stations. This will take nearly an hour. You can take photos at any place along the track. I will be at Bangkok Railway Station by 7:30 am. I hope to see you there!
Views from The Quarter Hualamphong
As this is most likely the last month for Bangkok Railway Station, I decided to do a kind of “farewell tour” of the station, the local community and some of the destinations you can go to by train. So last weekend, I stayed in two hotels near the station. My favourite by far was The Quarter Hualamphong where I took the above view from. This picture was taken from the lobby on the 12th floor, but I was lucky to have this view from my room as well. Prices start from only 600 baht for this hotel. That didn’t include breakfast but there are plenty of places locally to eat. The other reason that I liked this hotel is the off-road parking. Even though I checked out early in the morning to take a train trip, I was allowed to leave my car there all day until I came back in the evening.
This view of Wat Traimit at sunset was also taken from The Quarter Hualamphong hotel. The photo of the station was taken looking east from the lobby. This one is looking west and was taken from the swimming pool on the 12th floor. The building with the golden spire houses the Golden Buddha which weighs an incredible 5.5 tonnes. The story goes that no-one knew for years that it was made from gold as it was covered with a layer of stucco and coloured glass. In 1955, while it was being moved, some of the plaster cracked revealing the gold underneath. The rest is history. The Golden Buddha has just re-opened to the public. In the same building there is an interesting museum about the history of Chinatown.
- Wat Traimit: https://goo.gl/maps/
If you are planning on exploring Bangkok any time soon, then you may be interested in downloading this free PDF of the Bangkok Smiles 2021 Guidebook produced by the Bangkok Tourism division. There are 52 pages in total and file size is 104 MB. Click here to download. Please note, this will be a ‘limited time’ download link so make sure you download now if you think you may be interested.
Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem
Last weekend, I explored Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem canal on foot. This outer moat for the Grand Palace was dug in the 1850’s. The original outer moat, where the Khlong Ong Ang walking street is, was built in 1783 shortly after the founding of Rattanakosin as the new capital by King Rama I. This first line of defence was 3.4 kilometres long. However, by the reign of King Rama IV, the city had outgrown itself and so there was a need for a new outer moat. This new moat, which was named Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem, is 20 metres wide, 3 metres deep and 5.5 kilometres long. They didn’t build a wall for this one, but they did build seven forts. None of which have survived. All the land on the right-hand bank of this photo belongs to the State Railway of Thailand. Once the railway station has been closed, this same view will probably be unrecognisable in 5-10 years as there will most likely be skyscrapers built on the other bank.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) are improving the landscape on each side of Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem for 1,250 meters where it runs alongside Bangkok Railway Station. They will widened the path to include a jogging track and also plant 151 more trees. This is an artist impression of what this section of Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem canal will look like. The BMA anticipates that this new green area will be finished by March 2022. You can see more pictures of what it will look like on my richardbarrow.com website. I’ve also posted a live photo blog of exploring this canal on foot.
Electric Canal Boat Ride
I love doing boat trips and so last weekend I took the free electric boat service on Phadung Krung Kasem Canal. I started my ride at Hua Lamphong Pier which is conveniently near the MRT station of the same name and Bangkok Railway Station. There are a total of 11 piers along Phadung Krung Kasem Canal all the way up to Thewarat Market Pier. From here it is then a few minutes’ walk to Thewes Pier which is an express boat stop on the Chao Phraya River. From the railway station pier to here took about 30 minutes.
There are seven electric boats. If fully charged, they can run for 4-5 hours at a top speed of 10-15km/hour. There are solar panels on the roof, but this only contributes to about 10% of all power needed. So, after about four hours they need to be plugged in for about three hours.On weekdays, boats on Phadung Krung Kasem Canal leave every 15 minutes between 6am-9am & 4pm-7pm. Between 9am & 4pm the boats leave every 30 minutes. At the weekend, the boats leave every 15 minutes between 8am-9am & 4pm-7pm. Between 9am & 4pm the boats leave every 30 minutes.
The Yellow Line Monorail
This is the new monorail train on the Yellow Line. They are presently doing test runs between Si Iam and Si Nut stations both of which are on Srinakarin Road on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok. The MRT Yellow Line runs from Lat Phrao to Samrong which is a total of 30.4 kilometres. There are 23 stations. If everything goes to plan, it should open to the public in July 2022. I’ve been invited to a pre-opening test run next year which I am really excited about. I will share with you more information about this line and the other one, which runs past the government complex on Chaengwattana Road, in a future newsletter.
The Future of LHONG 1919
LHONG 1919 on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok was originally a steamship terminal in 1850. It included shops, offices and a shrine. Around 1900 it was converted into rental home-offices. In 1919, it was sold to the Wanglee family. They then restored it to its former glory. As well as the shrine, they opened boutique shops and galleries. It’s also a nice place for doing selfies and getting pictures for Instagram. But I am afraid I now need to use past tense. AWC, which is a lifestyle real estate group, has signed a lease contract to use this land and property for 64 years to build a luxury wellness resort. I’ve already contacted them to find out what will happen to the warehouses. I will give you an update in the next newsletter. As far as visiting the site, I’m afraid that it is now too late as it is closed to the public.
Rommaninat Park used to be the Bangkok Remand Prison which was built back in 1889. The watchtowers still remain as do some of the administration buildings and one cell block. This is also the site of the Bangkok Corrections Museum which I have visited several times over the years. I haven’t been for a long time as they closed it for renovations. I do check back on it every now and then, but sadly, when I went last week, I saw that they haven’t even started renovating yet. So, it will be several more years yet.
Bangkok Walking Maps – 7
This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for Bang Rak and Silom which is one of my favourite areas along the Chao Phraya River. A good starting point is BTS Saphan Taksin station. If you are doing these walks and are posting your pictures on social media, please use the hashtag #walkingBKK as I would like to see what you have discovered. In all, there are fifteen of these maps to collect. There will be another free download link next week.FREE DOWNLOADS:
I am really sorry that this newsletter came out so late. Now that I am travelling every weekend, and have school during the week, I have so little free time. These newsletters usually take a couple of days to research and write. I will work out a better schedule as I really want to continue, but the next one will be a little late too. I am on train trips all this weekend and then hopefully on a boat trip on Monday. Then I am in Phuket next week on a media trip to get firsthand knowledge of what it is like there. The following week I am up in Chiang Mai, and then the week after I am hopefully doing a week-long boat and road trip down south.Anyway, the next newsletter will have a competition to win some beautiful 2022 calendars. I picked them up at TAT HQ yesterday. They gave me ten calendars which I will give away. Before I forget, the winners of the last competition were Jissel Jorge and Stephen Harris. Congratulations to them both. I will be going to the post office soon to send off your prizes.That’s all for this week for my weekly Letters from Thailand newsletter. Thanks for reading this far and I hope to see you next time. If you like this newsletter, please suggest to your friends to subscribe to it. It is 100% free. Thanks!