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Discovering Puchao Saming Phrai Fort

Puchao Saming Phrai Fort

One of the historical legacies of Samut Prakan Province are the Fortresses along the river from the Gulf of Thailand all the way up to Bangkok. At various times through history, going back as far as the Ayutthaya period, there has always been forts here of some description. Many fell into ruins during periods of peace but were built up again by succeeding monarchs. About 800 years ago, Phra Pradaeng used to be the first line of defence as the the coastline was in this area. However, over the years, the land extended further South and Phra Pradaeng lost its importance as a sea harbour. The first temples, in what is now Samut Prakan, were built in about 1350 A.D. Forts soon followed.

Puchao Saming Phrai Fort

In 1768, when King Taksin became the king after the fall of Ayutthaya, he order all of the bricks from the forts at Phra Pradaeng to be moved to Thonburi to build his new palace which practically obliterated the city. However, King Rama I saw the importance of the city as a fortress. In 1809 he commanded for the city to be rebuilt together with Wittayakom Fort alongside Latpho Shortcut Canal. This area is now under Bhumibol Bridge. King Rama II, in about 1815, continued with the building programme at Phra Pradaeng. He had five forts built on the West side of the river and three on the East side. A ninth fort was built about ten years later. At the same time, King Rama II changed the name of the city to Nakhon Khueankhan. He also brought 300 Mon men and their families here to man the forts.

Puchao Saming Phrai Fort

The majority of these forts no longer exist and their exact location has been forgotten. Only Phlaeng Faifah Fort near Phra Pradaeng Municipal Office has been preserved as a city park. Others have been pulled down and built over. For the past few years I have been trying to locate the original position of these long lost forts and then go there to see if I could find any remaining evidence. Then not long ago I came across an old map of the Phra Pradaeng area which marked Puchaosamingphrai Fort on the East bank opposite the municipal hall. It was surrounded by a canal. I used this evidence to cross-check with Google Earth. I found the Southern side of the canal but not the Northern canal. However, on the satellite image, I could just make out something between two buildings that looked like it was ruins of some kind.

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I drove over there at the weekend to check it out. From Sukhumwit Road I turned off onto Puchaosamingphrai Road which leads straight to the Chao Phraya River. This is where we used to have to cross the river by car ferry, but now they have built the two Bhumibol Bridges. Anyway, just before the car ferry I turned left towards Wat Laem and Phrapradaeng Hospital. I parked my car in the car park here alongside the river. Straight away I knew that I was in the right place as there were a dozen big guns lined up along the waterfront. After taking a few pictures here, I turned inland to look for what I thought were ruins on the satellite image. I was looking for a long snake-like building with a red roof. I eventually found it behind the buildings of the Rajapracha Samasai Institute.

Puchao Saming Phrai Fort

I have been exploring Samut Prakan for many years trying to discover something new or long lost. I know the ruins that I found here at the weekend were in the grounds of a medical institute so it wasn’t exactly a secret. But, it did take my breath away when I first caught sight of the ruins of Puchaosamingphrai Fort. I saw the wall first and then beyond that high up the remains of a wooden building that had collapsed. It looked very much like a lost city as it was now heavily overgrown and squatters had set up shacks around the base. Many of them had physical disabilities and some apparently even had leprosy. For them this was just a place to stay but for me it was an important link to the historical past of the province. It should be preserved for future generations.

Puchao Saming Phrai Fort

We explored around the ground level first. However, after an encounter with some vicious dogs we went around the back where we found some steps that took us to the top. From what I could tell, an artificial hill had been built and a brick building had been built on top. The wooden roof had collapsed but many of the wooden planks remained which is quite surprising. Many of the shutters on the windows were still there and a couple were banging in the wind. I wondered aloud whether it had been doing that for the last hundred years or ever since it had been abandoned. I looked in through some of the doors but the wooden floors had all collapsed. The place was obviously a death trap and probably home to numerous snakes. But, I was too excited not to pass up on this opportunity to step back in time like this. There are not that many historical ruins left in Samut Prakan.

Puchao Saming Phrai Fort

I have been working on a Map of Forts in Samut Prakan Province and I am happy that there are now six forts that still have evidence of their existence. There are about twenty more that have been lost to time. I doubt that I will find anything else but I will continue with my quest to find the long lost forts of Samut Prakan. Recently I have been reading many contemporary accounts of Samut Prakan written by foreigners nearly 200 years ago. They talk of places that are no longer marked on the maps. My next expeditions will be to find the mysterious “Red House” in Paknam and the village of Paklat upriver in Phra Pradaeng.

Car Ferry across the Chao Phraya

In Samut Prakan, if we want to go to the other side of the river we can take the passenger ferry at Paknam Market to Phra Samut Chedi for only 2 baht. There are no bridges across the Chao Phraya river in Samut Prakan Province. So, if we want to go by car, we have to head towards Bangkok and then take the car ferry at the end of Sukaswat Road for 20 baht. To visit Phra Samut Chedi on foot it would only take 10 minutes from the market. But, by car, it would take at least 45 minutes to reach the temple. When I went at the weekend we were stuck in a traffic jam along Sukaswat Road and it took us 90 minutes in total!

One of the reasons for the traffic jam was that there are not so many car ferries running at the moment. The one I usually use to cross the river has been closed because of the construction of the mega bridge. So, there are not so many ferries any more. In the pictures above, you can see the two different kinds of ferries. On the left the passenger ferry and on the right the car ferry. In the background of the left picture you can see about 4 or 5 of the red car ferries.

These are going back and forth at frequent intervals. I am not sure how many accidents occur but it is a little scarey at times. The trip up the ramp to the ferry is bad enough as there is little room for error as you ascend. I always take off my seatbelt at this point just in case! Then, as we make our way across the river, we have to dodge the big container ships heading further up-river to the port at Klong Toey.

On the left is one of the tug boats that help swing the ferries around as they dock. On the right is one of the container ships. This one is carrying wood. You can see the car ferry waiting for it to pass.

I guess once the mega bride is completed, the car ferries will disappear. A shame in a way as it adds character to the area. But, you have to keep up with progress. I will speak of the new mega bridge later and share with you some of the pictures I took of the bridge construction. It is a really amazing project. You should see the artist’s impression of what it will look like. Quite unique.

 

Mass alms giving with 11,111 monks in Paknam

Early on the morning of 13th May 2012, thousands of people converged on Samut Prakan City to make merit by giving alms to 11, 111 monks. The event started at 6 a.m. and took place along Prakhonchai Road in Paknam. Dried food offered to the monks will be sent to the Southern provinces where monks cannot leave their temples.

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Children’s Day

Ms. Wanida Bunprakhong, Governor of Samut Prakan, on Saturday 14th January 2012, officially opened the National Children’s Day celebrations at the Provincial Hall Plaza. The Governor reminded the children that they played an important role in the future of the country. He also recited to them this year’s motto for Children’s Day: “Unity with Knowledge and Wisdom, Preserve Thai Identity, Mind the Technology.” Various activities and games were put on for the children such as bouncy castle, hoola-hoop, football and bingo. The children were also given free food and drinks, books and toys. Other venues around Amphoe Muang also put on activities for children. These included the Naval Museum, The Royal Thai Naval Academy, The Crocodile Farm, The Ancient Siam and The Erawan Museum.

Merit Making for the New Year

Thousands of local people from Paknam gave alms to 99 monks from local temples early on the morning of 1st January 2012. Prakhonchai Road, in front of the City Pillar, was closed to traffic for the traditional Thai ceremony where people made merit in order to gain good fortune for the new year.

Alms Giving For HM The King

Today, people from all around the country are coming together to celebrate the 84rd birthday of H.M. The King. Many of them are wearing pink which is an auspicious colour believed to help make the King better. The Thai monarch has been in Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok for several years now. About 1,000 well-wishers gathered at the City Hall Plaza in Samut Prakan to give alms to 99 monks in honour of His Majesty.

The ceremony was opened by Wanida Bunprakhong, the new Governor of Samut Prakan. She first paid homage to a Buddha image and then took part in chanting. Attending the event were many local government officials who all came together to pay homage to His Majesty. A similar event was being held at the same time in Bangkok. The King is regarded as a father to all Thai people as they love him so much. This day is also celebrated as National Father’s Day.

 

Luang Pho Pan Festival in Bang Bo

On the morning of Sunday 14th November 2010, a parade was held through the town of Bang Bo carrying the image of revered monk Luang Phor Pan. Last week, another parade was held starting from Wat Mongkhol Khotawat in Klong Dan Town and visited most districts in the area by truck and boat. Today, Mr. Cherdsak Choosri, the Governor of Samut Prakan, presided over the ceremony to worship the image in front of the Bang Bo District Office. During the ceremony, scholarships were also handed out to four local school students. The main worshipping fair then takes place in Bang Bo Town from 14th-16th November 2010. There will be boat racing, likay performances and other entertainment.

 

Red Cloth Parade

The annual Temple Fair in Samut Prakan kicked off early this morning with the parade through town. The fair at Phra Samut Chedi has been going on now for 184 years which I believe makes it the longest running temple fair in Thailand. Certainly one of the oldest. In the olden days, people would come down from Bangkok by boat. Back then, this temple used to be in the middle of the river. These days it is now on the West Bank but the fair is still as popular. Leading the parade was the sacred red cloth which will later be wrapped around the pagoda in an important ceremony.

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The opening ceremony early this morning was presided over by Mr. Cherdsak Choosri, the Governor of Samut Prakan Province. Once the nine monks had blessed everyone taking part in the ceremony, the parade through the town started. This was led by a float carrying the sacred red cloth. Following behind were numerous marching bands and also local schools and other organizations.

The parade went on a circular route through the town as far as Taiban Circle and then back via the market. The float carrying the red cloth came back at a time when we still couldn’t see the end of the parade.At the waterfront, a boat was waiting to take the red cloth upriver to Phra Pradaeng. In this city they had a smaller parade for the red cloth before it was taken on its last journey by truck to Phra Samut Chedi.

Read more: http://www.paknam.com/latest-news/15.html#ixzz46WgfcGII

Red Cloth Ceremony

Today saw the start of the 182nd Phra Samut Chedi Temple Fair in Samut Prakan. This takes place every year five days after the full moon in October. It goes on for twelve days and twelve nights and includes mandy sideshow games as well as a lot of really delicious food. The event started today with a parade of the sacred red cloth through the towns of Samut Prakan and Phra Pradaeng. The red cloth was then brought to Phra Samut Chedi to be wrapped around the pagoda.

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At the head of the parade holding the cloth was Mr. Cherdsak Choosri, the Governor of Samut Prakan, the District Chief of Phra Samut Chedi and many other government officials. I am not sure how long the cloth is but there wasn’t much room for anyone else. People believe they can gain great merit if they can grab hold of the red cloth. But, you can also gain merit if you are holding onto someone else that is touching the cloth. Like any other temple procession, they went around the temple three times in a clockwise direction. The procession was led by a marching band and one complete circuit of the chedi took them about eight minutes.

Once the procession was finished, the red cloth was carefully handed over to members of the Rungjaeng family. For over a hundred years, this family has been responsible for making the red cloth. They are also the only people allowed to wrap the cloth around the pagoda. The red cloth is quite large and must weigh a lot. If it wasn’t for their skill, then surely a crane would be needed to hoist it to the top. But, they went up, barefoot and with no harnesses, to the very top carrying the red cloth. They made it all look very easy. Down below, female members of the family called out to them to take it easy and not to fall down. They didn’t seemed concerned at all at how high they were. They worked quickly and amazingly it only took them about 30 minutes to finish.

Read more: http://www.paknam.com/latest-news/14.html#ixzz46WfEaZeA

Merit Making for the Temple Fair

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Mr. Cherdsak Choosri, the Governor of Samut Prakan Province, took part in a ceremony this morning to announce to the Gods and Angles in Heaven that they will be holding the annual Worship Fair for Phra Samut Chedi. During the ceremony, they also sought good luck for the period of the Temple Fair which will take place for eleven days between 17th and 28th October 2011. They prayed for no rain and also for it to be incident free. They offered food and drinks to the Gods. The ceremony was presided over by a Brahman priest.

After the ceremony was finished, we all boarded a cross-river ferry to go to Phra Samut Chedi on the other side of the Chao Phraya River.

The red cloth that is normally wrapped around the Chedi has already been removed as you can see from this photograph. It is looking quite bare without the cloth.

Waiting for us on the other side, in front of Phra Samut Chedi, was another generous spread of food and drinks for the Gods. A similar ceremony took place here. At the end, the best dishes were offered to the Governor and then local people were allowed to take the remainder of the food.