It is one of the capital's oldest districts, but mention its name to a foreign visitor and the first association will likely be with the bustling backpacker belt centred on Khao San Road. But to native Bangkokians and long-time residents, a reference to Bang Lamphu may summon up the gleaming-white image of Phra Sumen Fort, its crenellated ramparts dominating the Chao Phraya River and the approaches to Thon Buri, or make them long for Phra Arthit Road and its artsy little cafes or nostalgic for the time they first explored these winding streets and alleyways back when they were students at nearby Thammasat and Silpakorn universities.
Phra Sumen Fort is one of 14 guard posts along the stout wall that was erected during the reign of King Rama I (1782-1809) to enclose the city of Bangkok — what is now referred to as Rattanakosin Island — and protect it from invaders. The fort was equipped with cannons, an arsenal for storing ammunition and hand weapons, plus quarters for the soldiers stationed there. By the time of King Rama V (1868-1910), the structure was in a rather dilapidated condition, judging from photos taken during that period. The fort underwent major restoration work in 1981 and in 1999 an 8 rai plot of land around it was cleared and converted into a public park next to the river called Santi Chaiprakan. The city wall and 12 of its 14 forts were demolished over the years. The only other citadel to survive to the present day is Mahakan Fort on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue (close to Wat Saket and the Golden Mount).
Nowadays, in addition to its worldwide reputation as a tourist hub, Bang Lamphu is known for its textile and garment shops (Sib Sam Hang, Bovornniwet, Sam Sen and Chakrabongse roads) and as an emerging destination for foodies (several good restaurants have opened in beautiful neo-classical buildings along Phra Arthit and Phra Sumen roads). The area has long been cherished as a cradle of learning (nearby Wat Po) and a centre for traditional Thai musicians and dancers (giving birth to famed ensembles like Duriyapranit, Duriyaphan and Khiewvijit).
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