Sunday, March 23, 2008

West Samut Prakan Walk

The province of Samut Prakan, like Bangkok, spreads across both sides of the Chao Phraya river. It sits at the mouth of the river between Bangkok and the sea. Since the recent industrial ring road bridge, and even more since the new Bangkok Ring Road bridge have connected both banks of the river below the city, new places of interest have become easier to access. One of these is the Chulachomklao Fort.

We went over there for a walk yesterday. I found this about year ago by following signs which took me to a guarded naval base at the mouth of the river. Apart from the fort we found a museum naval ship, a fine seafood restaurant and wood decked pathways through preserved mangrove swamp. Yesterday with a friend we walked around them all, playing with the six inch guns that were fired at the French Navy in 1893 and walking through the dry-docked corvette, HTMS Maeklong, which was built in 1935 in Japan.

HTMS Maeklong
HTMS Maeklong

British WW2 25 Pounder
25 Pounder at Chulachomklao Fort

There is a display of various guns in small park and it includes a ex-British WW2 vintage 25 pound artillery piece. The two pathways through the mangrove swamp were interesting with plenty of birds, a couple of large water monitors and some mud-skippers which are fish that can breathe out of water. An 11 AM stop at the restaurant gave us some coffee and another stop outside the gates for a soft drink let us watch the guys fishing off the bridge over one of the large canals in this area. It really is a good place to visit if you haven't been before and great if you have kids. For foreigners you should have your passports and for Thais your ID cards to get through the navy guards.

Heron in the Mangrove Swamp
Heron at Chulachomklao Fort

From there we headed back along the riverside road until a left turn took us out to Ban Sakhla. The road ends after about 8 kilometers in the car park of Wat Sakhla. From here we could walk through Ban Sakhla village where access is only by the pathways or by canal. Of course now-a-days everyone has a motorbike, but most houses also had long-tailed boats of various sizes. From this village boats go to Klong Sapphasamit which joins the Chao Phraya River to the port of Samut Sakhon to the west.

Ban Sakhla Houses on Canal
Ban Sakhla

Wat Sakhla is lively place, being the center of village life, and the car park for anyone visiting. There was quite a bit of karaoke and eating going on while we were there. At the northern end of the temple is an old leaning stupa that I suspect dates back many centuries. I think this is in the Mon style of temple building.

Wat Sakhla Leaning Stupa

Old Hall at Wat Pounwanaram
Old Temple Near Ban Sakhla

Going back down Ban Sakhla road we stopped at another old temple hall at Wat Pounwanaram. This old building, although not as old as the stupa at Wat Sakhla, was interesting as the walls were wood planks, I guess teak. The last stop and walk was on the river at Wat Traimit Wararam. Most of the buildings here are more recent although I suspect there has been a temple on this site for a very long time. There is a great river view here and just behind the temple an old large wood hulled and decked river boat is moored. A man came over and offered us the boat for 200,000 Baht, but I supect that's a bit like buying Tower Bridge in London.

Old Wooden River Boat
Old Boat at Wat Traimit Wararam

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