Charoen Krung is the oldest paved road in Bangkok. Modern buildings may line parts of the road, but it still evokes nostalgia for a bygone era, and is thus ideal for a walking tour.
The road was built in 1861 following a petition filed by European consuls living in Bangkok. They complained to King Rama IV that there were no roads on which they could ride in their horse-drawn open carriages to enjoy the fresh air, as was the custom in their home countries. In consequence, they said, their health was being compromised.
Running roughly parallel to the Chao Phraya river, this eight-kilometre road starts at Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and ends at the Krung Thep Bridge, there connecting with tourist attractions such as China-town, Phahurat (little India), the Grand Palace, Khlong Thom Market (a local market noted for its low cost electronic equipment and devices), as well as the capital’s business district, centred around Silom and Sathorn roads. These places are popular with tourists taking a walking tour.
A one-kilometre stretch of the road from Sathorn BTS (sky-train) station down to the General Post Office is a bit off the beaten track of most tourists. Nevertheless, it makes for a pleasant walking tour with fewer pavement food vendors and a good number of old Chinese shop-houses, shrines, mosques and crumbling buildings in colonial style.
Old and New: Some buildings are renovated. Some are not.
A modern boutique shop on Charoenkrung Road
The General Post Office
Bangkok Folk Museum
Just off Charoen Krung, in Soi Charoen Krung 43, one can find the Bangkok Folk Museum, neatly tucked away.
The museum was originally the home of a middle-class Thai family by the name of Suravadee. The double-storey house was built in 1937 in colonial style, but with a distinct Thai architectural influence. It was converted into a museum in 2004, along with two other buildings forming part of the property. This was made possible by Ms. Waraporn Surawadee, daughter of the original owner, who kindly made the property available to the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority for this purpose.
The museum offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of middle-class Bangkokians during World War II and displays records of the history of Bangkok and the Bangrak district, where the museum is located.
Set in a lush garden, the museum consists of two houses and a building containing various exhibits. There is a separate annex which Ms Waraporn Surawadee uses as her personal residence.
On the ground floor of the first building, which used to be the family home, visitors can see such items as well-preserved old furniture, wooden and glass cabinets, porcelain dinner sets, a pendulum clock, a record player, and traditional irons. The second floor contains the bedrooms with, amongst other things, wardrobes, a dressing table from Russia and an old-style sewing machine. Here, too, visitors can see old family photographs.
The second building, built in 1929, was intended to be the home and clinic of Dr. Francis Christian, a British-Indian doctor and the stepfather of Surawadee. Unfortunately, Dr. Christian died before he could move in. Notable displays are his cigar collection and medical equipment.
The third building has a large collection of kitchen utensils and equipment used in traditional Thai households. It is also used for displaying, for example, the title deeds of the house, old Bangkok maps, and various dog kennels, bird cages, etc. formerly used by the family.
How to start a walking tour
Start at Sathorn BTS (sky train) station. Take exit 3. Turn left. out of the station and start walking along the road.
You will soon find yourself walking along a busy pavement with Chinese shop-houses, local restaurants, and pavement food vendors. Once you pass this area, the pavement becomes more peaceful.
To go to the Bangkok Folk Museum, continue walking for about 800 metres until you reach Charoen Krung Soi 43, opposite the General Post Office. Turn into this soi (meaning ‘small street’) and continue walking for about five minutes. You will see the museum on your right- hand side.
If you have two hours before boarding the Mekhala cruise, it is worth exploring this area or even visiting the Bangkok Folk Museum.
The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 am. to 4 pm.
Admission: Free of Charge
By bus: bus number 21,35, 36, 45, 93
Tel: 02-2337027, 02-2346741