Seventy-three years is close to the average lifespan for men in many parts of the world. But for Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital in Prachin Buri, which marks its 73rd anniversary this year, this is just a drop in the bucket, the tranche of time it has taken for the first step in what may be a lengthy journey: its mission to revive traditional Thai herbal medicine in a society which has long cast off what were considered outmoded ways in favour of the Western approach to healthcare.
The oldest part of the hospital is the Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Building, an elegant, two-storey mansion built in a baroque style then popular in Europe based on a design drawn up by a French firm of architects. It was commissioned in 1909 by Choom Abhaiwongse (1861-1922), the last Siamese governor of Battambang (now part of Cambodia), whose royally bestowed title was Chaophraya Abhai-
bhubejhr. The intention of this high-ranking official was for the villa to serve as accommodation for King Rama V during his next visit to Prachin Buri, but that did not come to pass, the monarch dying before construction was finished.
The Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Building, built in 1909, still stands as an icon of traditional Thai medicine. Its baroque-style architecture, as well as the museum within, is now a local attraction of Prachin Buri province.
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