The vestiges of a system of city walls and fortifications is on display at the Pipit Bang Lamphu District Museum
The Kuru Sapha Printing House on Phra Sumen Road is an elegant building constructed in Bangkok Art Deco style. The building was the Kingdom’s first printing school, and then later a printing house. Now, however, the restored complex is home to the Pipit Bang Lamphu District Museum.
The place could also easily be renamed the ‘Wall Museum’ as it tells all about Bangkok city fortifications. In the space of three rooms, all with interactive screens, there is actually a lot to discover about the fortification system which used to surround Bangkok for over a century.
The idea for constructing a wall came first from King Thaksin who looked to the safety and the protection of the inhabitants in the newly created capital. Thonburi had already been surrounded by a city wall and the King, who elected to make his new capital on Rattanakosin Island, mulled over the same idea of protecting his residence.
In 1773, the construction of the city wall started under direct supervision of King Rama I. Labourers were recruited from Laos—especially from Vientiane—to come into the new capital. The first part of the wall had a length of 7.2 km, running along the Chao Phraya River and the newly created canals. The wall height was 3.6 metres and had a width of 2.7 metres.
The King asked to have city gates to let people in and out. There were a total of 63 doors, 16 being main gates. The exhibition tells the fascinating story of some the former gates. The Pratu Phee was, for example, known as the “Ghost Gate”—the compulsory passage to exit the city for the unfortunates who died from cholera. However, the most beautiful gate, Pratu Sam Yod, was marked by three arches surmounted by pinnacles.
Most of the city gates were destroyed, especially during the reigns of Rama V and Rama VI as the city expanded and new roads had to be constructed to accommodate the increasing flow of carriages and public transport.
Forts had a similar fate, as shown by the exhibition. An old map of Bangkok shows that the city once had up to 14 forts to protect citizens. Only three survive to this day, and Phra Sumen, located next to the museum, is the best preserved with its perfect octagonal shape. Fort Mahakan is another well-preserved relic, and soon it will be in the midst of a soon-to-be created public park. And, last but not least, there’s Fort Wichai, the oldest surviving fortress in the Bangkok Metropolitan Area. Built as an outpost to defend Ayutthaya, the structure was commissioned by King Narai in 1688 and given over to French engineers. Today it is part of the Royal Navy Headquarters, and is not open to the public.
Pipit Bang Lamphu District Museum
Phra Sumen Rd.
Open: Tue-Sun, 10am-6pm
Tel: 02 281 9828