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Talat Noi, a small community in Bangkok's Chinatown,

Talat NoiNestled by the Chao Phraya River, the Talat Noi community is a smaller and quieter part of Chinatown that dates back to the Ayutthaya period. It is a melting pot of various cultures _ the Portuguese, the Vietnamese and the Hokkien, Teochew and Hakka Chinese _ and where several of the country's leading figures lived
Talat Noi"The Talat Noi community in the early Bangkok period was mainly populated by the Portuguese, the Vietnamese and the Hokkien. The Portuguese established the Holy Rosary Church here. The Vietnamese were led here by Prince Nguyen Phuc Anh
[who had sought refuge in Siam during the First Reign before retaking his kingdom from traitors]. And the Hokkien had moved here from the Kudee Cheen area ... they outnumbered the Teochew in Sampheng and mostly produced iron pans and horseshoes," said Pimpraphai Bisalputra, a well known Chinese culture expert.
According to her, the Talat Noi community expanded along the banks of the Chao Phraya River where Chinese junks would anchor in the middle of the river so people could go there to shop. A wholesale session for traders would be held first, after which a gong would be sounded to signal to the public that they could then board the ships to buy goods. The boundaries of this "floating market" ranged approximately 3 to 4km from Talat Kao near the present-day Memorial Bridge to the Talat Noi area.
Talat NoiFrench bishop Jean-Baptiste Pallegoix wrote in his Description of the Kingdom of Siam 1854 that foreign trade during the early Bangkok period relied on Chinese junks and large ships owned by bureaucrats and major foreign traders only; and Chinese tycoons owned five to six junks each. Bangkok even had shipyards for the Chinese junks.
In winter, before Chinese New Year, many junks would arrive and dock in the middle of the Chao Phraya, from Ratchawong Pier (Kongsee Lor) to Pak Khlong San. Some 50 to 60 Chinese junks would anchor in front of Sampheng (Chinatown).
In the past, Talat Noi was also the home of several important people, including the Sols. This wealthy Thai-Hokkien family are the ancestors of several influential families such as the Chatikavanijs, Srivikorns and Posayajindas.
Sol Heng TaiThe Sols lived at the Sol Heng Tai Residence in Talat Noi and owned a huge plot of land ranging from the present-day Harbour Department to Odeon Circle. They later donated part of their land to the state for the construction of the early section of Charoen Krung Road near Yaowarat during the Fourth Reign.
"The Sols, the Sampatisiris and the Kalayanamitrs are the only three Chinese families known to have entered Siam during the late Ayutthaya period. The proof is in the wooden tablets bearing their ancestors' names," said Ms Pimpraphai, who has written several books on the Chinese in Siam, including Nai Mae (Mistress Mothers).
According to her, a wooden tablet on the Sol Heng Tai Residence's family altar says Siang Sae Sol entered Siam during the Ayutthaya period and had a son in 1776, during the Thon Buri period. His son was Tycoon Ked (1776 to 1841). His grandson was Tycoon Jard, or Phraya Aphaivanich (1813 to 1849), a junk trader-turned-bird's nest tariff collector. After the death of Tycoon Jard, the Sol Heng Tai Residence went to Tycoon Jard's wife, Yoo (1813 to 1893). From then until the 1930s, this house was always inherited by the family's female descendants.
Sol Heng Tai"The Sol Heng Tai Residence is outstanding for being Thailand's only remaining pre-Bangkok Chinese house, and for housing a family altar dating back to the Ayutthaya period. There is historical evidence that the Sols served as translators for King Taksin the Great's last tribute [jimkong] to China," Ms Pimpraphai added.
According to Chinese culture expert Setthapong Jongsa-nguan's article titled Ban Nai Mae, a Chinese-language sign above the Sol Heng Tai Residence's front gate reads "Heng Tai", the name of the family businesses. This house is in Hokkien-Teochew architectural style, known as Sue He Yuan, a group of four houses surrounding a large courtyard. Original Sue He Yuan houses have only one level but Sol Heng Tai houses have two, which is an adaptation of Sue He Yuan and traditional Thai houses.
The structure of the house is mainly made of wood while the external walls and the entire first floor are made of brick. The wooden doors on the first floor are painted with images of Thai trees. The wooden walls on the second floor are an adaptation of Chinese and traditional Thai styles.
Sol Heng TaiThe beautifully carved wooden roofing is in Hokkien-Teochew fashion from the southern part of the Yangtze River. The roof of the central house looks like the tail of a swallow, whereas the other houses have saddle roofs. Duangtawan Posayajinda _ the 7th owner of the Sol Heng Tai Residence _ said that her house was built during the Thon Buri period using wood and stone from China. The main ceiling pillar carries a yin-yang symbol, while others are decorated with wooden inscriptions in Chinese. These wooden signs bear testament to the appreciation felt by admirers towards the Sol family for their honesty, gratefulness and love for the country.
The pillars and walls are also decorated with finely carved wooden and Chinese porcelain ornaments in the images of auspicious animals and flowers, which are Hokkien symbols; Lions for protection; goldfish for prosperity; and Mei Hua, pomegranates and Botan flowers for happiness. Its front doors are painted red and carry auspicious Chinese words.
The house's left wing was reserved for the family's male members while the right wing had rooms for the women. The first room in the right wing was the bedroom of the late Pook Posayajinda, owner, who died in 1932. Her room was sandwiched between two rooms: the Fruit Room and the Gold Room. This house also has a Rice Room, a Firewood Room and a Sugar Room.
Sol Heng Tai"The Sols were very rich landlords and moneylenders. They kept their money in iron trunks which grew so heavy the floor sank," said Ms Duangtawan about the family's past glory.
But in the 1930s the family's 40 buckets of gold were stolen from the Gold Room by thieves who had dug a tunnel and damaged the room's seashell-constructed walls using the acidity of vinegar.
According to Ms Pimpraphai, the Sol Heng Tai Residence is also important for reflecting the power of women as it was long inherited by the daughters and not the sons, according to the Thai tradition for daughters to remain and take care of their parents, even after marriage.
Holy Rosary Church Another important person who lived in the Talat Noi area was leading economist the late Puey Ungphakorn. He was born to Chinese parents in Talat Noi's Trok Rong Soob Nam in 1916. His parents worked hard in order to send him to study at the prestigious Assumption School. After he lost his father at the age of nine, his uncle supported his education. He graduated at the age of 18 and became a maths and French teacher at his old school. In 1937 he earned a bachelor's degree in law and politics from Thammasat University. With a government scholarship, he received a bachelor's degree in economics and finance with first class honours at the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 1949, he obtained a doctorate in economics from the same university. During World War II, Mr Puey served in the Free Thai Movement under the pseudonym Mr Khem Yenying. Back in Thailand, he progressed in his career until becoming governor of the Bank of Thailand and rector of Thammasat University.
Holy Rosary Church "Mr Puey lived here in the Talat Noi community until assuming the central bank governor position," Ms Duangtawan recalled.
Chana Samarnruangsak, a Thai-Chinese man who knew Mr Puey and his family, said that Mr Puey had lived in a two-storey wooden house in Talat Noi throughout his childhood and early adulthood. And after moving out, he regularly returned here to visit his family.
"He was a nice person who never looked down on other people. However, he did not like to discuss religious and political issues with the neighbours," he added.
However, the home of the Ungphakorn family was later demolished, and in its place is an alley. Not far from there is Cho Su Kong Shrine, a Hokkien shrine, where many people come to worship the statue of the priest Cho Su Kong and pray for good health and blessings.
Siam Commercial Bank's first branch Other sites in Talat Noi include Siam Commercial Bank's first branch in Thailand (the bank's predecessor, a pilot after a project called Book Club, was in Ban Mo), a Hakka shrine called Hon Wong Kung, the Holy Rosary Church and a Gothic church established in 1767 by the Portuguese who fled the war in Ayutthaya to Bangkok. To explore this small yet precious multicultural community, strolling is the best choice and takes only half a day.
Article source : Bangkok Post


This post first appeared on Travel Thailand, please read the originial post: here

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Talat Noi, a small community in Bangkok's Chinatown,

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