For those who live in Bangkok city, you may get acquainted with Bangkok as a big city with skyscrapers and modern shopping centers and traffic jams. That’s the picture of Bangkok in the 21th century. However, there are some places in this big city that you can get the glimpse of the old Bangkok with, of course, delicious foods.
Within walking distance from the Grand Palace near the historic building of the Ministry of Defence, you would get to the old section of Bangkok that was once the biggest community and bustling trade center called “Sam Praeng”.
The word ‘Sam Praeng’ means a three-way junction. The name is derived from three alleys, which were the location of royal mansions of three princes, namely Praeng Phutorn, Praeng Nara and Praeng Sappasart. Today, these alleys are lined with two-storey colonial style shop houses and residences that have been built since the King Rama V period (1853-1910 AD). These buildings have been renovated recently to maintain the same character of the last century. Most of the people in this area have living here for generations and continue their family business.
The only royal mansion that still exists in this area is Worawan Mansion. It was the residence of Prince Naradhibprapanpongse; hence, the name -’Praeng Nara‘. It was also the first musical play theater in Bangkok founded by Prince Naradhib around 1908. The theater and the mansion had been abandoned. It was later rented to a private sector as a school while a part of the mansion was used as a lawyer office.
Not far from this mansion is a small shop selling crispy Thai tacos or Khanom Bueng. The recipe was said to come from the royal kitchen in Worawan Mansion since the lady who made this dessert used to work in the royal mansion’s kitchen. It is different from the present recipe that the crispy pancake is filled with white thick cream. In this recipe, it is glazed with thin caramel made from palm sugar and filled with dried fruits for the sweet type or shrimps and coconut shreds for the savory type. It is really a good snack during your walking tour here.
The north of Praeng Nara is Praeng Sappasart which is home to another royal residence. Unfortunately, the entire mansion and other European style buildings burned down during the fire in 1967. It was replaced by modern shop houses which were built later after the fire. The only remnant of its past glory is the arch of the mansion’s main gate.
Praeng Phutorn, which is next to Praeng Nara, has its own reputation. It is a center of many delicious food vendors and local restaurants that have opened for several generations. For noodle lovers, Kim Thong is a place where you can get a yummy bowl of beef noodle with tasty soup. If you don’t eat beef, the nearby and equally popular restaurant sells delicious egg noodle with old style roasted pork. Also in the same area is a sweet shop famous for sticky rice and mango – Kor Panich. The shop has been selling high quality mangos and steamed sticky rice for 3 generations.
Actually, there are other interesting places in this old community such as an old Red Cross office, a vintage car garage, silversmith and goldsmith shops and an old style ice cream. Walking in Sam Praeng reminds me of the good old days of Bangkok.
Shops and restaurants in Sam Praeng open from Monday to Friday. Some are also open on Saturday.