The Old Customs House – Nostalgia in Bangkok

The old Customs House is a group of historic buildings located right at the banks of the Chao Phraya River at Soi Charoen Krung 36. It is also referred to as Sunlaka Sathan. In the past, this House was the gateway to Thailand because ships from foreign countries had to pass through this customs area when they entered the city. The House is also called ‘Rong Phasi’ since the tax was referred to as ‘Rong Phasi Roi Chak Sam’.

The Old Customs House in Bangkok

Customs House in Bangkok*

Customs House in Bangkok*

After Thailand’s economy had changed from monopolized to free trade since the Bowring Treaty in 1855, King Rama V (r. 1873-1910) gave orders to built the Customs House in 1888. Hence, the building was designed in Neo-Renaissance-style by the Italian architect Joachim Grassi (1834-1904) and completed around 1890.

Bang Rak fire station in Neoclassical-style*

Bang Rak fire station in Neoclassical-style*

Thus, it can be considered a significant building constructed in a Western style and belonging to the early period of modern architecture in the reign of King Chulalongkorn. In addition, the building is very prominent because of its proximity to the Chao Phraya and the fact that the complex is reflected on the surface of the river. Nevertheless, some decades later, in 1949, the custom office was transferred to a new port at Khlong Toey.

An example of fine architecture*

Rundown today but an example of fine architecture*

Consequently, the House was transformed into the Bang Rak fire brigade station. Since then the building has been neglected over the decades, it is rundown today. However, it can still be considered a fine piece of architectural nostalgia in modern and busy Bangkok. Although the fire station appears to be decayed, it is still full in function.

The fire brigade station*

The fire brigade station*

What is more, this place is a popular setting for photographers and some people choose this place to take wedding photos. In addition, it has also been a popular backdrop for movies. For instance, some scenes of ‘Killing Fields’ directed by Roland Joffé (1984) and Wong Kar Wai’s ‘In the Mood for Love’ (2000) were filmed there.

A popular backdrop for photographs and movies*

A popular backdrop for photographs and movies*

Nowadays the building is owned by the Natural Park Public Company Limited and Silverlink Holdings Ltd. It is still unclear whether this building will be renovated or demolished to give way to a more contemporary structure. In my opinion the building is certainly worthy of preservation.

A colourful door*

A colourful window*

However, the Customs House in Bangkok, the abandoned building with its historical, architectural and aesthetic value will charm you at a first glance for sure 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

*photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay

(Further reading: Alisa Dechar, Preliminary Study of The Existing Conditions of The Customs House For Adaptive Reuse, Silpakorn University 2005)




Happy Valentine’s Day!

14th February is a special day because it’s Valentine’s Day, a day of love and harmony. If you ask yourself if this special day for lovers is only a ‘Western matter’ or whether it is also popular in Thailand, you can be sure that the celebrations in Thailand beats Valentine celebrations in the Western world by far.

In point of fact, 14th February festivity for lovers is extremely popular in Thailand, it’s celebrated enthusiastically and passionately. Hence, a lot of time and money is spent for this day and you may also critically say that it is a commercial ‘thing’ over there. In particular, teenager and young people like to exchange presents with their loved ones and they often like to go to a romantic dinner in the evening.

Valentine’s Day Celebrations

Valentine's Day Tree (photo: Johntex, wikimedia.org)

Valentine’s Day Tree (photo: Johntex, wikimedia.org)

It is the time when guys give beautiful flower bouquets, chocolates and other kinds of sweets to their love.

However, not only teenagers but also adults very much enjoy Valentine’s special Day celebrations in Thailand. Thus, exchanging gifts on this day has become a tradition in Thailand.

Valentine's Day gifts in thailandSelling gifts for lovers in Thailand

Thai flower bouquet for Valentine's Day

Thai flower bouquet

On 14th February, shopping malls are beautifully decorated to suit Valentine’s Day and its setting of love and harmony.

In the malls, there are also stalls which sell flowers, sweets, toys and heart shaped balloons on this special day.

In addition, and this is an interesting and fun fact, many couples like to get married on Valentine’s Day in Thailand. Thus, on this day many couples go to the municipal offices in Bangkok’s district of Bang Rak (บางรัก) in order to register their marriages. In fact, Bang Rak means the ‘love district’ (‘Rak’ is the Thai word for love, to love). As a matter of fact, the Bang Rak district office gives 12 gold marriage certificates to 12 fortunate couples who register their marriage at the district office on 14th February.

Suiting the this day’s theme, I’d like to feature a new song by theBOYKOR. It’s called ‘The Wedding Singer’.

Along these lines, I wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day wherever you are!

Yours, Sirinya