European Heritage On Display In Thailand
Thailand probably has the most to offer for visitors interested in European heritage in Southeast Asia. One can admire a host of structures in Bangkok clearly showing different European styles such as Italian, Belgian, German, British, French, Danish, Portuguese, Polish and Dutch. Back when Thailand was known as Siam, King Rama V, known as Chulalongkorn (1868-1910) invited a number of European architects and designers to Siam. Also the first Thai king to travel abroad to forge ties with European royalty, Chulalongkorn gained an appreciation for western architectural styles and building materials.
Bangkok would probably look very different had it not been for the interest Rama V showed in European architecture. A good example is Bangkok’s main train station: Hualamphong, built in 1916 in an Italian Neo-Renaissance style by Italian architects Tamagno and Ricotti with a decorated wooden roof and stained glass windows. Tamagno was also responsible for the design of Thonburi’s Santa Cruz Church, also built in 1916 on the Chao Phraya riverside.
In addition to buildings, other structures influenced by European style include the Hok Bridge, inspired by a traditional Dutch lift bridge, and the bronze equestrian statue of King Rama V in Bangkok’s Dusit area, which was cast in Paris by a French sculptor in 1908.
A very different European influence can be seen up North in the former teak capital of Phrae. In 1883, Britain won logging concession rights in Thailand’s northern provinces and Phrae became a business center for a handful of British timber firms. The wood logging companies have long gone, but some of their original teak houses remain. Built in Britain at the turn of the 20th century, the homes featured a popular style called “gingerbread” characterized by highly decorative woodwork trim on the roof eaves and windowsills. Unfortunately more than one hundred teak houses have been demolished in Phrae over the past two decades, but the few remaining ones are well maintained or in process of being renovated and definitely worth a visit.
There is plenty to admire when it comes to European style heritage in Thailand! For more information about European heritage as part of a tour to Bangkok, Phuket or other charming places in Thailand, please contact to [email protected]