Course Correction: Which Way Will Bangkok’s Future Flow?

A woman on Sunday poses for a picture with sand pagodas at Lhong 1919
A woman on Sunday poses for a picture with sand pagodas at Lhong 1919

BANGKOK — Despite blazing heat, crowds poured onto a centuries-old Chinese trading pier to admire sand pagodas and pay respect to their elders with a splash of scented water before continuing on to enjoy its vintage, riverside Sino-Thai architecture.

The revival of Lhong 1919 and other old communities along the Chao Phraya River has brought new life – and revenue – to its dilapidated banks, as will commercial megaprojects such as the Iconsiam, which opens in October. Then there’s the government which, until a few days ago, was pushing hard for seven kilometers of concrete boardwalks.

Bangkok seems intent on remaking its defining feature, but it’s less certain what it will look like, or whom it will be for. Will it be the adaptive reuse of historic infrastructure such as Lhong, Warehouse 30 or even Asiatique? Or the gleaming retail spires of familiar shopping malls?

Ask people out enjoying its sights on the last day of Songkran, and find they want to see it improved, but not radically changed.


“I think it’d be great if there’s a riverside walkway. However, for any development, we should consider preservation as well,” said Yanisa Saesiao, a first time visitor at Lhong 1919, adding that she likes the river the way it is now.

She much enjoyed the atmosphere of the pier and hopes there will be more “antique and preserved” attractions coming to the river.

Another reveler who would only give her name as Nant said she loves traveling along various riversides and is attracted to places with “traditional Thai style.”


Yanisa and Nant were among those dodging Sunday’s watery warfare in favor of a low-key boat tour detailing how the capital’s waterways were once deeply intertwined with its livelihood. Visitors were able to hop on and off at different piers to visit key tourism spots such as temples and historic riverside communities.

Nant said she would welcome a redevelopment project with the traditional touch that she adores.

“The river doesn’t look so great now. Some areas are full of garbage. All of us need to work together to make it become more pleasant.” she said. “I’d like it if future projects can provide access to more older communities, but it has to be in a sustainable way to preserve their livelihood.”