วันเสาร์ที่ 3 เมษายน พ.ศ. 2553

Celebrating Phra Athit Road- a Cultural Passage

It is only a short, one -kilometer mad, marked at one end by the !foot ofPI Ira Firiklao Bridge, at the prernises of the Tourism Division, Culture,Sports and Tourism Department, and at the other by Choi Prakarn Park, at the bend in The road connecting with Phra Meru Road. To many folk, however, this short road has a long tale to tell and a treasure trove to discover.Phra Athit road was founded alongside the capital city more than two centuries ago. The !and in the vicinity is located adjacent to the center et the city for what is known as Wang Na and Wang Lang - the front and rear courts. Thus, it had along been a concentration of royal residences down the years.Evidence of former prestige can still be seen today. Passing the tourism offices, on the left hand side of the road is a property occupied today by the United Nations Children's Fund - UNICEF, Which was once home to Chao Chow Manda Klin, mother of Prince Nare-worarit, King Rama IV's 17'" son. It was believed to have been built during the reigns of King Rama IV and V, given the distinct attribute of the building, in particular the shape of the roof. In general, the building seems to have been well-maintained with its period appearance intact.Next to UNICEF is the office of another UN-related body, the Food and Agriculture Organization - FAO, formerly part of Prince Naret¬worarit's residential compound. Built during the reign of King Parna VI, it was known then as 'Ban Maliwan'. Ownership, however, transferred but was in 1937, to the Office of the Crown Property subsequently granted to the UN to be used as the seat of the FAO in Thailand.Rubbing shoulder with the FAO Office are the premises of the Buddhist Association of Thailand. Princess Manat-sawad Suksawat used to live in this building. Next to it stand another building with a signage that reads 'Ban Chao Phraya'. The property has changed hands several times. For example, the Constitution Court was quartered there before relocated elsewhere. Well before the Constitution Court. Prince Kitarnrob - M.R. Khuekrit Pramot's father - made his home there during his lifetime. Venturing deep into the small lanes of Phra Athit Road, one come across some old houses which still bear traces of aesthetic look from yesteryear.Of particular note is a compound on the right hand side of the road called 'Ban Phra Athit, built in western style and once home to the German Institute of Culture (Goethe). This two-rai (just under one acre) of land was originally the residence of the chief minister of the front court. During the reign of King Rama V, however, Prince Kasatsri-sakdidet lived there by royal consent. His descendant, Chao Phraya Woraphong-phiphat (M.R. Yen isarasena), then Finance Minister, pulled down the old building and butt anew. The new property is made up of two buildings as it stands today. For 25 years, from 1962 to 1988, it served as the premises of the Goethe Institute.By the time the Manager Group acquired ownership of the property, it was already restored to its former glory. The new owner however, added other features with matching appearance to the existing buildings. The traditional building sitting by the roadside is today a shop called Coffee & More, selling all the mouthwatering goodies that go with tea and coffee.Towards the end of this stretch, Phra Athit road is connected to Phra Sumen Road, marked by an old war tower and the public park of Suan Santichaiprakan. Phra Sumen Tower is among 14 towers contemporane¬ous to the city wall built during the reign of King Rama I, and is one of the two remaining: the other being Mahakan Tower. Other towers were demolished to make way for the city's ongoing development.Phra Sumen Tower is a hexagonal building with a war tower and roof tower that collapsed during the reigns of King Rama V and VII respec¬tively. Restoration work took place twice in 1959 and 1981, under the direction of the Department of Fine Arts in strict adherence to the architectural look contemporary to the reign of King Rama V. Today, the place bustles with !ffe in late afternoon, particularly during the weekend when people of all ages turn Lip for their favorite activities, with some engaged in physical exercises, others with their rendezvous. strolling, reading, socializing and even singing and making music.In addition to the buildings of national history, Phra Athit Road is also known for its age-old restaurants that have become establishments in their own right. Krua Nopharat and Ton Rho, Fhoakr noted for its popular yen-ta-fo noodle soup, are some examples that continue through the years to cater to diners' diverse taste bud and budget.The more adventurous, however, are recommended to head for Roti - tvlataba (roti is a flat kind of bread), an eatery that has been around since World War II, initially at Tha Phra Chan Jetty before it was relocated to the present site 22 years ago. The popular Roti - Malaba is open daily, except Mondays, from 7.00 a.m. till 8.00 p.m. Signature dishes include roti-rnataba, saffron rice with chicken or goat meat, chicken masman curry, and chicken and fish curry, among others.By dusk, Phra Athit Road buzzes again. But with a different mix of people - a more youthful one - comprising office workers and university students who turn up to enjoy the nocturnal hours in small, contemporary shoos with hip designs typical of the entire stretch of Phra Athit Road. Most shop owner are partners in their late twenties, although few are owned by single investors.Apart from words-of-mouth acclaim that draws the crowd looking for new places for revelry, the unusual decors adopted by the restaurants along Phra Athit road are also responsible for the road popularity. Displays of art including photographs, paintings and sculptures, constitute effective selling points that blend well with Thai art and culture that is the hallmark of the arcs and therefore bode well for business operators.As a result, the most popular venues among night revelers tend to be those with a touch of the old days. Hemlod, the first pub-cum-restaurant in the neighborhood, for example, is distinctly Greek in architecture. Meanwhile, the well-liked Barbell, as the names suggests, has a Bali-oriented look about it, using wood as the main decorative item. However, the real magnet of the place rests on the monthly exhibition of paintings by both local and foreign artists that fill the walls on the first and second floors.Saffron the coffee shop, is famous among coffee- and tea-lovers who drop by regularly to try out the new supplies of imported coffee and tea and the delicious daily bakes prepared by it home-making-graduate owner.Today, Phra Athit road never sleeps. It is the lively rendezvous where people of all genders, ages and class converge, albeit different purposes.