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  1. #1
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    The Secrets Of Tha Tian



    A vintage photo of Tha Tian Pier suggests the area's importance as a major crossroads of trade and commerce.

    The Nation
    November 2, 2014
    By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit

    Why is this oldest shard of Bangkok named "wiped-out pier"? And much more

    You don't get anything like a complete picture of Tha Tian - one of Bangkok's oldest communities - in the exhibition about it at Museum Siam. Instead, the sparse panel of display boards is your launching pad to the area along the riverside itself. This is your starting point for a visit to "Tha Tian: Where Bangkok City Was Born", ideally via bicycle and a mobile app.

    In a unique approach to explaining just how important Tha Tian was as a trade centre as far back as the 17th century, the museum has prepared the "Tha Tian" application for smartphones with either Android or iOS, in Thai and English.

    It has a map on which you can "favourite" the locations you like best while you're exploring, and a hard-copy illustrated map is also available at the museum. They show the community stretched out along Maharaj Road from Museum Siam itself to the Grand Palace. At five points you can learn from your phone app about the history, with 3D visualisation made with AR (augmented reality) technology. Another 10 spots have a QR code to swipe with your phone for more information.

    And your tour can be done on foot or on a bicycle available for free at the museum.

    "The museum is part of the Tha Tien community, so we're aware of the history, culture, traditions and surroundings," says museum director Rames Promyen. "This is a way to retain the community's identity amid rapid changes and urbanisation. Learning the past allows us to a better understanding our present."

    From the starting point at the museum I crossed Maharaj Road to Soi Tha Kham opposite, where the Rajini Pier juts into the river. Following the app's directions, I pointed my phone toward Vichai Prasit Fort on the opposite bank. A 3D image appeared on the phone screen, which explained that the rulers of Ayutthaya erected the fort in the 16th century to halt any invaders who might try to approach northward up the Chao Phraya.

    There was another fort called Vichayane next to where I was standing, I learned, probably where Rajini School is now. But it was destroyed after Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese attacking from the west in 1767.

    In the latter part of the Ayutthaya Period, Tha Tian on the southern frontier was both militarily strategic and a port for foreign ships entering Siam. When the capital was moved to Thonburi, it became a trading centre for agricultural produce, and that aspect blossomed when King Rama I had the Grand Palace rebuilt on the eastern bank where it still stands.

    Tha Tian was close by, surrounded by Chinese and Annamese settlements and, increasingly, by royal temples and palaces, so it soon grew into the area's largest wholesale trade and retail market. Its location was ideal for transporting goods up and down the river and out among the radiating canals.

    I walked up Soi Pan Suk, arrayed with old shophouses and warehouses being turned into boutique hotels and chic restaurants. The appeal today is in the antiquity of the buildings and surroundings. Scan the QR code at the entrance to the Aurum River Place hotel and you see a brief history. This, it says, is likely where the Prince Theatre stood, owned by Chao Phraya Mahinthon, King Mongkut's charge d'affaires in England.

    "There's no evidence to prove this is the actual site, but it's where scholars believe it was," says Museum Siam curator Taweesak Woraritrueang-urai. "Performances were held there each week, which is where Thais got the word 'wik', meaning 'theatre'." The term still refers to stagecraft today, although only to the traditional forms, like likay.

    The present-day Tha Tian Market remains a sizeable wholesale and retail outlet for dried seafood, farm produce and herbs, though it's nowhere nearly as bustling as in its heyday. Inside there's another QR code, at a shop called Ei Hong Tai, which sells salted eggs. You get a video clip of the third-generation owner, Adchara Kaewkornpradit, explaining the history of her 70-year-old shop.

    And then I turned around and met her in person.

    "My grandpa settled here and initially ran a grocery shop," she said. "Back then Tha Tian was a huge market open all day and night, and you could find everything you needed. The eggs usually came on big boats coming down the river from the North, from Nakhon Sawan and Chai Nat, in crates that held more than 1,000 eggs each and required two workers to carry.

    "Today we use eggs from Suphan Buri to make both salted eggs and a hundred-year-old eggs that are marketed under many brands."

    Veraus Chin-itsarayos is the "star" of another short video, having earlier this year transformed his family's four-storey palm-sugar factory on the Soi Supan Pier into a small hotel called Inn a Day.

    "My family sold palm sugar wholesale, but the business gradually faded," he says. "Since we're on the river and opposite Wat Arun, I thought it would be a good place for a boutique hotel. To stay true to our origins, the hotel has the industrial-loft style and retains some of the equipment used in the factory."

    Wat Pho is famously renowned as the country's first public university, becoming a seat of learning at the insistence of King Rama III when he ordered its restoration. Among the "lost sciences" whose principles are inscribed in stone for the public's edification was the art of massage. An AR marker on the app tells the story when you point your phone at one of the chapels.

    It was Rama I who amassed a collection of traditional pharmacopeia and commissioned statues of hermit monks contorted in various healthy exercises. The images were originally moulded in clay and played in gold, later from more durable pewter.

    Point your phone at those giant guardian statues in front of the mondop if you dare and you'll learn their story from the app - in 3D imagery. They used to be actual giant warriors, but then they got into a battle with their counterparts from across the river at Wat Arun.

    The fighting was so fierce that it leveled all of the area subsequently known as Tha Tien, and the Lord Shiva was so mightily displeased at the destruction that he turned all of the giants into eternal stone security guards for the temples.

    And that's why the battlefield came to be known as Tha Tian - it literally means "wiped-out pier".

    I couldn't possible manage to visit all of the spots marked on |the walking tour in a single day, but happily the exhibition has been extended until February, allowing plenty of time to soak up everything at leisure.

    "Tha Tian: Where Bangkok City Was Born" continues until February 1.

    Museum Siam is on Sanam Chai Road and open daily except Monday from 10 to 6.

    Call (02) 225 2777 or visit www.MuseumSiam.com.

    The secrets of Tha Tian - The Nation


  2. #2
    Thailand Expat terry57's Avatar
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    I find that a very interesting area to walk around. Some great little restaurants right on the river there .

    The side walks in that area are the next ones to be cleared of street sellers.

    Amulet boys will be pissed off.

  3. #3
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    Get a Jatukom to ward off amulet vendors, big lucky for hansum man likey you

  4. #4
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    lovely to go and stop off there on a sensible cultured day

  5. #5
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    good read
    thanks
    (the nation)

  6. #6
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    Very interesting, tks

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