12 July 2024

Bangkok’s Chinatown, or Yaowarat as it is more properly known, along with Rattanakosin island and Thonburi are well-known for their historical sites and delectable cuisine. Excursions to these famous areas have now been made easier than ever and free of charge thanks to “Happy Journey with BEM,” a collection of historical trips organized by the Mass Rapid Transit Authority (MRTA), the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), and Bangkok Expressway and Metro (BEM).

The tourism initiative offers five free trips with insightful talks and workshops throughout the year. Each cultural trip will leave from one of five different subway stations in the old town area to promote the attractions near the MRT Blue Line stations of Wat Mangkon, Sanam Chai, Sam Yan, Hua Lamphong, and Itsaraphap.

The first trip, “Explore Thai Chinatown: A Trip Around the Dragon Street,” will depart from Wat Mangkon station on March 23. Participants will visit two sacred temples and one shrine: Wat Mangkon Kamalawat or Wat Leng Noei Yi, Wat Kanmatuyaram, and Leng Buai Ia or Leng Buai Eie Shrine. A special talk by local and community historian Somchai Kwangthongpanich and blogger Pachara Kriengkred from Baagklong Tiew will add color to the trip. Jok’s kitchen or Jok Toh Diew, a legendary Thai-Chinese restaurant in Yaowarat and a Michelin Plate winner for two years in a row, serves delicious food at the end of the trip.

Wat Mangkon Kamalawat is within walking distance from Wat Mangkon station. (Photos by Chusri Ngamprasert and Wararat Tumtuti)

The “Door to Journey Around Rattanakosin Island” tour is set for May 7. The trip focuses on the precincts of Rattanakosin Island, including Wat Phra Chetuphon, the Site Museum, and Museum Siam. During a special talk, you’ll learn more about the attractions before visiting the Site Museum, Thailand’s first underground museum in Sanam Chai station. The trip ends with a stunning night view at Museum Siam.

The underground museum in Sanam Chai station tells the tale of the royal families who resided around the station. (Photos by Chusri Ngamprasert and Wararat Tumtuti)

The third trip, “Campus Tour: Chula’s 105th Year,” will be held on July 23 at Chulalongkorn University, near Sam Yan station. Participants will walk around the green campus, admiring the beautiful architecture such as the Maha Chulalongkorn Building, the first building on the Chulalongkorn University Campus, the Sala Phra Kieo multi-purpose hall, the Chakrabongse Building, and the Chula Museum, as well as learn more about King Chulalongkorn and King Vajiravudh’s Royal Monuments. The tour concludes with a special talk from a Faculty of Arts alumnus and a lecturer from the Faculty of Architecture.

The Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, was established in the early twentieth century. (Photos by Chusri Ngamprasert and Wararat Tumtuti)

A “Street Photo Walk” tour will be held on October 8 at Hua Lamphong, Thailand’s century-old train station that once served as the country’s central railway station. Pichai Kaewwichit, a motorcycle taxi driver turned street photographer, will lead a street photography workshop around Hua Lamphong station, Maitreechit Road, and the hip cafés and restaurants on Soi Nana. Participants will enjoy capturing the fun-filled moments in the historic district with a modern twist. The best photo will get a special souvenir from BEM.

The door god and statue of Shi Guo Tian Wang, one of the Four Great Heavenly Kings in Chinese mythology, welcome visitors to Wat Mangkon Kamalawat or Wat Leng Noei Yi in the heart of Bangkok’s Chinatown. (Photos by Chusri Ngamprasert and Wararat Tumtuti)

The fifth and final tour of the year, “Following King Taksin’s Footstep: Travel Around Thonburi,” will depart from Itsaraphap station on December 17. Stroll down Thonburi and fall in love with the old palaces and fascinating temples. Learn more about King Taksin of Thonburi kingdom from special guest speaker Pramin Kruethong, an independent scholar and author of various history books. Thonburi Palace, also known as the Old Palace (Prarachawang Derm), was the former royal palace of King Taksin, who ruled the Siamese kingdom of Thonburi after the fall of Ayutthaya. It later housed several high-ranking Chakri Dynasty members until 1900, when it became the Royal Thai Naval Academy.

You’ll also visit the Temple of Dawn, also known as Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahaviharn, to appreciate its unique attractions such as Giant statues, the Ordination Hall, the Bell Tower, and the prominent Central Prang, a stupa-like pagoda encrusted with colorful glazed porcelain tiles and seashells. The journey concludes with a visit to the Hong Rattanaram Ratchaworawihan temple, which dates back to the Ayutthaya period.

by Veena Thoopkrajae