The first bridge crossing over the Chao Praya River has been built since 1922. Nowadays, there are several bridges connecting two sides of Bangkok.  These bridges have brought social and economic changes to the city. I drove over those bridges many times but never thought of the stories about them until I took a journey on the Mekhala to Ayutthaya.  With slow journey up the river, I was brought back to the time when I was young and many stories about those bridges came back to me.

Rama VII Bridge

Rama VI Bridge – view from Mekhala Cruise

The idea to build a bridge crossing the Chao Praya was introduced to Thailand during the reign of King Rama IV ( King Mongkut) in early 19th century. However, due to a lack of technology and expertise, the project did not materialize until 1922 when the first metal truss bridge was constructed in the reign of King Rama VI.  The first bridge crossing Chao Praya River was constructed and officially opened to use in 1927.  Named after the king, the main purpose of Rama VI bridge was to link the rail road between the north and north-eastern route to the southern route.

During World War II, the bridge was damaged by the bombs. It was later repaired and reopened again in 1953.  My father told me that, during the war, people claimed to see the big hands in the sky brushing the bombs away from the bridge. However, the bridge was bombed.  As a young innocent kid, I believed it.

Pra Ram VI, the first bridge crossing Chao Praya River

Rama VI Bridge, the first bridge crossing the Chao Praya River

My favourite bridge in Bangkok is the Memorial Bridge or locally known as Saphan Put.  It was built a few years after King Rama VI Bridge in the reign of King Rama VII to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Bangkok . The bridge was partly funds by donations of people living on both sides of the river and the budget from the government. The bridge was officially opened on 6 April 1932, a little before the Coup d’état in Siam on the 24th of June in 1932.

Memorial Bridge of Bangkok

Memorial Bridge of Bangkok

Memorial Bridge is the first movable bridge in Thailand. It’s unused now, though.  When I was a little kid, it always amazed me when I saw the bridge opening for the ship to pass. It is also the first bridge that has public toilets at the basement of the bridge. It was probably the first public toilet in town at that time.

During World War II, bridges and railways were targets of bombs, so was the Memorial Bridge.  Again, there was a story of the invisible hands brushing away the bombs from the bridge. There was one time that the bombs fell over 2 km. away from the bridge.  I believe it was just a technical issue of the bombers in the B-29 Superfortress. Anyway, the bridge was finally damaged by the bombs and was repaired in 1949.

Memorial Bridge at night. Photo Credit: Phuvadol Lekcharoen

Memorial Bridge at night. (Photo Credit: Phuvadol Lekcharoen)

In the evening, there are vendors selling goods at the foot of the Memorial Bridge. You can find a variety of goods with amazing price.  Close to the Memorial Bridge is the famous flower market known among Thais as ‘Pak Klong Talaad’. It is the place that you can find all kind of flowers, fruits and vegetables.  Wandering around the market is a kind of fun. Plus, it is opens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Night Market at the foot of Memorial Bridge. Photo Credit: Amornrat Achakulkij

Night Market at the foot of the Memorial Bridge.(Photo Credit: Amornrat Achakulkij)

If you take the boat journey from Bangkok, you will pass the Memorial Bridge first and some other bridges before reaching Rama VI Bridge.

Actually, there are other stories along the river on the Mekhala boat. With the limited space here, it seems that I should have it for the next article. Do you know that there is a stone lion buried deep at the bottom of the Chao Phraya river near the mouth of Bangkok Noi canal?