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The story of the 'Gingerbread House' on the Chao Phraya

Partially surrounded by a modern community, an old teakwood house on the banks of the Chao Phraya in Thon Buri still catches the attention of boat passengers. Photos by Jetjaras na Ranong

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It's not haunted but it is crumbling and badly in need of repair, a 19th century historic house on the banks of the Chao Phraya.

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This is an excerpt from a story in today's Spectrum Magazine. You can read the story in full here: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/special-reports/828504/a-crumbling-gingerbread-house

A crumbling gingerbread house

Jeerawat Na Thalang

A teak “gingerbread house” sitting on the banks of the Chao Phraya in an old quarter of Thon Buri often catches the eye of passers-by because of its aged look and exquisite fretwork.

Its dilapidated condition and uncut grass in the front yard, which has been deserted for 30 years, also pique curiosity. “Is it haunted?” some people ask.

A ‘gingerbread house’ stands on Dinso Road.

Located in a small Catholic community in Kudeejeen, the building is known by locals as “the blue house”. This is despite the fact that the paint has completely worn off, revealing the natural colour of the hardwood underneath.

There are splits and cracks in the walls, doors and window frames, adding to the weather-beaten appearance.

The owner of the house is Somsook Jutayothin, an 85-year-old single woman. Ms Somsook admits that age and infirmity mean it’s been a while since she has seen the condition of the house. She is too old to walk now. “It’s too much to see how the house has continuously decayed,” she said.

House owner Somsook Jutayothin also runs the Santa Cruz Kindergarten.

Ms Somsook is no stranger in the neighbourhood. She owns Santa Cruz Kindergarten, which has served the community for 54 years.

Ms Somsook tells about her hopes that the house can be renovated in this Thai-language video with English subtitles (Note: Videos don't always play on mobile devices)

Widely known as “Kru Add”, the frail old woman can no longer walk to her old house, which is only steps away from her home in the kindergarten. She cannot even see it, her view obscured by another building.

The house sign says 'Gingerbread House' (บ้านขนมปังขิง), a term for used the beautifully decorated teakwood houses that were popular among wealthy Thai and foreign families. Many of those still in existence are over 100 years old.

“But I have always wished to see this house renovated so that it will be passed on as a national treasure,” she told Spectrum.

“I am dying and I want to make sure the house will be restored before I die.”

The interior is now in disrepair.

The Kudeejeen community traces its history to 1767, when Catholic clergy and Portuguese settlers started building a community on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River.

Ms Somsook said the original name of the building was Windsor House, after the original owner Louis Windsor, a wealthy British merchant who owned Windsor Shop on Charoen Krung Road.

Windsor, the son of an English captain who came to settle in Thailand, married Sombun, the daughter of a wealthy rice miller from Klong Bang Luang. After they married, Windsor built the house during the reign of King Mongkut. Ms Somsook could not recall the exact year when the house was built.

The decorations of the house reflect the status of the family which owned the luxury Windsor Store, widely called the See Ta (Four Eyes) Store.

In its prime, the impressive house reflected the social status of the Windsor family. The two-storey house was built at the centre of the Kudeejeen community, faces the Chao Phraya and has spectacular views of Wat Arun, which is better known as The Temple of the Dawn. Windsor House features vintage window grilles, shutters and decorative gables.

Originally there were two houses on the Windsor property, a brick and cement house out the front and the wooden house.

The brick house, however, has since been demolished.

Ms Somsook is concerned that if the wooden house is not renovated soon it will be ruined beyond repair, like the brick house was.

“It collapsed and was washed away by the river 20 years ago. If we don’t pay attention, the remaining wooden house may end up suffering the same fate,” she said.

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Vocabulary:

admit : to agree that something is true, especially when you are unhappy, sorry or surprised about it - ยอมรับ

aged : very old - สูงอายุ

appearance : the way that somebody/something looks on the outside - ลักษณะภายนอก, การปรากฏตัว

banks (noun): the raised areas of land along the sides of a river (or canal) - ริมฝั่งแม่น้ำ

brick : baked clay used for building walls, houses and other buildings - อิฐ

clergy : the priests or ministers of a religion - คณะสงฆ์, คณะพระคริสต์

collapsed : fell down suddenly - ล้ม ทิ้งตัวลง

community : the people living in one particular area - ชุมชน

condition : the physical state of a person, animal, thing or place - สภาพ

crack : a line on a surface where something is beginning to break apart - รอยแตก  รอยร้าว

dawn : the beginning of the day, when it begins to get light - รุ่งอรุณ, เช้าตรู่

decayed (adj): when something becomes gradually damaged, worse or less - เสื่อมลง

decorated (adj): wearing medals given for past achievements - ใส่เครื่องราชอิสริยาภรณ์, ใส่เครื่องยศ, ใส่เครื่องหมายเกียรติยศ

decorations (noun): a thing that makes something look more attractive on special occasions - เครื่องประดับ

decorative : decorated in a way that makes it attractive; intended to look attractive or pretty - ซึ่งใช้ตกแต่งหรือประดับประดา, ซึ่งตกแต่งแล้ว

demolish : to completely destroy a building, especially in order to use the land for something else - รื้อ (สิ่งก่อสร้าง), ทำลาย

deserted : empty - ที่ถูกทิ้งให้ว่างเปล่า  ร้างไป

dilapidated : old and in bad condition - ซึ่งชำรุดทรุดโทรม

disrepair (noun): not having been taken care of; broken or in bad condition - ความชำรุดทรุดโทรม, การขาดการซ่อมแซม

exact (adj.): done, made, or described in a very thorough way, with all the details correct - ถูกต้องแม่นยำ

exquisite : very beautiful; delicate - สวยงาม, วิจิตร, งดงาม, อ่อนช้อย

fate : the things that happen to someone/something, especially unpleasant things - ชะตากรรม

feature : to include someone or something as an important part - มีบทบาทสำคัญใน

frail : physically weak and thin - อ่อนแอ

frame (noun): a structure that forms part of an object and gives it its strength and shape or holds something firmly in place - กรอบ

fretwork (noun): patterns cut into wood, metal, etc. to decorate it; the process of making these patterns - สิ่งแกะสลัก,ไม้แกะสลัก

gables (noun): the upper parts of the end walls of a building, between the two sloping sides of the roof, that are shaped like triangles - หลังคาหน้าจั่ว, หน้าจั่ว

gingerbread (noun): a sweet cake or soft biscuit/cookie flavoured with ginger, often made into a gingerbread biscuit/cookie in the shape of a person - ขนมรสขิง, ขนมปังขิง

grill : a frame of metal bars used to cover something such as a window or a machine - ตะแกรงหน้าหม้อรถยนต์

haunted house (noun): a house believed to be visited by ghosts - บานผีสิง

impressive : something that people admire because it is very good, very large or shows great skill - ซึ่งน่าประทับใจ

in existence (adjective): that exists, that is still there, has not disappeared or destroyed -

infirmity (noun): weakness or illness over a long period - ความอ่อนแอ, ความเจ็บป่วย

interior : the inside of something - ภายใน

kindergarten : a school for children, usually between the ages of two and five - โรงเรียนอนุบาล

locals : people who live in a particular place - ชาวบ้าน

located : where something is - ตั้งอยู่

luxury : the best and most expensive of something - ที่หรูหรา 

merchant : a person or business that buys and sells goods, especially one that trades with other countries - พ่อค้า, ผู้จำหน่าย, คนขาย

miller (noun): a person who owns or works in a mill - เจ้าของโรงสี

natural : existing in nature; not made or caused by humans - เป็นธรรมชาติ, ตามธรรมชาติ

obscured (adj): prevented from being seen or heard - ปิดบัง

original : the first of something - เดิม, แบบฉบับ

originally : the situation that existed at the beginning of a particular period or activity, especially before something was changed - อย่างเป็นอันแรก, โดยแรกเริ่ม

passers-by (noun): people who are going past somebody/something - ผู้คนผ่านไปมาตามถนน

pay attention : to watch, listen to, or consider something or someone very carefully - เอาใจใส่, สนใจ

pique curiosity : make a person interested in something, make a person curious - ทำให้อยากรู้อยากเห็น

preserved : kept in good condition, not damaged or destroyed - คงอยู่, สงวนไว้

prime (noun): the time when someone/something is the strongest, most successful or in the best condition - ช่วงเวลาที่ดีที่สุด

property : land owned by someone - ที่ดิน, อสังหาริมทรัพย์

quarter : a part of a town where you find particular buildings, activities, or people - ย่าน, เขต, แถบ

recall : to remember - จำได้ นึกทบทวน

reflect : to show - สะท้อน แสดงถึง

reign (noun): a period of time during when a king or queen rules a country - ช่วงเวลาครองราชย์

remaining : continuing to be present; still existing - ยังเหลืออยู่

renovate : to make something old look new again by repairing and improving it, especially a building - การตบแต่งหรือซ่อมปรับปรุงสถานที่

restore (verb): to repair and clean something, etc. so that its condition is as good as it originally was - ซ่อมแซม, บูรณะ, กลับสู่สภาพปกติ

reveal : to show something that was covered or hidden or not known - เปิด, ทำให้ปรากฎ

settlers (noun): people who arrivesespecially from another country, in a new place and claim the land in order to live on it and farm it - ผู้ตั้งถิ่นฐาน

shutters : wooden or metal covers that can be closed over the outside of a window to keep out light or protect the windows from damage - บานเกล็ดหน้าต่าง

single : unmarried - โสด

spectacular : very exciting to look at; extremely impressive - น่าตื่นเต้น ที่ตระการตา

split (noun): a division between two or more things - การแตกแยก

status : social position - สถานะทางสังคม

storey (noun): a level in a structure; a level in a building - ชั้น, ชั้นของตึกหรืออาคาร

stranger : a person that you do not know - คนแปลกหน้า

suffer : to experience something very unpleasant or painful - ประสบ

teakwood (noun): the strong hard wood of a tall Asian tree, used especially for making furniture - ไม้สัก

trace : to follow the evidence to find out something - ตามรอย ตามทาง

treasure : something very valuable - ของมีค่า

underneath : under or below something else, especially when it is hidden or covered by the thing on top - ภายใต้, ข้างใต้

vintage : old style from the past -

wealthy : having a large amount of money, land, and other valuable things   - ที่มั่งคั่ง ร่ำรวย

weather-beaten (adj): rough and damaged because of a long of time outside - เสียเพราะถูกอากาศ, สึกกร่อน, ผ่านการตากแดดตากฝนมา

yard : an area outside a building with a grass or hard surface - สนาม

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