Architectural Treasures

Besides its beautiful beaches, islands, delicious food and diverse culture, the southern province of Trang is home to various architectural heritage sites

The southern province of Trang is a centuries-old port city with stunning natural attractions and diverse culture. It has a multi-cultural population made up of Thai, Malay and Hokkien Chinese.

The residence of the Khirirat family is a twostorey wooden and concrete building located alongside Trang-Palian Road in Ban Thung Khai, Kantang district. Construction took 1 year and seven months, and ended in October 1947, costing 360,000 baht. The building, surrounded on four sides by fences, is decorated with Western-style stucco art and Chinese and Muslim-style crafted wooden ornaments. The wooden hipped roof was fitted with kite-shaped tiles. The first storey is an open space with a polished cement floor. The floor and walls of the upper storey are wood and the windows are adorned with Chinesestyle carved wooden ornaments. The exterior has balconies. The main hall on the 2nd floor has an altar with a painting of the god Guan Yu. Most of the construction materials came from the owner’s brick-making and sawmill business, except for cement imported from Penang and sand brought from the nearby seaside. The house’s architectural style is believed to have been inspired by colonial architecture on the southern west coast, such as Phuket and Trang, or Malaysia’s Penang. When this art form was combined with the Thai Muslim-style roof, the house soon became known as an outstanding piece of local architecture, which mirrored community development. The residence was listed as an ancient establishment in 2002 and restored in 2010. At present, it is overseen by the Fine Arts Department. The project to develop the house into a local museum is being carried out by local villagers with cooperation from Prince of Songkla University’s Faculty of Architecture, Trang campus. The aim is to promote life-time learning of local history, ways of life, art, culture and architecture through exhibitions of ancient artefacts, as well as the demonstration of local craftsmanship.

Its cultural diversity is mirrored via local people's lifestyles and a wide range of delicacies ranging from spicy southern and Chinese food to its unique big breakfast with barbecued pork, dim sum, coffee and tea to satisfy the heartiest appetite.

Apart from its beautiful, 199km-long coastline facing the Andaman Sea, two rivers, many beaches, forests, mountains and waterfalls, Trang has outstanding architecture, which reflects local, Chinese and Western cultures.

Sino-Portuguese buildings stand alongside local-style panya (hip-roofed) houses, Chinese shrines, Buddhist temples and modern commercial buildings.

Trang's long-time human settlement led to the existence of various architectural heritage sites in the province, in particular those in three major towns _ Huai Yot, Tub Thiang (downtown Trang) and Kantang.

The statue of the first governor of Trang, Phraya Rassadanupradit Mahitsarapakdi, in Muang district.

Prince of Songkla University's newly established Faculty of Architecture on the Trang campus has surveyed urban architecture in the province. The surveys found a total of 537 important sites, including 111 in Huai Yot, 346 in Tub Thiang and 80 in Kantang. The objectives are to create a database on architectural heritage and to raise the awareness of local people, which can benefit from public sector conservation and restoration planning.

According to the faculty's lecturer Trichart Laokaewnoo, Trang boasts so many architectural heritage sites because it was once important to the Thai economy. In the past, Trang had a lot of tin mines and its Kantang port was one of the Andaman Sea's most important.

Its history of human settlement that dates back to pre-historic times, as well as its continual economic development, led to the creation of great architecture.

Trang is situated along a route for people to travel between the coasts of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. In the pre-historic period, the early communities of people lived in caves on the Bantad Mountain Range around present-day Na Yong and Huai Yot districts and also on lone mountains on the Trang and Palian river basins in present-day Muang, Palian and Huai Yot districts.

Later in historic times, Trang remained an important route for spreading Buddhism from India and Sri Lanka to Nakhon Si Thammarat. During the Ayutthaya and Thon Buri periods, Trang was important as a source of tin. Later in the Rattanakosin period, it became a city after establishment in the Khuan Thani sub-district and its relocation to Kantang sub-district and finally Tub Thiang (the city centre) sub-district.

Architectural heritage in Trang is mostly situated in urban areas, especially the mining town of Huai Yot, the trading town of Tub Thiang and the port town of Kantang _ all connected by the Thung Song-Kantang rail route.

Many of these are wooden and brick buildings in the city centre. Most of the brick buildings reflect the influence of architecture in Penang, Malaysia, while Malayu-style architecture similar to that in Malaysia's Perlis and Kelantan states was a result of the migration of the Chinese and Malays to work in the mining industry in Huai Yot and the shipping business at Kantang Port.

Architecture mostly found in Trang's major towns is in a local style influenced by Chinese and European architecture. Most of these buildings were made of local materials by local craftsmen. Their design is in harmony with Trang's geographical features and climate.

Also, the design concept in terms of form, structure, space management and architectural components was adopted from foreign countries. Clear examples are Chinese- and Sino-Portuguese style shophouses in the city centre, as well as religious architecture with foreign influence. The inspirations include Muslim architecture, such as mosques Malayu-style houses and Renaissance-style Christian churches.

Architecture in Trang can be classified into four major types: local-style, Chinese-style, Chinese-European and contemporary architecture.

The popular styles of architecture according to the university's survey are Chinese-style, Chinese-European and modern-style shop houses and buildings in the city centre, contemporary architecture in the government centre, local-and Malayu-style houses in the surburbs and some religious architecture in these areas. Unfortunately, many of these buildings have been deteriorating. Several of them are about to be replaced by modern-style buildings, while several others have been well restored.

''We wish the municipality would keep the information from our surveys as a database for conservation and tourism. We have submitted the report and they want to work out walking routes for tourists,'' Trichart said.

''Also, we try to push for a plan to declare a conservation zone, or Grey Zone, where building owners and residents must conserve this heritage and will be granted tax incentives in return. However, we must wait until the current city plan expires about a year from now.''

The diversity of architecture in Trang from generation to generation reflects delicate craftsmanship, the long history of human settlement and the assimilation of various cultures in this beautiful and fertile land. These qualities have brought about an aesthetic value and uniqueness to the city.

SomeotherbuildingsindowntownTrang onandaroundRatchadamnoenRoadare in the Sino-Portuguese style.Ahighlight is a four-storey buildingonHuaiYot Soi 2,whichis in excellent condition. Itsmajor componentsare Renaissance-stylearches. Thearches areanimitation of Greekart. Thebuilding, however, has Chinesestylewindowsanda 1.5m-wideroofed walkway(arcade),orwongkaki inChinese, whichis usually built in front of thesame rowof old-style Chinese buildings for people to avoid thesunor rain while walkingbetweeneachbuilding. Chinese-European architecture is derivedfromthealmostcentury-oldhistory ofmining inHuaiYotandanimportant port in Kantang,whichattracted people of various nationalities.TheChinesefrom Penangalong with the Britishcameto Trang for tradeandinvestment in the mining industry, while KantangPort attracted the Chinese, Indian, Portuguese, Dutch, FrenchandBritish traders. This brought British Colonial styleand Sino-Portuguese architecture to Trang. Sino-Portuguese architecture isknown locally asPenangshophouses, since it wasintroducedbythe Chinesefrom Penang,whocametoworkin themining andshipping businesses. Thesebuildings canbedivided into genuineSino-Portuguesearchitectureand semi Sino-Portuguese architecture. Originalones are supportedbywalls, not pillarsandbeams, decorated with Sino-Europeanmotifsandhave1.5m-wide arcades (walkways)onthe front. Thesebuildings caneasilybespotted in Trang’s marketareas. SemiSino-Portuguese buildings are supported with pillarsandsteel-fostered concretebeams,butadornedwithChinese orEuropeanmotifs. Theycanbefoundin Trang’smarket communitiesalongPhetkasemHighway, Ratchadamnoen,RassadaandNakhon KitBamrungroads.

Two brick office buildings of Pang Seng Hin shipping company along Rassada Road opposite Kantang Port are more than a century old. They were built when Phraya Rassadanupradit was the governor of Trang. The doors and windows, decorated with triangular arches and coloured glass, are major features of the Art Deco architecture. The windows on the 2nd floor comprise two parts, Chinese-style wooden louvres and ordinary wooden windows. Above the windows are segmental arches. The walls are decorated with floral stucco motifs, an important feature of Renaissance architecture. The lower part of the gable roofs are adorned with balcony pillars whose tops are round, indicating the influence of Islamic art.

This building is influenced by Malayan-style architecture. Malayan-style houses, or southern Thai-style houses, reflect the influence of architecture in the northern Malaysia states of Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu. These houses are mostly made of wood and placed upon stumps. The stumps are not buried in the ground to avoid water damage, but placed on stone or concrete bases to prevent termites. The walls are made of wood with horizontal lining. These houses mostly have gable hip roofs, paved with kite-shaped clay tiles or cement tiles. Houses like these are easy to relocate after the removal of roof tiles.

Kantang Railway Station is located alongside Khai Pitak Road. It officially opened on April 1, 1913, during the reign of King Rama VI. In the past, it served the transport of goods from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and had an additional 500m stretch of rail track to Kantang Port. The station is a single-storey wooden building painted in mustard yellow and brown colours. It consists of a station building and a platform with finely carved wooden decoration, high doors and windows and Chinese-style louvre windows. It has a hip roof, paved with kite-shaped concrete tiles, and a balcony in the front. In 1996, it was registered as an ancient establishment due to its outstanding architectural form, bright colours, historical significance and status as the country’s last railway station on the Andaman coast. In the reign of King Rama V, then Trang governor Phraya Rassadanupradit Mahitsarapakdi was granted royal permission to relocate the city centre from Khuan Thani sub-district to the east of the Trang River. Later, he developed the new area and established the city by using the city plan of Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia. The city expanded swiftly. Architecture in Kantang consists of Chinese-style shophouses and rows of buildings around the railway station. Rows of two-storey wooden buildings are mostly found in markets by the river and serve as stores.

Kantang Railway Station is located alongside Khai Pitak Road. It officially opened on April 1, 1913, during the reign of King Rama VI. In the past, it served the transport of goods from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and had an additional 500m stretch of rail track to Kantang Port. The station is a single-storey wooden building painted in mustard yellow and brown colours. It consists of a station building and a platform with finely carved wooden decoration, high doors and windows and Chinese-style louvre windows. It has a hip roof, paved with kite-shaped concrete tiles, and a balcony in the front. In 1996, it was registered as an ancient establishment due to its outstanding architectural form, bright colours, historical significance and status as the country’s last railway station on the Andaman coast. In the reign of King Rama V, then Trang governor Phraya Rassadanupradit Mahitsarapakdi was granted royal permission to relocate the city centre from Khuan Thani sub-district to the east of the Trang River. Later, he developed the new area and established the city by using the city plan of Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia. The city expanded swiftly. Architecture in Kantang consists of Chinese-style shophouses and rows of buildings around the railway station. Rows of two-storey wooden buildings are mostly found in markets by the river and serve as stores.

Arowof five Chinese-stylewooden shophousessitswhereThaKhaiRoad andSathonSathan PitakRoadcross in Kantangdistrict.Thebuildingsweresolely madeofwoodandhavegable roofs,paved withkite-shapedcementtiles.Thewooden doorsonthe groundfloor are foldable while thewindowsare ordinarywooden ones, not louvres.Eachbuilding has a skylightanda well in the centre. Chinese-style architecturewas introducedbytraderswhofirstcameto KantangPortbyseaandlater settleddown inTubThiangandHuaiYot,by theTrang River. It is mostly foundin themarket areasanddivided into religious buildings andcommercial buildings. Religious buildings include shrinesandvegetarian centres built according to the principle of feng shui or religious beliefs.These buildings aremadeof bricks, haveround windowsandcurvy roofs. Their roofs are usually pavedwithbananaleaf-shaped roof tilesanddecoratedwiththesculptures of auspicious animalslike turtles,dragons andswans.Theinterior is adornedwith the statues of deities, suchas thegod GuanYuandgoddessGuanYin,and Buddhaimages. Chinese-style buildings forcommerce include shophouses,rowhousesand commercialbuildings,whichcombine localcraftsmanshipandChineseart.Most ofthemare located alongmainandsmall roads inmarket zones.Thegroundfloor serves as a storeandthe upperfloors serve as living areas.Thestructures of these buildings canbewooden,halfwooden/ half-brick, or completely brick. Thecentre consists of skylights,ponds andwashing areas.Thebuildings are decorated with Chinese patterns.

Visitors should try Chinese-style noodles at Lo Khung restaurant, Kantang, besides Trang’s famous grilled pork and Chinese-style cake from Lamphura.

TRAVEL INFO

The best time to visit Trang is between December and May. You can travel by train, car, bus or air.

By train it takes 15 hours from Bangkok to Trang. Rapid and express trains Hua Lamphong railway station daily at 5.05pm and 6.20pm.

If driving there, take Highway 4 (Bangkok-Chumphon) and get on to Highway 41 (Surat Thani-Thung Song- Huai Yot-Trang).

Air-conditioned buses depart Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal for Trang at regular intervals daily. It takes 12 hours to get there.

Nok Air and Thai AirAsia operate daily flights from Bangkok to Trang.

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