Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Suan Somdet Ya in Bangkok

Statue of Somdet YaI mentioned it already earlier, the Somdet Ya park in Bangkok's Khlong San district is also a place worth visiting. It is a bit hidden, I don't recall to have seen any signs on the main road pointing there and it wasn't marked on my map either, so we had to ask our way to there. But actually if you know how the direction it's not difficult to find anymore - after crossing either Memorial Bridge or Pok Klao bridge to the Thonburi side of the town, turn into the next big street to the left, Somdet Chao Phraya road. And directly after the temple Wat Anongkharam Worawihan turn into the small sidestreet to the left, Soi 3. And then just straight on until you see the small parking lot to the left.

As usual at the tourist attractions or other notable locations within Bangkok, there's a brown bilingual sign explaining the location. The English text reads as follows:
Somdet Phra Sri Nagarindra The Princess Mother Memorial Park

Nearly 100 years ago, a young girl who then daughter of a goldsmith, but would later be Her Royal Highness Sri Nagarindra the Princess Mother, lived in a small rented house behind Wat Anongkaram. This was the first home that she could remember, and a school near Wat Anongkaram was the first school she attended. Her Royal Highness Sri Nagarindra the Princess Mother, who was affectionally called "Princess Grandmother" of the Thai people, remembered in great detail this simple home in a mixed community of several ethnic groups and religious faiths. Her son, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, wanted to honor his mother on her eighth 12 years cycle (96th) birthday by preserving her childhood home; but unfortunately the house had long been torn down. Luckily, when Mr. Daeng and Mr. Lek Nana learned of the search for the house, they donated a 4 rai (0.64 ha) plot near the original home. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej decided in 1993 to renovate this plot, once the home of Chao Phraya Sriphiphat Rattanarakosathibodi (Pae Bunnag), Director General of the Royal Cargo Department during the reign of His Majesty King Rama V, to be the Somdet Phra Sri Nagarindra The Princess Mother Memorial Park. One of the older buildings, from the time of His Majesty King Rama III, has been converted into a museum on the life and work of Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother and on the neighborhood where she first grew up. A replica has also been built of her original childhood house, while the grounds have been developed as a community park where a variety of activities are held for people of all ages of the neighborhood and other visitors.

As I went there with our then two year old daughter, I was only able to stroll around the park compound, but had to skip the actual museum. But that one is on my list of places I have to revisit in more detail when I get the chance, and then also checking out the two temples at the main street, including the district museum of Khlong San which should be located within one of them.

But the park, even though it is small, has quite some nice views, like a wall overgrown with the roots of a tree, an old well, or the large two sided relief. Too bad I haven't photographed the sign with the description of that relief, so I cannot recall anymore what is the actual meaning of the procession on the one side and the various activities on the other side.