Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Life along the Menam Chao Praya River

The Chao Praya, or Menam, river appeared to have three mouths and as the coastline here is quite featureless it was difficult to find the only navigable channel. For a contemporary description of a journey on the Menam, see here.

1. The Tachin river, by which smaller vessels could get up to Bangkok.

2. The mouth of the Chao Praya river.

3. Mudflats. The Bar across the mouth of the river is not shown here.

4. The two guardhouses had to lookout for ships and report to to the authorities at Samut Prakan of their approach.

8. Ban Chao Praya in the village of Samut Prakan, where an official with the high rank of Chao Praya resided. From this comes the name of the river, the Menam Chao Praya.

5. The Dutch storehouse known as Amsterdam, built in about 1634.

7. The King's tollhouse, controlling both routes to the sea.

9. The great buffalo field where the villagers put out their animals to graze.

10. Pra Pradaeng, a small town and a good site for cannon to bombard enemy ships.

11. The newly-dug short-cut canal.

15. Here the old Ban Hia river joined the Chao Praya. Now called Klong Samrong.

16. A belt of orchards and gardens along both banks.

12. The fortress of Bangkok just below Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.

13 & 14. If we keep to our right we shall be following the main channel which was once a short-cut canal. The original course of the river followed the line of Klong Bangkok Yai and Klong Bangkok Noi and rejoined the Chao Praya near 18.

19. Pakkred. The cut at Pakkred was made as recently as 1721 and is still noticeably narrower than the old course of the river to the west. It is known in Thai as Kred Noi, or little cut. Foreigners nicknamed it the small mosquito cut because of the swarms of mosquitos found there.

21. Shows the cut made in 1608 and the old course of the river. Foreigners called it the great mosquito cut.

22. The pottery village on Valentyn's map. This must be the Mon town of Pratum Tani. The Mons were, and still are, famous for their pottery.

23-24. Somewhere along this stretch the river widens out and the wind freshens, a danger to sailing ships. It is known as Lan Tay.

27. The Menam Noi or little river joins the Chao Praya at this point, having run parallel with it for over 100 kilometers. It was probably the old course of the river, which gradually transgressed eastwards.

28. The King's pagoda and the King's audience hall. References to Bang Pa In. King Prasat Tong built a palace there 350 years ago.

32. The royal custom house (or tabanque, above) at Hua Laem, where all merchant ships had to call.

33. Marks the spot where the Dutch East Indies Company had its orchards.

34. Wat Prot Sat; as we pass this temple, Ayuttaya comes into view. Between 34 and 35 we pass Rien island, where many vessels foundered on its hidden shoals.

36. Japanese settlement, or Nihonmachi.

50. The main course of the river with the large Portuguese village on our left and the Dutch compound on our right, with its brick buildings and gilded roofs. The battlements of Fort Petchra comes into view. Our ship would swing to starboard and make ready to anchor at one of the many wharves on the eastern side of the city. Above: The Stadthuys, Melaka, Malaysia. We have no pictures of what the Dutch buildings at their settlement in Ayudhya looked like. Compare the contemporary Stadhuys, or municipal town hall, built by the Dutch in the 1650s, in Melaka. It was built in four stories on a terrace of St. Paul’s hill covering 42,900 square feet in area. It remained the governor’s residence until as late as the 18th century. It was also the Dutch administrative center until 1824, and was later used by the British as their administrative center. The Stadthuys continued to be the state governing center until the end of 1979. The original color of this building was white and was changed to red in the 1820’s and then came to be known as ‘The Red Building.’

1. Siamese village along a river bank, (above).

2. A large Siamese house, (above). 3. The central hall for family gatherings, (above). 4. Siamese women, (above).
5. Petchra fort, (above), on the southern side of Ayudhya city, at the confluence of the Chao Praya and Pasak rivers.6. Looking in the opposite direction, imagine the sailing vessels arriving at Ayuttaya port. The Dutch compound would be on the left bank a little farther downstream, the Portuguese village on the right bank.7. Those who could afford them probably kept a few elephants for transportation, (above).

1 comment:

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