BANGKOK — Eat, seek divine help in love and marvel at a restored 167-year-old Chinese pier which opened Friday.
After its historic shrine and 19th-century architecture were updated with modern restaurants and shops, Lhong 1919, a 6-rai complex on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, is being returned to service with much of its antique character intact.
“This place used to be like the Suvarnabhumi Airport of 150 years ago,” Peeraya Boonprasong, a conservation architect says in a promotional video for Lhong 1919, explaining how the pier was a hub for overseas merchants. “This historically significant spot links together Thai, Chinese and Thai-Chinese history.”
The pier buildings have been restored after a year-long effort, and visitors can peruse the Sino-Thai port architecture, especially the wall paintings in the shop rooms where merchants would display their wares.
This opening weekend, Lhong 1919 will hold outdoor markets from 4pm to 10pm as well as a lantern festival on Sunday. The Meng Por Pla ngiew, or Chinese opera, troupe will perform twice daily at 4pm and 10pm, Friday through Sunday in front of the Mazo Shrine.
Lhong means “pier” in Chinese, and the venue’s name was derived from site’s original name of Huay Chun Lhong (Steamboat Pier). The largest in Thailand before falling into disuse when the Port Authority took over, it was founded by a nobleman who invested in steamboats during the reign of King Rama IV.
The property is now owned by the long-established Wang Lee Clan. Their historic Baan Wang Lee clan house is right next to the complex and also open to the public.
Visitors can ask for riches, luck and love at the 167-year-old Mazo Shrine. During Huay Chun Lhong’s heyday in the mid-1800s, Chinese merchants would ask the very same shrine for prosperous sales and safe travels.
“This was the center of faith of the Chinese people in Thailand,” Pimpraphai Bisalputra, historian said in another video on Lhong 1919’s Facebook page. “Chinese communities received Empress Cixi’s dignitaries who visited during [King] Rama V’s reign at the pier, filling the whole river bank with toh jeen [Chinese banquet tables] and ngiew performances.”
“We want people to come see Lhong 1919 and its Chinese art and culture,” spokeswoman Aapuporn Sudjai said Friday by phone. “Come view the historical sites and architecture while enjoying the riverside.”
Lhong 1919 is open daily 10am to 10pm. The shrine is open 8am through 8pm. It is located in the Chiang Mai Alley in Khlong San district, reachable by taxi from BTS Saphan Taksin. From the river, take a Chao Phraya Express boat to the Ratchawongse Pier and then a ferry across to Din Daeng Pier. It’s a walk from there. The complex will soon be more directly accessible by boat. More information can be found on its Facebook page.