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Phraeng Phuton

Phraeng Phuton

Prince Nara Palace

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Introduction to Phraeng Phuton

Thanks to the efforts of the local community, this is probably the best preserved heritage neighborhood in Bangkok. Recently, the residents within Praeng Phuton decided to restore their community and improve their landscape. With some government support and donated paint, they brought the community back to life. They have created an open public space in the center of the square which they use for community plays and festivals, just like in the old days. Things look pretty much the same today as they did during the reign of King Rama 5.

A royal palace belonging to Prince Phutaret, a son of King Rama 4, once stood here. After the Prince passed away, the land was purchased by King Rama 5. He built this road and constructed these row-houses. On this block there are 145 rooms decorated with beautiful fretted wooden works, typical of the neo-classical European design favored by Rama 5. Most of the ground level rooms have been converted into offices and shops. Many of these are restaurants known for their excellent Thai cuisine, including one of the most famous Thai restaurants called Chote Chitr which, in spite of its simple homely appearance, boasts a menu of over 400 of Bangkok’s most tasty dishes. It is located on your left just as you enter the community.

As you walk further along the road you will notice a number of Austin cars. These are a part of a private collection owned by a local businessman. The owner, named Vichian, has over 16 Austin cars, one of which he sold to the Crown Prince. Inside his autoshop he keeps 2 or 3 older Mercedes Benz cars inside his autoshop on the right side of the street, the type that would have been seen in the early 1900s when cars were first introduced to Siam. This autoshop was one of the first in Siam and also served as Bangkok’s first Driver’s License Bureau. Those few Siamese citizens who could afford cars would come here to register them and to get their driving permits. Many of Bangkok’s first drivers had to go round and round in this circle to demonstrate that they could drive. Conveniently, the Red Cross health clinic was here to treat anyone who couldn’t.

Sukhuman Health Clinic

Its easy to spot the clinic as it is the only building standing in the community square. This is Bangkok’s second Red Cross dispensary. Its construction was the dying wish of Queen Sukhuman, one of Rama 5’s chief queens, before she passed away on July 9th, 1927. Inside the clinic you can see a large photograph of Rama 5 with Queen Sukhuman.

This Red Cross station was built using donations collected during the Queen’s funeral ceremony. The total cost of construction was 17,712 and 21 satang. The clinic is partly maintained using interest accrued from remaining donations which are kept in the bank.

The clinic still functions as a Red Cross dispensary. Patients arrive at the clinic as early as 5 am to queue in the benches set on the patio of the clinic. Patients are treated by any of the 16 medical staff members that live upstairs in the clinic, and two visiting doctors from Chulalongkorn University. According to the security guard, most injuries can be treated here, and a fair amount of people come in for stitches following street brawls or minor injuries suffered the night before. The plaque mounted on the front wall reads: “May these facilities be used as the Queen wished and may those who made contributions for its construction be successful in gaining their wishes.”

In 1911, one military group called “Kana 130” made secret plans to assassinate King Rama 6 who, at that time, had only been on the throne for two years. The government discovered the plot before it went down, and captured all those involved. One of them was living here in Phraeng Phuton at the time. A small gathering of local residents looked on in astonishment as the police raided his home and took him into custody. All the involved conspirators in the Kana 130 assassination plot were found guilty and sentenced to death. However, Rama 6 forgave them and reduced their punishment to life imprisonment. Later, Rama 6 released them all despite the fact that they had once plotted to kill him.

By Blaine Johnson

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