Saturday, 14 November 2009

Thailand: Bangkok - A city of contrasts, a look at some buildings

As world capital's go, Bangkok is a young city, being founded 227 years ago, ahead of Kuala Lumpur by 75 years, but behind Singapore by 79 years.......
Most of the public building we see today date back, in the main, to the late 19th  & early 20th centuries'. (I am deliberately not including any Temples in this narrative.) The development and modernisation of Bangkok was due, primarily, to King Mongkut (1851-1868) and later on his son, King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910). For instance, the city's first paved street was completed in 1863 under Mongkut's rule, his son proceeded to construct new roads, developed a railway line to connect to the north of Thailand and oversaw the creation of a tramway.....

Bangkok is not a beautiful city by any means. Spread over some 350 kilometres, home to an estimated ten million people, Bangkok has grown into a sprawling mass of glistening skyscrapers, towering apartment blocks and gridlock traffic. There are also areas of the city overrun with  'decay',cheap housing, grimy housing blocks, poorly maintained roads and amenities. Of course, much could be said the same for certain districts of London, Paris and New York for example................!

The skyline from atop Baiyoke Tower

and the roof tops of 'Old Bangkok' from The Golden Mount

I have been photographing and filming Bangkok for almost one year, yet even now, I am always finding some new hidden gem to explore, some building that catches my attention, some area I have never visited. This next set of photographs on the buildings of Bangkok, is my latest offering. Here I have concentrated on picturing the contrasts within this great metropolis using lesser known buildings and a glimpse at the "cathedrals of commerce"...........

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX.
This image of the king is on the front of Bangkok City Hall....

 Bangkok City Hall
This is the home of the metropolitan administration
The 'square' in front of the building disguises an underground
carpark. Not a friendly place.......a few well placed potted trees
or shrubs, fountains and seating areas would enhance it no end......

This Administration Building, not far away
is shrouded by palm trees ........

The Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall 
Completed in 1904, this small one-storey building was used exclusively
for state occasions, such as receiving foreign ambassadors ....

The Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall
This was the former reception hall with the Dusit Palace and is now a museum...

The building has an interesting history:
Built in 1907 by Italian architects, the Hall was completed in 1915.During the 1932 Revolution, which saw Thailand transform from an absolute to constitutional monarchy, this was the headquarters of the Peoples' Party. The first National assembly was convened here in June 1932 and, until 1974, was the seat of Parliament.

The Ministry of Defence Building
Constructed between 1882-1884 on the site of three former royal palaces

Hua Lamphong is Bangkok's main Railway Terminus.
Opened in 1916, the station has a distinct "Italian Renaissance" style

Chinese Clock Tower in Lumpini Park
The Tower was built in 1925, the only visible reminder
of the Siamrath Phiphitthapan Trade Fair that was held here....

London is known for its characteristic terrace housing,
Bangkok is known for its shop-houses.....

The charming  Chinese-style pagoda in Saranrom Park


A former nineteenth century merchant's house,
now a restaurant, in Chinatown

The Jim Thompson House
This was the home of James H.W. Thompson, a self-made American Millionaire-entrepreneur,
who discovered Thai Silk and made it an international business.
The house dates back to the 1950's and is, actually a collection
of six buildings dating back more than two hundred years
that he combined to make one large home.....

The Ben Kamthieng House
This gem of a building is a traditional Thai Teak wood House dating back
some 160 years. One of the best surviving examples of Northern Thai architecture

The 'Downtown" skyline from Lumpini Park
The Park was created in the 1920's by King Rama VI....

Apartment Building overlooking the Chao Phraya River

The Millennium Hilton Hotel close by....
The building dates to 2006

Two Apartment skyscrapers abandoned......

There are several building like this within the
metropolitan area, victims of the 1997
economic crash.....

Even in Bangkok, the graffiti artist is at work........



The HSC would have a field day with construction here
in Bangkok.......


Thanon Ratchadamri in the heart of  "downtown" Bangkok

Baiyoke Tower II
Thailand's tallest building
This 85-storey 'Post-Modern' edifice houses a multi-storey car park,
hotel, revolving restaurant and  public observatory. 
Completed in 1997, the building took seven years to complete.....

CentralWorld Tower, also known as
the World Trade Centre was built in 2004

Zen Department Store & Tower, next door.....

The Centara Grand Hotel was completed in 2008
and towers over Wat Pathum Wanaram

Central World Plaza
This is Southeast Asia's second largest shopping mall complex, the largest being in Manila. The complex was originally opened in 1990 and was originally named The World Trade Centre. Anticipating the opening of Siam paragon Shopping Complex huge renovations and expansion took place in 2003.....

Statue in the Plaza.....

Inside Central World.....
one small corner, that is.....!!!!

Main Lift Atrium in Central World

Entrance to Siam Paragon complex
Another grand shopping centre, completed in 2005

Bangkok has become a shopaholic’s "delight" that is unrivaled anywhere in Southeast Asia

The walkway to the complex  passes a cascade of water

Looking up one of the main escalator halls in the complex.........

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Thailand: Bangkok - A city of contrasts, the waterways

I maintain that Bangkok is still the  "Venice of the East", albeit greatly 'tarnished' and in desperate need of a makeover...... Many of the canals that have existed a century ago, have either become little more than waste grounds or have been converted into roadways for the ever increasing thirsty motor vehicle.
Yet canals remain, though, apart from the Khlong Saen Seap, little used and no longer form the life blood of thie city. Here are some of my favourite locations:

Khlong Law
Close to the Grand Palace & Ministry of Defense Building


The Saphan Hok
The bridge was initially made of wood with a lift-able walkway to allow boats to pass by.
Six such bridges were built between the reigns of King Rama IV & King Rama V,
both in Bangkok and Thon Buri. The full name for these bridges was
'Saphan Hok Baeb Wilanda' meaning  Holland-style....

Today, none remain except this 'replica' rebuilt using period photographs.

Reminds me of Amsterdam........

A quiet leafy corner.....

This Khlong has a pleasant rest stop.....

This tree is covered with Chinese shrines

Khlong Wat Thethida

hung with ornaments.....



A peaceful backwater....

'Local houses' on the Khlong Saen Seap

Passenger boat on the Khlong Saen Seap
Central World Tower in the middle background....

These are two out of eight stone murals on the
small bridge that crosses the Khlong Saen Seap
near Mahakan Fort, close to the Old City


Along the Khlong Ong Ang........

The entrance to Khlong Krun Kasem on the Chao Phraya River