Charoen Krung Soi 36 is not anymore… Instead of the old sign with Soi 36, a new street name shows “Rue de Brest” (Brest street. On February 15, a ceremony presided by French Ambassador to Thailand Thierry Viteau, Thailand’s Minister of Culture Sontaya Kunplome, the Permanent Deputy Secretary to the city of Bangkok Pirapong Saicheua and the Mayor of the city of Brest , François Cuillandre officially unveiled the renamed small alley which goes to the French Ambassador’s residence and to the old Customs House. Why choosing “Rue de Brest”, a name which will certainly remain a mystery and above all unpronounceable to most locals?
Well, the city of Brest in Britanny (Western France) used to be a major gateway to all boats and ships from 1631, the year of the creation of a military Port. During the reign of King Louis XIV, Brest became France’s largest manufacturing centre for boats.
Following the first contacts with the Royal Court of Siam in Ayutthaya, three ambassadors were sent to France by the King of Siam. Travelling on l’Oiseau and La Maligne boats with six mandarins, three translators, two secretaries and two dozen of servants, they disembarked in Brest to meet King Louis XIV on June 29, 1686. Crossing the city centre of Brest in their exotic outfits, the ambassadors procession left such a lasting memory on locals that the city decided to rename the street they passed “rue de Siam”. A document drawn up in Brest in 1694 attests of the new name. Today rue de Siam is Brest’s main commercial thoroughfare.
The project of remembering 300-year of diplomatic relations between France and Siam was initiated by Gildas Le Lidec, former French Ambassador to Thailand. Sign boards in the Soi provide information in French, Thai and English. Despite the signs and the new “Rue de Brest” signage, it is still advised to continue to mention to taxi and tuk tuk drivers “Charoen Krung Soi Sam Sip Hok” (Soi 36)!