6 June 2024

The Thai capital’s historical Italian Neo-Renaissance-style Hua LamphongRailway Station has burst back into life and is now greeting visitors eager to experience a light and sound extravaganza dubbed “Unfolding Bangkok.

Being held nightly from now until 26 March, the event marks the 126th anniversary of the State Railway of Thailand with cleverly designed light and sound shows that enhance the architectural charm of this Bangkok landmark. Put together by the Creative Economy Agency (Public Organization) in collaboration with TCEB and Thailand’s Lighting Designers, the installations not only tell stories of the past but also accentuate the beauty of the old building.

The showcase starts appropriately enough with “The Door”, an illumination of the curved glass at the station’s entrance, representing embarking on a journey.

“You can see the female Greek heads and the stained glass figures which were heavily influenced by European design,” says one of the guides leading tours for those interested in learning more about the station.

The tour takes around 15 minutes and is filled with information and fun facts about the building. “Who knows? What is the name of this station?” the guide asks his group. The instant reply is “Hua Lamphong”, but in fact that’s wrong. “It’s never been named as such although there is a Hua Lamphong Station right under where we are standing now,” he says, referring to the underground MRT line.

“Bangkok Station” (Sathanee Krungthep) is actually the real name of the building. Another interesting fact is that the rounded roof of the station was designed so as to avoid the need for supporting columns. And who knew that there was once a “five-star” hotel right inside the station?

Visitors will also enjoy “The People”, a multi-coloured illumination of the passenger waiting area inside the station hall. The mood is enhanced by a soundtrack of classical music.

After roaming around the central area, visitors then move, with or without a guide,to the last lighting display. This area around the tracks is called “The Emotion” echoing the many greetings and farewells that took place here since the station started operations in 1916.

After taking countless of photos with the lighting and the old steam trains (used during the reign of King Rama VIII), visitors are also allowed to go up to the trains and pose inside or sit and enjoy the classic wooden seats.

Although the station today serves only some short Eastern routes and just a few platforms are in use, the building remains dear to many who regard it as a token of the glorious past and cultural heritage. One can learn a great deal from this grand architecture.

Returning outside, visitors can be mesmerized by the five-minute-long 3D projection mapping on the façade, which shows once every hour from 7 to 10pm.

And to round off the visit, they can drop into Thailand’s Train Museum to view some historical accounts and also buy souvenirs such as old train tickets and stationary made of train parts.

The Soontharaphorn band entertains on the weekend from 7 to 10pm and the more active can take to the open dance floor while those who prefer to chill can sip a long cool drink from the pop-up café.

For culture vultures and anyone wanting to see the old station up close and personal before it is turned into a museum, this is a great chance to wallow in the past. And best of all, it’s free!

By Veena Thoopkrajae
Photo by Dae Warunee