1850’s – Royal Geographical Society

“Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography Session 1859-60”

The Gulf of Siam is destitute of fine harbours; the larger rivers are obstructed by sandy bars which prevent vessels of a greater draught than 13 feet to cross the same. This refers likewise to the Menam, the principal river of Siam, on the banks of which lies Bangkok, the capital of that kingdom.

The Menam possesses three outlets: the bar of the deepest branch has only a depth of 3 feet at low water; and as the tide at springs amounts to 10 feet, larger vessels of a deeper draught than ll and a half feet can scarcely venture to cross it.*

It is customary that ships bound for Bangkok to take in cargo proceed to that port, where they load to 11 and a half feet, and return afterwards to the roadstead outside the bar, where they fill up.

The distance from the roadstead to the anchorage of Bangkok is, following the windings of the river, about 33 nautical miles. After the ship has passed the bar and has reached the mouth of the river, distinguished on its right or western bank by a small mount, the water deepens. About 3 miles higher up lies the town and port of Paknam, the seat of a governor. The place is fortified, and upon a sandbank which rises out of the water near the western or right bank of the river batteries and other fortifications have been erected.

The shores of the river Menam are fringed with forest-trees, and here and there a habitation surrounded with orchards. Behind that fringe there are sugar and rice fields, extending for a considerable distance inland.

About 6 miles above Paknam lies, on the right bank of the river, the settlement of Paklat; its inhabitants consisting principally of Peguans, who during the war between Siam and that country were led by the Siamese into captivity. The number of inhabitants of Paklat has been estimated at seven thousand.

Immediately above that settlement the river makes a great turn, describing almost a circle; the land being, at its shortest extent, not much more than half a mile in breadth, while following the course of the river it is about 10 miles. A canal, only deep enough for boats, passes from Paklat to the upper part of the bend or tipper Paklat, but the same has not been constructed through the narrowest neck.

This canal, on both its banks, is studded with houses, among which are some pagodas or wats, remarkable for their extent and architecture.

* The bar is composed of sand, soft on the southern side and hard on the northern. It has the form of a horse-shoe.