Kudee Jeen a Portuguese Heritage
A stroll back in time in one of Quarter the city’s oldest districts. Kudee Jeen a quarter with a Portuguese cachet which, in the 16th century, were the first Westerner to establish relations, friendship, trade, and “military” treaty with what was then Siam, and to establish a presence in the capital Ayutthaya, 120 of which were part of the king’s personal guard, as well as to practice Catholicism. It was after the Burmese ransacked the former capital at the end of the 18th century, where they took part in battles, including the conquest of Thonburi, that more than 2000 of them with many different ethnic groups (Thai, Mon, Chinese, Islamic) settled on land granted by King Taksin in recognition of their help. This area was called “The Settlement of the Holy Cross”. Also, when King Rama I moved the capital to the other side of Chao Phraya, Portugal received another piece of land called “The Rosary” where the Church of the Holy Rosary was built.
In 1820, under the reign of King Rama II, Portugal was granted properties where the residence of the first Consul was established. The Portuguese Embassy in Bangkok is the oldest diplomatic mission in Thailand, but it was not until 1964 that the two countries raised their mission to the rank of embassy, and in 1981 Thailand established an embassy in Lisbon.
The Portuguese settled a trading post and port there, and encouraged by the king the arrival of the Chinese and smaller communities such as the Khmer, Lao, and Vietnamese Muslims contributed to Kudee Jin’s wealth. Buddhist temples, Chinese, church, mosque, this community of nearly 2000 souls is to this day an example of how to live together in harmony.
What to Visit
You will appreciate the tranquility and charm of its narrow streets (very clean) and its colorful houses that make this small village an interesting and pleasant stroll.
The Temple of Friendship
Built in the mid-1820s, on land given to King Rama 3 by a noble and very close friend to the king, to build a temple to the glory of the king, who named it Wat Kalayanamit (“good friend”), in tribute to his friend. Just as the Santa Cruz church, the Chinese community of Kudee Jeen influenced the architecture of the temple.
The Royal Viharn the large central building where is located the statue of Buddha, Luang Pho To later renamed Trai Rattanayok by King Rama 4, measures 16m high by 12m wide, is entirely covered with gold leaf and in position Marn Vichai
The Ubosot ((closed that day) is home to another smaller image of Buddha, but is in the so-called European pose (pralambapadasana) left hand with palm on the knee, right hand slightly lifted above the right knee, palm down, is described as the attitude of life in the jungle, a posture that is rarely seen in temples in Thailand. In the back of the temple is the largest bronze bell you will see in Thailand, ring three times to bring you good luck.
Known by the Thais as Luang Pho To, called Sam Po Kong by the Chinese who respect this image very much, the belief says that by worshiping it, you can attract success in business, good friends and security. In the temple enclosure is the largest bronze bell you will see in Thailand, ring three times for luck.
Santa Cruz Church
Built entirely of wood in 1770, was then gradually forgotten, the church was named Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) in 1769, when the king visited this village, which coincided with the Catholic celebration of the triumph of the Holy Cross. It was a French missionary in 1835 who decided to rebuild it, history says that he was at the origin of the resumption of diplomatic relations between France and Siam.
Kuddee Jeen “Chinese church” name given by the locals due to the fact that most of the workers were of Chinese origin (jin meaning Chinese), a name that was later adopted to designate the area. Like the first one, it did not survive and was renovated again from 1913 to 1916 by Annibal Rigotti and Mario Tamagno, influential Italian architects in Thailand, that you will see from the exterior today as it is open to the public only on Sunday morning and sometimes on Sunday evening. Like in the Holy Rosary there are 2 Catholic schools around the church.
The Chilly Head Ghost or the Little Liab Ghost
- A little friendly ghost of the Kudee Jeen community is a clever and subtle process put in place by the elders to establish a curfew for children. Every day at 6pm once the church bell rings, means it’s time to go home quickly. Strict adherence to this curfew will prevent the cold headed ghost (pei huaprik) or the lonely Little Liab Ghost (pei noo liab) from capturing them and keeping them as his fellow players until he is satisfied and finally releases them.
Despite the fact that the painting has long since disappeared, the inhabitants call it the blue house. Entirely of teak wood and without foundation, it could be used as a film set. Built under the reign of Rama 4 by a rich British merchant in the style of gingerbread, which was very popular at the time. The deceased owner donated the property to Queen Mother Sirikit, and it is now leased. A brick and cement house built on the same property, but more than 20 years ago it collapsed and was washed away by the river.
I met a gentleman who opened the door to the courtyard, which is fallow, and saw up close this house is unique and deserves some renovation work. After taking some pictures, we exchanged a few words, he told me that he owned two houses, one next to the blue house where his daughter, who studied in Germany and started her own business in Bangkok, lives, and he resides in the one across the street. I asked him if he was a Christian or a Buddhist and he immediately showed me his amulet hidden under his polo shirt. He told me that he had bought it in Sampeng and that a collector would have offered to buy it for 1 million baht, which he refused because he has been wearing it for several years and is protecting him.
Follow the concrete path along the river until you see the front of the house.
Kuan An Keng Shrine Guanyin Shrine
What was a Chinese joss house (Hokkienese) and one of the oldest sanctuaries in Thonburi and Thailand where the Chinese already lived on this side of the Chao Phraya at the time of the Ayutthaya kingdom. King Taksin built its palace (Phra Racha Wang Derm) which became the Royal Thai Naval Academy under the reign of King Rama 5, but also two temples on the site where communities settled around. When it was created, the shrine was divided into two sanctairies, Guan Yu and Qingshui. It was during the reign of Rama 3 (1824-1851) that the two buildings in a state of disrepair were demolished and rebuilt by ancestors of the local Hokkienese family who renamed it Kuan An Keng, who was dedicated to the goddess Guanyin. We can see his wooden statue carved and covered with gold. The temple has been designated a historical site by the Department of Fine Arts. A major renovation project has mostly been completed.
Some also believe that this place is the origin of the name Kudee Jeen, which means “Chinese monk’s dwelling”
Open everyday from 9am to 5pm
It is not allowed to take photos inside the shrine, and the guardian is watching.
Museum Baan Kudee Jeen
A visit to this small museum located in the former home of a Catholic family is recommended. Open 2 years ago to preserve the heritage and share culture and traditions, the descendant has beautifully arranged a museum on the first and second floors. Maps and engravings, a model of the first Siamese church, a copy of a 1796 Siamese Roman Bible and other treasures. I liked and discovered the fruits and plants that the Portuguese imported from Latin America and goods such as ivory, tin, cardamom seed and of course rice and others that made the opposite journey. The second floor is a magnificent replica of the owner’s great-grandparents’ apartment.
Very pleasant coffee shop on the ground floor, and view of the area on the top floor.
The welcoming owner speaks English and Portuguese.
Open from 9.30 am to 6 pm
Closed on Monday
A Local Dessert
Kanom farang Kudee Jeen, meaning the foreign dessert of Kudee Jeen, A local speciality, a soft cake, eggs (duck), sugar and wheat flour, no baking powder, with raisins, or melon, apple, persimmon, a Sino-Portuguese heritage that would date back to the Ayutthaya era. I bought some for my breakfast.
Traditionally consumed on Boxing Day, they are now handmade every day in (3) local bakeries. The best known is the small Thanusingha Bakery, where the same family has been making these cakes for five generations. You will also sometimes find them on some markets in Bangkok, such as the Or Tor Kor in Chatuchak. Other desserts inherited from the Portuguese, custard pies, foi thong ( shredded egg yolk dipped in white sugar syrup) sangkhaya fak thong (pumpkin with coconut cream), thong muan, means “rolled gold” similar to the American pirouline. Because of its name and symbolic of desire and wealth, often Thai people offer it as a gift. But the Portuguese not only brought sweet, they also introduced one important ingredients into the Thai cuisine, chili.
The word bread “pang” in Thai comes from the Portuguese pão, full word “khanom pang” khanom means dessert, snack
Open from 9am to 5 pm
Bang Luang Mosque
Built in the early Rattanakosin period by Muslim merchant named “To Yi”. It is the only Thai-style mosque. ocated a little outside the quarter, you will have to go to Amarin road, cross it and enter a small alleyway soi 7. I think the walk in these very quiet narrow alleys along a canal is nice, I like it. Follow the yellow arrows.
The small Ton Son Mosque, considered the oldest mosque in Bangkok and Thailand, back to the Ayutthaya period. On the way to Wat Arun, on the left-hand side after crossing the bridge on Amarin road
Goowatin Islam Mosque
A Persian merchant called Sheikh Ahmed immigrated to Siam in the 17th century created his business in Ayutthaya where he established the foundations of the House of Bunnag which quickly won the favor of the royal family. When the capital was transferred to Thonburi the family converted to Buddhism and continued serving the kingdom. In the 19th century, a descendant of the family named Tat Bunnag first became a page, then regent and then owner of the land by the river where a warehouse was located. When Indian traders arrived at the time of Rama IV, (portrayed in The King and I) he left them the property to use it as a mosque. They quickly became valuable translators for the Bunnag company, among them was Ali Bai Nana, who became a renowned businessman, the one who launched Nana’s business empire. His brother (Tish Bunnag) Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Prayurawongse, who would become Somdet Chao Phraya (the highest title that the nobility can achieve), dedicated his coffee plantation to build a royal temple, the Wat Prayoonwongsawat. To better understand the importance of the Nana family, remember when you are on Sukhumvit Soi 4 known as Soi Nana, and the BTS Nana station, or Soi Nana in Chinatown, names due to their multiple businesses and land ownership in these areas.
Built in 1828 Wat Prayoonwongsawat, the turtles’s temple and the 60 m high white chedi, a museum where Buddha statues found inside the chedi are displayed, and from where you can access by a set of stairs inside of the chedi, beautiful view over the neighborhood and beyond. To relax there is the man-made garden with a pond, miniature mountain and turtles.
Located next to the Memorial Drawbridge, construction of which began in 1929 and was inaugurated in 1932. Built to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Chakri Dynasty and was named Phutthayotfa Chulalok (Rama I) first king of the dynasty. It is more commonly called Saphan Phut (Buddha Bridge).
Open 9am to 6pm
Gong Wu Shrine (Guan Yu)
I quickly took a look at the mosque, and it took me a few minutes to reach the shrine built towards the end of the Ayutthaya period, almost 300 years old. Gong Wu was a warlord known for his bravery and honesty. Often represented as a red-faced deity, god of war and fidelity in ancient Chinese beliefs. Some consider him as the God of wealth and others as the God of victory. Very colorful temple.
It is not allowed to take pictures inside the shrine
The door adjacent to the temple is the “my grand parent’s house” coffee shop, perfect for relaxing in a nice setting, and having a drink along the Chao Phraya.
Open daily 10am to 6pm
To get there, at the exit of the Prayoon temple go left, pass under the Memorial Bridge and about 200 meters away take the road leading to the Goowatin Islam Mosque.
Next to the shrine you can also pay a visit to the Princess Mother Memorial Park
How to Go To Kudee Jeen
If you have ever used the express boat on the Chao Phraya River, you will probably have noticed the dominant red ocher dome of the Santa Cruz church, of this area sometimes spell Kudee chin, Kadi Chin or Kudi chin.
The most direct way is to take the ferry (6 baht) from the Yodpiman shopping center located at MRT Sanam Chai, exit 5, then head towards the Chao Phraya, cross the bridge and enter the coffee shop where you will see the small ticket office. Short crossover to the Wat Kalyanamit pier.
Cross the Memorial Bridge, you will arrive very close to wat Prayoon
MRT Blue Line
Kudee Jeen has long been an unfamiliar area for tourists, although even today they are still few, this is gradually changing. For those who like walking, the blue MRT line that has just opened is not very far away, about 40 minutes. The name of the station is Itsaraphap, and you will have to walk along the road of the same name to Thetsaban sai 2 and then Arun Amarin 5, cross Amarin road and Santa Cruz Church is 5 minutes away. You can also go to the Wat Arun from this station.
Wat Pitchaya Yatikiram Worawihan
If you came by ferry to Kudee Jeen and you have some time left, after relaxing at “my grandparents’ house” you can walk to the Itsaraphap MRT station. Go back to the “slabed” road where you will see the Wat Pitchaya Yatikiram Worawihan, a short walk away.
Off the tourist trails, peaceful temple, and beautiful prangs built by Tag Bunnag to contain the ashes of the family. You will have to climb a few steep steps to visit the inside of the large central prang where there are four images of Buddha looking in each of the four cardinal directions.
From there exit at the back of the temple, take the Soi on the right which will take you to the very active Itsaraphap road, go on your right up to the MRT station. About 20 Minutes to 1/2 hour walk.
Pope Francois in Thailand
After John Paul II in 1984, Pope Francis paid a visit last year from November 20 to 23
Thonburi, the Wat Arun (1km away), the khlongs, a visit to this side of Chao Phraya would be incomplete without having explored this charming and historic area.
I hope this will be helpful for planning your next trip to Bangkok. If you have any questions, I will be more than happy to help you out
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