This Walking Tour leads us to an area of Bangkok which is usually not at the top of most tourists’ bucket lists. Thonburi is located at the West bank of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river. As it has been comparatively underdeveloped, it still has a lot of charm and feels like a time travel to what Bangkok’s downtown areas may have looked like decades ago.
Similar to some of my previous guides (which you can find at the bottom of this article together with a map for this walk), this tour is based on a tour with my friend Martin Cowling. I am incredibly thankful that I can join him on his walks and that I am allowed to share not only our experience but also Martin’s incredible knowledge with you. You can follow him on his blog “Wild About Travel”.
Start the walk at Rama III Bridge. There are two “lanes” of the bridge. The right one is the modern bridge facilitating traffic between the two sides of the river. The left one is the old part of the bridge. Walk on this left part. On your left, you can already see the port and watch the ships.
Walk until Charoen Nakhon Road and turn right. Walk straight until the Anantara Riverside Hotel where you will see a footbridge. From the footbridge, you will overlook a cemetery right next to the hotel with an interesting layout of the tombs.
Keep walking along the main road and turn left on Wichit Worasat 2 Alley and turn right immediately again. Walk straight until you cross the canal.
Khlong Samre is one of the main canals in this residential area. Right after you crossed the canal, you will see Wat Rat Warin Thon and its beautiful and intricate decor.
When you leave the temple area, turn left onto Suttharam 12 Alley and explore the area while walking along this street and its side lanes. There are plenty of interesting things to discover.
During the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, Thonburi was an important garrison town due to its strategic location at the West bank of the Chao Phraya River. Its name today still reflects this past: “Thon” is a loanword from Pali, a liturgical and sacred language of Theravada Buddhism, and means “wealth”. “Buri” is related to “púra” and means “fortress”.
After Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese in the 18th century, General Taksin conquered Thonburi back and made it the capital of his kingdom in 1769. He was replaced by King Rama I. in 1782, who moved the capital of his kingdom to the East bank of the river. Thonburi remained an independent town and province. In the 1970s, the area was merged officially with Bangkok. As it remained less developed, the old charm of Bangkok is still prevalent with many khlongs, Bangkok’s canals, still in use.
In a busy area with small shops, there is also an outdoor market.
We saw everything from repair shops, to household supply and construction tool shops.
And as we are in Bangkok after all, there were motorcycles everywhere.
We explored the area around Suttharam Alley 1 and 2 until we discovered an outdoor café by chance. Chill out at Farmsook is located on a giant plot which appears to be a farm – right in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world.
We kept exploring the lanes – I have to admit, I lost track of our exact route. But our general direction was towards Wongwian Yai BTS station.
We also walked towards Khlong Bang Sai Kai and discovered some cute residential buildings right next to it.
I really liked the many colourful buildings.
When we reached the gigantic road Thanon Krung Thonburi and the Wongwian Yai BTS station, I could hardly believe that behind the skyscrapers was one of Bangkok’s most quiet neighbourhoods I had been so far.
Thanon Krung Thonburi connects the areas on the river’s West bank with Bangkok’s downtown.
After an accidental detour along Khlong Bang Sai Kai (from the short part of the canal between Thanon Krung Thonburi and Somdet Phra Chao Tak Sin, you cannot reach the main road), we reached our last stop, the area around the King Taksin Statue.
When we think of hip Bangkok areas, the first ones coming to mind are probably Sukhumvit, Sathorn/Silom and, among the newer additions, Ari and Ladphrao. Few people would know that Thonburi once was “the” centre for affluent Bangkokians. The most prestigious stores were located around today’s roundabout with the King Taksin Statue. One of the most popular department stores was located right next to the roundabout. Today, an empty building shell is the only reminder of these times.
In these times, after the shopping spree and dinner, locals watched a movie. And Thonburi was the place to do this. There were plenty of movie theatres screening not only Hollywood movies but also local productions or those from Hong Kong and neighbouring countries. The signs of the movie theatres are still there today. Some of them even operate still.
And for those who want more nostalgia – even some DVD stores have survived.
Wongwian Yay station may not look like the most interesting railway station in Thailand, but the city has big plans for this important link of Bangkok and Thailand’s central provinces. The Maeklong Railway currently connects Wongwian Yay Railway Station with the Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram provinces with commuter rail services. The ambitious plans aim to connect this station with the recently opened “mega station” at Bang Sue. It does not stop there: By 2029, Samut Songkhram province and Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city located in the North, should be connected via Wongwian Yay, Bang Sue and Don Muang International Airport.
Our walk ended at the roundabout with a view of King Taksin Statue. As I mentioned above, after the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese, King Taksin conquered the territory and reunited two rival kingdoms.
Taksin was the son of a Chinese father and a Thai mother and was actually named Sin. He was the Governor of the Tak province and, hence, called himself Phraya (prince) Taksin. He later invaded Cambodia and Laos and used the territory to secure the borders of his kingdom from another invasion by the Burmese. At the end of his reign, generals removed him, as they were convinced that illusions had taken over the king’s sanity.
More Neighbourhood Walking Tours in Bangkok
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All information as of the date of publishing/updating and based on the information on the websites of the respective sights (listed above) and the information provided at the location. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the recommended places above.