The article below was published in The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Vol. 31 (1861), and can be found online ‘as was’ in at least several different locations. However, I ─ in my shortness of formal education as a Grade 12 dropout ─ became somewhat embroiled in trying to identify the places that were named in the account, many of which have in modern times assumed identities that sometimes are wholly different from what were quoted in the account; and I especially became caught up in an amateurish game of sleuthing to see what I could make of the various canals cited in the article, and which served as the arteries by which the “boat excursion” was achieved.
This project of mine actually began in January 2015, and then I became diverted from it, never to return to it until this month of October 2020. In the interim, I have since upgraded my old computer’s operating system (OS) from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and some of my saved documents relating to that research have effectively disappeared.
Or maybe I neglected to save everything that I had thought I had. All I know is that my saved copy of the edited Boat Excursion from Bangkok account has some numbered note references for notes which I evidently made, but which I no longer have.
I do not deny that I likely went into overkill in linking to sources for explanations of various place and other names, but I did so from the stance of somebody almost wholly unfamiliar with Thailand’s history and geography.
Nevertheless, I am profoundly fallible, so I would appreciate being set right for any errors I surely have made. As well, I confess to becoming lazy as the account progressed and the various obscure wats, khlongs, and towns were named ─ I had to forsake trying to discern their relationships to the same places as they may exist today, or this post was going to take me weeks to complete. Thus, once more, if anyone can throw light upon those purposefully neglected geographic riddles, please do so.
I end this preamble just by declaring that I hope my efforts on the following are more help than annoyance to the reader.
Boat Excursion from Bangkok, in Siam, to the Pechaburri, on the Western Shore of the Gulf of Siam.
Read, June 11, 1860.
I HAD been suffering from indisposition for some time, and the doctor having advised a change of air and scene, I resolved to visit the town of Pechaburri,* on the western shore of the Gulf of Siam.
* Lat. 13° 36′ N., long. 99° 55½’ E. of Greenwich[Note 13], according to Captain Richards’ Survey of the Gulf of Siam.
I left, therefore, the wharf of the Consulate on the 2nd of May last, at about four o’clock in the afternoon, in the Kalahome’s* own boat, next to the royal barges the handsomest and best appointed. Its cabin was commodious, and high enough for a person of my size to stand up without bending the head; it was otherwise so well fitted up that a doubt might arise whether or not some ostentation was displayed. The boatmen were mostly Cochin-Chinese, who, during the war between that country and Siam in 1836, had been taken prisoners of war, and kept in bondage since. They were now men from fifty to sixty years of age, but still active, pulling their oars vigorously. The manner of propelling the boat is by standing upon the deck with the face towards the bow, the oar being attached by a rope or noose to an upright piece of wood, which is fixed to the gunnel; the cord is sufficiently pliable to act as if it were a swivel. The rowing did not seem to them a fatiguing work, for I saw them plying the oar for hours without showing signs of considering themselves over-worked. They were equipped in green cloth jackets, with red collars and cuffs, and acted under an officer who would occasionally let them feel a rattan, which, as a wand of office, he bore in his hand. Songs — no doubt recollections of their own country, the measure being strongly marked by stamping the right foot on the deck — cheered them on.
* The dignity of Kalahome[Note 1] is similar to that of Prime Minister.
Mr. T, the Consul of Hamburg, accompanied by a friend, were my travelling companions, but they were in another boat.
We passed Klong (canal) Bangbong[Note 2], and entered that of Bang Kaveh. It was then nightfall. The canal became smaller and smaller, studded with hundreds of boats, laden with produce from the provinces Nakong Kaisi and Pechaburri. They awaited here a favourable tide, and having all the same destination, namely, the Bangkok market, they had gathered in such numbers that it was the greatest difficulty to get along.
The Kalahome’s barge had lanterns, not only in front of the cabin, but likewise at the bow and stern, which were lighted to show distinctly the insignia of a high nobleman (namely, five bannerets with horse-tails tied to the staff below the flag), who, for all they could know, might be himself on board. It seemed, however, that even such a rank could not influence the people in the boats to make the necessary room for us to pass through until our patron used his staff of office without leniency upon the refractory who did not get out of our way,— a remedy which had evidently much more the desired effect than the paraphernalia of Siamese nobility.
Our progress was very slow, and at about four in the morning we found the canal quite narrow, and the water so low that we had to stop near a wat, or Buddhist temple, with some houses on the opposite bank, from whence a canal branches off to Nakong Kaisi[Note 3].
The tide having sufficiently risen, we continued, and entered with daylight a broad watercourse, equal in breadth to the Menam. It was a pretty sight when, on our escape out of the small canal, we entered the Thatchin, as this canal is called, bordered by bushes above which fan-leaved palms were towering, the banks studded with houses, the canal enlivened by numerous boats, in size from the small skiff to the unwieldy barge, carrying the produce and merchandize from the interior provinces to the capital. The barometer stood then 30•20 inches, the temperature of the atmosphere was 78° Fah., and that of the water 88° Fah.; showing the same difference at that early hour in the morning as under the tropics in the west. At six o’clock we arrived at a place where the canal divides into two branches: the one takes a direction to the north, the other to the west by south.
At the fork where the two canals divide, and likewise on the opposite banks, were a number of houses, perhaps from 150 to 200, with here and there a Chinese shop amongst them. The open spaces before the houses were heaped up with firewood for the market in Bangkok. This is the village Thatchin, bearing the name of the canal.[Note 4]
Our appearance caused some stir. Above the token of Siamese nobility the white ensign — Great Britain’s prettiest colours — was flying in the Kalahome’s boat, while the flag of Hamburg was waving from the stern of the boat in which were my companions. My Cochiin-Chinese boat’s crew sung one of their liveliest ditties, stamping their feet with extra vigour, and the boatmen in the Hamburg consul’s boat set up in opposition one of their Siamese songs. The dogs in the village did their utmost to welcome us by loud barking, and here and there out of the small windows of the huts peeped the face of an astonished inmate, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes in order to stare at us. This did not give me the idea of a propensity, on the part of the Thatchin people, to rise early, for it was then already past six o’clock.
The canal[Note 5] which was to carry us to Meklong becomes now narrower, and takes a south-western direction. We halted for an hour at the wat Kuthia; while breakfast was being prepared we took a stroll.
Along the banks of the canal were a number of huts of mean construction, and, from appearance, untidy within, the inhabitants of which rushed out of their habitations when the furious barking of the dogs announced to them that there was something more uncommon to be seen than an everyday’s occurrence. The little children playing before the huts ran frightened away, screaming lustily, just as I had previously witnessed it in the Indian villages in Guiana, when persons white of colour presented themselves; and I am sure had there been any parrots in the huts they would have done their utmost to outdo the children in screaming, just as in Guiana.
I was struck with the great difference in the appearance of the women at this village when compared with the generality of the Siamese females. They were much fairer, and, in lieu of the short tuft on the crown of the head, they possessed long flowing black hair. Some had it neatly plaited, in the manner European ladies used to wear it in the commencement of the present century. I was told they were Muangs[Note 6], or Peguans[Note 7], from the Burmese boundary; but why there should be such a number in this locality, the generality so much superior in appearance to the Siamese women, while their husbands had the looks of the common male creation of Siam, I did not learn.
Fighting our way through the assailing dogs, we continued our walk along the raised pathway that traversed the marshy plains, covered with a vegetation of saline plants, by no means of great interest to a botanist who finds the same feature represented under similar latitudes where the soil favours that class. However, I noticed a Solanum climbing up the trees and bushes of mangrove, the flowers of which were of a fine blue, in various tints, as the light fell upon it. The people, when they saw that I gathered it, came to the conclusion that I must be a medicine-man, and told me that they used a decoction of it as a purgative.
The train of men and children that followed us increased as we went along: the urchins took confidence on seeing others following us, but the women satisfied themselves with a stealthy glance through the little square windows of their houses; or, where it happened that they were outside of their huts, they stealthily turned the head over the right or left of their shoulders, retiring with precipitation to their habitation. I was very forcibly reminded how frequently I had witnessed similar instances during my peregrinations amongst the Indians in Guiana, thus adding a new confirmation to the doctrine that unsophisticated nature is so frequently the same.
The crowd followed us to the wat. To judge from the scanty and worn-out clothing of the few talapoins[Note 8] which we saw there, and the small number of dwellings, it must have been a temple of but a moderate income. The priests watched our proceedings at breakfast with great curiosity, but declined to accept partaking of any of the dishes sent to them. The grounds around the wat were neatly laid out, and were kept in good order.
We were again under way shortly before nine o’clock. The country we had hitherto passed through seemed to me, judging by what I have seen in Virginia and the West Indies, to be uncommonly well qualified for the cultivation of cotton. Unfortunately the population is so scanty, that those who wish to labour may acquire their sustenance in a more simple manner. Firewood seems at present to be the staple article of these regions. Not only did I see it piled up in heaps, wherever there was a group of houses, to be embarked in boats when opportunity offered, but we met numerous boats loaded with it to be carried to the market of Bangkok.
The heat was now rapidly increasing: the thermometer stood 90° Fah., the water in the canal was 87° Fah., and the barometer showed 30″•15. Our course varied between south and west. We passed houses and small settlements, built on both banks of the canal. Here and there was a wat. But what a difference between the wats of the king at Bangkok and the poor buildings that we found erected on both banks of the canal, as temples and habitations of the brotherhood! The question may arise, Do not the priests or talapoins of these rural districts serve their religion better in their poverty than their lordly brethren at Bangkok?
Once again under way, there was a strong bend to the right; the water was now very low, and not only did the banks of the canal expose mud-flats on both sides, but we found it difficult to get our boats along in mid-channel. I saw but few birds. I shot a rail that was new to me, and my companions amused themselves by firing at the alligators, which, with their ugly heads just above water, lay listlessly in the stream, or sunned themselves, their slimy lengths stretched out on the mud-flat.
The canal became much narrower, and shortly after ten we passed a village with a wat on our left, and opposite to it a canal, which branched off to Maikongkosi, the great district for sugar-cultivation. The temperature had greatly increased, and as the roof of the cabin in the boat was covered with copper, the heat was almost insupportable. The thermometer showed 128° Fah. in the cabin.
We met a boat of a large size, and on inquiry I found that it was laden with cotton, and came from Rasaburi[Note 9]. To judge from the sample which I took, it was only of middling quality, and I learned from the owner that he expected to get about 100 ticals[Note 10] (calculated 12£. 10s.) for the boat’s load.
Our boatmen were obliged to use poles to propel the canoe along; it was nearly low water, and the ebb, moreover, against us. The scenery along the banks seemed that of a dismal swamp — mangrove-bushes and sedges. We saw no habitations, nor any traces of cultivation; all was still and lifeless around us: the noon-tide heat had seemingly driven even the birds away; and only now and then a solitary crow winged its way heavily along.
Our course was mostly westward. At about five o’clock in the afternoon we arrived at a point where the canal forms a fork; one branch goes off south-west, towards the town Meklong[Note 11], the other northward, to Maikongkosi.
The south-western branch, which we had to follow, had not a drop of water in its bed, the tide being nearly at its lowest ebb. There was a small village on the fork of the canal with a wat. We had here to wait until the flood set in, and, noticing a cock-pit, it was selected to serve us as a dinner-saloon.
As soon as we landed the people flocked around us. We wished to purchase fowls, but a middle-aged thick-shouldered individual seemed to give advice not not [sic] to sell anything to us. He spoke authoritatively, and made himself known as the owner of the cock-pit. A slap upon his shoulder, and a hint to go away, quieted him; the more so since he had now learned from our boatmen who we were. We soon effected our purchases, and procured likewise a quantity of fine fish and prawns, and enjoyed an excellent dinner in the cock-pit. The Siamese indulge greatly in the cruel game of cock-fighting, and rear their fowls for that purpose with great attention.
The tide came rushing in about half-past six o’clock: it was a curious sight. The canal, previously perfectly dry, showed first a few rills of water, seeking their way meandering through the mud; then came a rush, and in an incredibly short time the bed was filled up, and with the stream, carried on at the rate of three or four knots, came quite a fleet of boats, which, having been penned up while the canal was dry, now entered the broad course of the Thatchin.
We started at seven o’clock, and reached the river Meklong* in about three hours’ time. Where the canal by which we came enters the river, is situated along its banks and those of the broad river the town of Meklong, distant from the mouth of the latter about 4 miles.
* Meklong signifies “Mother of canals,” like Menam “Mother of rivers.”
It was very dark, and a thunder-storm was rapidly approaching. It would not have been prudent to start to sea; we wished, therefore, to await daylight at the town. But our boatmen determined to go on for a few miles, to be nearer to the mouth of the Meklong when day should break. However an accident, which proved serious to me, brought us soon to anchor. In the darkness, and no doubt for want of the proper look out, our barge was run against the great pallisades by which the river is barricaded, in consequence of which only a small single passage is left for vessels and boats. Our barge canted over, and the tables and chairs which were in the cabin were upset, and with them my mountain barometer, by which the glass-tube got entirely smashed. I had only time to save the chronometer, by rushing towards the table and seizing it before it came to the ground. This accident was annoying enough; the second boat profited by our mishap, and avoided the danger.
As soon as the eastern sky showed the approach of day, we started, and found ourselves, with the tide in our favour, at six o’clock in the morning at sea, pulling southerly along the shore at the distance of about three miles from it. The aneroid barometer showed then 30″•12, the temperature of the air was 77° 5′ Fah., and that of the sea 87° Fah. Inland, at the distance of about 12 miles from us, extended, in a ɴ.ɴ.ᴡ. and s.s.ᴇ. direction, a chain of mountains, in their outlines abrupt and broken. From the midst of them rose a pyramidal hill, its summit capped. The prospect in that direction was closed by a mountain-chain more elevated, the distance of which I estimated at from 30 to 40 miles inland. The ridges of these mountains were apparently less abrupt than those nearer to us, of which the pyramidal hill forms such a striking feature. It has been called by Captain [John] Richards, of Her Majesty’s Surveying Ship Saracen, the “Sugar-loaf,” the Siamese boatmen called it Kow Wataploa. It is stated to be 1260 feet high. Another remarkable hill, distant from us about 25 miles, more south-west, and served us for some time as a mark to the entrance of the Pechaburri River. The hill, judging at the distance we were from it, seemed isolated, and from its outline has probably been called the “Nipple” by Captain Richards in his chart, who states its height 1900 feet.
We followed the outline of the coast at a distance of from 2 to 3 miles, and had then scarcely more than 1½ fathom of water. It was about half-tide: the shallows were studded with fishing-stakes. Whole flocks of pelicans, cormorants, and gulls, in the absence of the fishermen, had taken possession of them, sitting listlessly upon the gratings of the stakes, until we produced some stir amongst them by discharging our fowling-pieces in that direction: then there followed such a fluttering, chattering, and noise, that it was almost deafening.
The sea was perfectly calm — numerous fishing-boats were sailing to and fro, the sails of which, under the reflection of the morning sun, seemed white as snow. It was quite an interesting sight. Penned up as I had been at Bangkok, surrounded by mudflats and watered by a river the colour of which is that of loam, teeming with impurities — the freshness of the sea air, the deep-coloured sky, and the animation which hundreds of fishing-boats gave to it, rendered the scene before me most interesting.
Large masses of vaporous clouds, formed by the exhalation of the ground after the rain last night, were encircling the Sugarloaf Mountain, the light fleecy-white clouds capping its summit.
How glad I was to see mountains again! to me there is always something interesting connected with their aspect. Do they not form the finest feature in a landscape — or does not the geologist read in their structure a leaf of the book of Nature?
We changed now our course, and the Nipple Mountain was no longer our landmark; a hillock, crowned with a Buddhist temple, served us instead. A group of trees to the south of it, with an extensive sandbeach stretching southward (the only beach which I had noted of that nature during our voyage), was pointed out to us as the mouth of the Pechaburri River[Note 12].
The entrance is narrow and shallow, and at the ebb-tide extensive mudflats, which appear high above the water, seem to barricade the mouth. At the distance that our boats were, the crafts which came sailing out of the river seemed to glide over the banks. On approaching nearer a small channel is observed, by which vessels of little size, and boats, may reach the sea. A number of such boats were lying high and dry upon the mudbank. Seafowls — amongst them that stately bird, the white pelican — were wading over the mudflats, apparently unconcerned at the presence of several men in search of mussels. The way in which they collect these moluscous animals is very ingenious. Of course the mud being so soft they would sink knee-deep into it at every step, and render their progress fatiguing were they to attempt to walk over the bank. They use therefore a board, about 5 feet long and 10 inches broad, which is laid flat on the mud. A pot is tied to the head part of it, and at about the middle the person who intends to secure the mussels kneels, using his hands to propel the board, and collecting the mussels which he meets on his way, he deposits them in the pot.
Our course was now west to the mouth of the Pechaburri, on the left bank of which, a short distance up the river, we saw some houses, apparently only recently erected, surrounded by a fence made of bamboo. These, we were told, had been built by order of the first king, who was shortly expected to visit Pechaburri, and were to serve as an intermediate halting-place in going up to the town.
We passed a stockade placed across the river, similar to the one which in the Meklong had caused, the previous night, the mishap to my boat. These stockades have been erected for the better security of the river against any entrance without permission.
On a kind of beach, on our left, I saw a sight that certainly astonished me. Two boats had come there to a halt, the people belonging to them being occupied in taking an early breakfast on the beach. A herd of monkeys, from fifteen to twenty in number, were observed close to the persons that were discussing their breakfast, morsels of which were thrown to them as we would do to a favourite dog. There seemed to be the most amicable understanding between the parties. I could scarcely have believed that these monkeys were inmates of the adjacent clump of trees, so familiar and tame did they appear with the people. But a gun being fired off by our companions in the other boat after a bird, in a different direction from the breakfasting party, how the long-tailed tribe scrambled off! and, under the most screaming noise, dexterously ascended the nearest trees, commencing to chatter at the untimely interruption. Later in the course of the day, when ascending the river, we met another group of the same animals coming down to the river-bank (the water being low), following our boats along shore for some time, until finding that we had nothing to give them, they withdrew to the bush.
The religious faith of the Siamese possesses, as one of its prominent features, the metempsychosis; hence, while averse to killing any animal, they feel the strongest reluctance to deprive of life a monkey, which, of all dumb creatures, bears the nearest resemblance to the human race, and may be the abode of a poor soul which has been wandering for ages and ages to reach perfection.
We stopped at the house intended for the royal halting-place: the ebb-tide was too strong to stem, and our boatmen clamoured for their breakfast.
The building, made of bamboo and covered with palm-leaves, had certainly nothing royal to recommend it. There was, however, the dais, only intended for majesty and his courtiers; but, as we observed that a number of travelling priests had selected the exalted place for partaking of their breakfast, we followed their example.
They watched our proceedings with curiosity, from the placing of the tablecloth upon the bamboo-grating to the arrival of the dishes sent up by our cook. We offered them to partake breakfast with us, but they declined, saying they had already breakfasted. Indeed we had seen as much; but meeting them in the royal caravansary, we did not wish to show incivility.
The talapoin, according to the strict rule of Buddhism, is not permitted to taste food between sunrise and sunset. I am aware that this rule is not strictly kept, and perhaps least so when priests are travelling. They probably enjoy their dispensation.
We started from the royal halting-place at a quarter past eleven o’clock a.m., and took our course s.s.w. towards a wat on the river’s right bank.
The Pechaburri makes a bend to the right, and at that point a second row of palisades has been placed. This stockade having been passed, the village of Banlam extends on both banks of the river. I estimated the number of houses at about 500, and that of the inhabitants, from what I was told, likely at 6000.
Very few persons were visible while we passed up the river. The noontide heat kept the people within their houses; but there were signs that business was carried on at other hours.
I noticed several establishments where huge vats for curing fish were the prominent feature, and next to it large heaps of limestones, with kilns in full smoke, showed the residence of lime-burners, while perhaps the next-door neighbour occupied himself with the manufacture of bricks.
Before others of the houses large heaps of salt were piled up, which had been gained from the sea water, and those establishments, with the Chinese shops intermediate, gave to the village signs of an activity, probably in full operation through the day, noontide heat excepted. It was, however, evident that amongst the inhabitants the Chinese element predominated.
I found that at the termination of the village the water of the river was already fresh; but it must be recollected that it was then nearly low water.
The Pechaburri became now much more winding in its course. At noon the thermometer was 93° Fahr., the temperature of the river 90° Fahr.
Our progress was very slow, and soon afterwards it was stopped altogether, the canal being so shallow. We had to wait for nearly three hours before there was sufficient water for continuing our progress; and this delay was the more irksome, as we had grounded at a place where there were no habitations, the banks of the river low and marshy, with a number of mosquitos to keep our hands employed to ward them off.
We started at half-past three: on our right, or the left bank of the river, a canal branched off to Pictoleh. It was enlivened by many boats, and the white sails of those that were under canvas would be seen a long distance inland.
The banks of the river gained in interest: there were more houses, surrounded by orchards, and here and there a spot with flowers.
The Siamese are fond of gardening: humble as the dwelling may be, an attempt at cultivating flowers — if not in the ground it will be done in pots — is a pleasing feature. The time-honoured marigold is always among them.
Rice, it seems, is the principal produce of this part of the country: a great deal of the last crop was placed in stacks around the houses and protected against the influence of the weather, very much in the same manner as our cornstacks at home.
We passed wat Kout on the right bank. The buildings were superior in construction to the others we had hitherto seen along the river, and a bridge, the first we had met with in coming up, connected both banks.
Our progress was slow against a strong current; but the objects that presented themselves along the well-cultivated banks, or the boats which we encountered coming down the river, were of such interest, that we did not feel its tediousness, and regretted only when night set in.
It was nearly midnight before we reached Pechaburri: hence we resolved to remain quietly in our boats until daybreak, and to await the things that then were to come.
The Governor of the district sent already with dawn (much to our inconvenience, since we had had so little rest), a messenger to inform us he would be happy to show us every civility. Besides that, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok had given me letters of recommendation: his colleague, the Kalahome, had sent a quick messenger from Bangkok to inform the Governor of our contemplated visit.
The bearer of the Governor’s message was Chao Mùn Katchamat[Note 14], one of the present bearers attached to the Siamese embassy to London. He spoke the English language fluently, was gentlemanly and well-informed, and of the greatest assistance to us during our stay at Pechaburri.
The King had sent him some time since to this place to superintend the new wats and residences, which, at the direction of his Majesty, were being built.
He placed, in the Governor’s name, a new house as a residence at our disposition so long as we intended to stay at Pechaburri, and inquired how many horses we wanted to visit the surrounding country. He likewise mentioned that as soon as we were installed in our quarters the Governor intended to call upon us.
The house appointed for our residence was nicely situated at the river’s left bank, just where it makes a bend, permitting a view up and down the river. It belonged to the Kalahome, who occasionally visits Pechaburri, and was sufficiently commodious for all of us.
We had just finished our arrangements when we saw approaching on the opposite bank a long and gay cavalcade, a person in the dress of a Siamese nobleman heading the procession. The river was easily forded; but as soon as the high personage had arrived on our side of the river, he dismounted, and placing himself on a sedan of scarlet velvet, borne by eight men, he was brought up to our residence.
There was no necessity of informing us that our visitor was the Governor of Pechaburri. Mùn Katchamat accompanied him, and served us as interpreter during the interview. His Excellency offered to render us every service in his power (thanks to the letters which we had brought from the ministers in Bangkok); but his conversation was otherwise of little importance, as he remained throughout reserved, and seemed only intent on being polite.
He requested us to attend in the evening a Siamese concert at his house, and to dine with him next day. He dwelt emphatically upon the musical treat which was in store for us, by hearing a duet of his two best singers. Katchemat, he said, should accompany us wherever we wished to go. I observed to the Governor that before visiting any other place, we should in the first instance pay our respects to his Excellency.
Shortly after his departure six ponies, with a groom to each, were brought to our residence, all the horses nicely caparisoned; and we were told that as long as we remained at Pechaburri they would be at our service, and their fodder provided for.
We were all mounted at about four in the afternoon, and the river having been forded, the ponies once arrived on the opposite bank, they immediately broke into a fierce gallop, for they saw the direction we went was towards their home.
We reached soon afterwards a bazaar, where more prudence was necessary. I took, therefore, the lead, going slowly, and as there was not much elbow-room, those who followed were kept equally at a slow pace.
The pony which I rode took a determined start to the left, and the Governor’s residence was before us. His Excellency received us at the steps; but on explaining that we should like, previous to the concert taking place, to see something of the town, we crossed, under the guidance of Katchamat, a bridge over the river, and arrived at the principal bazaar.
The market was well supplied with fish, meat for the Chinese, greens, eggs, fowls, cotton-prints, crockery, nails, and numerous other articles, strangely huddled together. The street was very narrow, and the shops and stalls in a poor condition. We had to adopt again Indian file, keeping our ponies well in hand, for they were fiercely assailed in front and in the rear by all the dogs of the place, a large number of the wretched parias amongst them.
We visited next the principal wat of the town. Some of the buildings are erected against the hill-side with terraces, from the upper one of which we had a very pretty view of Pechaburri. Mounted horse again, and leaving the town we took a broad road, leading to the new hill-residence of the first King.
A number of hills, with summits peculiarly pointed, the highest scarcely above 500 feet, rise from the plain parallel to the river, and turn afterwards in the direction of the Sugarloaf Mountain. They are isolated, and consist, as far as I have been able to examine them, of saccharine limestone. I did not observe any marble. These hills are cavernous: some are capped with Buddhist temples; others contain such within their bowels.
I noticed, while riding along on the roadside, a number of palm-trees, of the tribe with fan-shaped leaf (apparently Borassus flabelliformis), with large clusters of an Orchidaceous plant, just nestling below that part of the trunk from whence the fan-shaped leaves are springing. There are very few of this interesting tribe, the Orchids, which fix their roots to palm-trees.
Arrived at the foot of the hill, we found several hundreds of labourers at work; for the King had intimated that he intended to visit Pechaburri shortly, to examine the progress that had been made. The road up the hill is in a zigzag, constructed of the saccharine limestone, the recently cut pieces of which shone as brightly as if they had been composed of crystals. Between the huge rocks of the same nature that were lying scattered on the face of the hill grew numerous trees of a yellowish-white blossomed plumeria, spreading a delicious odour. The ground below these trees was covered with flowers that had dropped, still preserving their fine fragrance. Perfumers extract the odoriferous principle and convert it into the well-known Frangipani. Here the flowers went to waste.
The buildings that were being erected had nothing royal in their structure: they were of the plainest construction, like his Majesty’s halting-place at the mouth of the Pechaburri. The view from the hill is most lovely, stretching over an extensive plain as far as the sea, the river meandering through it. The prospect is bounded to the north by the Sugarloaf Mountain; to the south by the chain of which the Chulai and the triple Peak are the highest elevations; while to the west the view is closed by a long mountain-chain, stretching northward; to the eastward the eye sweeping over the gulf discovers the mountains of Anhin and Bangpra, sketched as it were in blueish outlines on the horizon. The sea-breeze sweeps over the plain, and renders the King’s hill-residence cooler than its height would have warranted.
I must not leave unnoticed the trading and turn-a-penny propensities of the Siamese-Chinese, a number of whom at the foot of the hill and at various heights above it had established booths with tempting refreshments for the numerous labourers employed on the road. These hard-working men are, with very few exceptions, forced to this labour without any reward, except a pittance of victuals for their nourishment.
We returned to the Governor’s residence, where we found his “corps de ballet” awaiting us. They were fantastically dressed in finery and tinsel, and amongst the ten young ladies which composed the group there were some of very good looks. They represented some Siamese love-story, explained by the chorus of singing girls, whose songs were accompanied by instrumental music — the performers remaining mute, showing merely by pantomime what they felt.
As an interlude, we had the duet which had been held out as of great attraction; but both singers, the prima donna and first tenor, sung so strongly through the nose, that for my part I felt glad when it was ended.
The pantomime was then taken up again; but we availed ourselves of the first favourable opportunity to bid our host adieu, reminding him that we purposed to visit next day the great cave-temple, about three miles distant from the town. Hence, not to expose ourselves more than necessary to the sun, we purposed to start as early as possible in the morning. Moreover, the Governor had invited us to be present at a cart-race by bulls, which he had ordered for our especial entertainment.
The melodramatic representation was thus cut short, and I rather think to the great satisfaction of the performers, who it appeared were rather uncomfortable in their close dresses, with a temperature approaching a hundred grades of Fahrenheit’s thermometer.
All of us had been of opinion that we ought to start very early in the morning to visit the mountain wat, in order to escape the heat of the sun, but that luminary had already risen a good distance above the horizon before we were in saddle. The construction of the road which we followed would have done honour to the most civilized country. About 100 feet in width, it conducted straight to the mountain which contained the wat; both sides bordered by habitations and farms. Although it was not macadamised, it was in good order, and we cantered along, excepting one of our companions who took it easy.
We met passengers on foot, sometimes in groups of 10 or 20; others on horseback; here and there an unwieldy cart, drawn by oxen or buffaloes. Numerous signs of cultivation on each side of the road showed there were some agricultural attempts: here and there the fields were interspersed with orchards.
We arrived at about eight o’clock at the hill which contains the principal cave-temple. A long flight of steps led up to a plain, now covered with grass, but which I presume during the rainy season is immersed in water. The steps leading to this place were so commodiously constructed that our ponies ascended them with the greatest ease, but arrived at the level plain just mentioned, and seeing before us steps constructed at an angle of more than 30°, we thought it prudent to dismount and to leave the horses there, although every one of us had admired the agility with which they had hitherto mounted the steps.
The hill-sides presented the same features as at the king’s new residence — huge blocks of saccharine limestone, numerous plumerias, and our road strewn with their flowers.
Some of my companions felt thirsty, and water was brought to them in bamboo-cans several feet in length, which to bring at the requisite elevation to the mouth some skill had to be used.
When we had reached the entrance to the subterranean temple we had to descend by a ladder, an operation which was far from being commodious or becoming.
We had descended for about 60 or 70 feet when darkness encompassed us, and following our guides through a narrow passage, which the single wax-candle borne by the leader did not render much clearer, we entered a large dome-like cave, the light to which came from an opening above. From the roof were pending some stalactites, and the walls were adorned with idols: however, this cave would scarcely strike the visitor as anything extraordinary. It is different with the next cave, which is connected with the former by a door-like opening. The first object that strikes the visitor on entering it is the gigantic figure of Buddha, represented as lying asleep on a couch: advancing towards the centre of the cave he observes numerous mythological figures or deities of the Buddhist religion surrounding the walls of the cave, some of hideous appearance. The fine tracery of the stalactites pendant from the roof, the sides of the cave richly ornamented with carvings and sculpture, the dim light which comes from above reflecting upon the stalactitic masses, in appearance as if composed of crystals, with the statues ranged around the cave, all these features give to the whole a mystic air, to which the stillness that prevails around greatly contributes.
Another opening leads from here to the third cave, adorned in a similar style, but of less interest.
A large number of workmen were occupied in constructing a flight of steps leading from the hill-side above to the caves below. This structure of bricks was being executed at the command of the first king, to render his descent for the purpose of offering his devotion more commodious. I have already observed that his Majesty was shortly expected. I did not learn whether that flight of steps was equally intended for the rest of mankind, or whether, as heretofore, less exalted persons would have to descend by the incommodious ladder.
These cave-temples are certainly very interesting; they bear probably in magnificence no comparison to those of Ellora and Elephanta, but they are well worth seeing, even with what slight inconvenience may be connected with a journey from Bangkok. I was told of another subterranean wat, which we purposed to visit next day. However, having left Bangkok an invalid, the exertion of this day rendered me unable to carry out my intention. From the report of one of my companions who visited it, I learned that it bears no comparison to those we had examined the previous day.
On our return to the level ground where we had left our horses we remounted and turned their heads homeward. The sun had accomplished more than half its forenoon course, and shone with all ardour upon the broad road. Mr. T., one of my companions, who, as I have previously observed, took the matter very easy, ordered his attendant to lead the horse which he rode step by step, dispensing with the fatigue on his part of holding even the bridle in his hands, and assumed the most commodious position a Siamese saddle could afford. He acted wisely: I and the rest cantered along in order to reach our quarters as speedily as possible; but, exerting myself beyond the strength of an invalid, I had to rue it, as I could not leave the house next day to visit the other cave-temples.
However, arrived at our quarters after our visit of the principal subterranean wat, a bath in the shady part of the river refreshed us sufficiently to prepare for attending the bull-race. His Excellency the Governor came in state to our residence, and, although the distance from thence to the race-ground was only 500 yards, we all mounted our horses and followed the Governor, who was carried on his porte-chaise[Note 15].
The arena of the race was in front of the royal palace, bordering the grand road. We found there from 2000 to 3000 spectators assembled, composed of all classes, of all hues, which the Asiatic race represents; with heads tuffed or turbaned, necks, wrists, or ankles, according to nationality, ornamented by gold, silver spangles, or precious stones.
Our arrival caused some stir amongst the multitude, and our escort having carried us to a sala, we took seats around the Governor, having wisely ordained that the cane-chairs which we had brought with us from Bangkok should be conveyed to the scene of action, to avoid our being obliged to sit down “à la Siamese.”
At the distance of about 300 yards to the left from our sala we saw three two-wheeled carts drawn up, to each of which were yoked two oxen. The driver to each stood upright in the cart, as far forward as the vehicle would permit without placing his feet upon the pole; the reins not, as in the equine race, acting by means of the bit upon the mouth, were drawn through the cartilage of the nose of the bulls.
The structure of the cart is strikingly similar to the one represented in the bas-reliefs of the Nineveh remains in Layard‘s popular account of discoveries at Nineveh: the oxen have no trusses, and are harnessed to the head of the pole, but in the Nineveh bas-relief the reins are wanting.
Every cart entering the race had four attendants, each armed with an iron-spiked pole. There was the eager multitude all hushed in silence; but as soon as the signal for the start had been given there arose a peal from a thousand voices. Off bulls and carts went; those who had the reins standing seemingly in bold relief as if they had been formed of marble; the attendants, who marvellously kept pace with the bulls, occasionally poking their poles into their sides, besides encouraging the racers by loud cries. The excitement became intense, and the bulls, once put to their mettle, soon outdistanced the attendants on foot, who remained panting behind. The first race being over, the animals were led back slowly to the starting-point, the multitude greeting the winners with loud cries. The same animals repeated the race twice more, under still greater excitement of the spectators, and when it was found that the same pair of animals were the winners throughout, they were received opposite the sala which the Governor and we ourselves occupied with roars of applause: they were caressed by the owner and his friends, scarfs and kerchiefs (strange as it seems, but so it was) were waved, and all who could come near the winners patted them. During all that time those who guided the oxen remained standing upright, without even dismounting from the cart, during the short rest which was allowed to the animals between each race. The course I estimated at about 600 yards, and the speed at which the animals went with the cart from 8 to 10 miles per hour.
It was certainly a novel and interesting sight, and caused in its way as much enthusiasm and excitement as may be witnessed at our Epsom races on Derby days.
We returned in the same order that we arrived, and thus ended my excursions in and about Pechaburri. I had probably overrated my strength as an invalid, and found myself next day scarcely able to leave my couch.
We commenced our return journey on the 9th of May, at noon: the river was much shallower than we found it on our ascent. We got frequently aground on sandbanks, and did not reach the “Royal halting-place” at the mouth of the river until the evening. Here we remained until half-past four in the morning, and, profiting by the calm sea which generally prevails at the early hours of morning, we arrived at the mouth of the Meklong at about eight o’clock. We had, however, a strong current against us, and two hours were required to make about four miles, when we halted near the fort of the town to await a more favourable tide.
I entered through the low gates of the fort, and found myself at a quadrangular place, surrounded by breastworks, the walls mounted by iron guns and some mortars. On a column, the name of the fort was engraved in Siamese characters, and under it the following, in letters of the Roman alphabet: — “Pomphi Khat Khasuk. Artillari, 1834, November, Monday.” To judge from this inscription, the predilection for the English language seems to have prevailed already previous to the advent of the present kings to the throne.*
* I have since learned that the second king[Note 16], then Commander-in-Chief of the Siamese Artillery, had the fort constructed and the column erected.
We left the town of Meklong soon after noon, and entered the canal which connects that river with the Thatchin a quarter of an hour afterwards. The river presents at that point a fine sheet of water, its course being s.s.ᴇ.
Both sides of the canal are studded with habitations: amongst them I noted a house on our left which had quite a European appearance, the windows being closed by green jalousies. Beyond it was a large wat.
The canal, narrow as it is, continued winding in short reaches. A large number of rafts of bamboo, destined for the support of the floating-houses at Bangkok, were a great nuisance to the progress of our boats: they usurped nearly the whole breadth of the canal. Still, should we come even in contact with them, the danger for our boats was not so great as that which the unwieldy loads of sappan wood offered which we had to pass, stowed in equally unwieldy barges.
The large piles of that dye-wood (the produce of a large tree, called by botanists Caesalpinia Sappan), which I noticed on the banks of the canal, shows that it forms an important article amongst the exports of the district. There seemed on the whole a good deal of industry prevailing along the banks of the canal; amongst other signs of it, we passed several establishments for burning limestone. The rock is not found “in situ,” but dug out of the low level ground of the vicinity: in some instances, to judge from the weather-worn appearance, it must have been lying on the surface of the ground.
I could not help noticing again the scarcity of the feathery tribe. Most prominent were, on the other hand, the crustaceae; numbers of crabs and their allied genera were seen crawling on the shallow shores during the retiring tide.
The water was so low at four in the afternoon that further progress was not practicable. At half-past eight in the evening the flood-tide set in, but not in the manner I have previously described, and with daylight we found ourselves in the Thatchin. We stopped soon afterwards at wat Monkong to allow our crew some hours of rest. Opposite to the wat, the canal Klong Naktulla joined the Thatchin, coming from the ɴ.ɴ.ᴇ. This affords communications with the cultivated part that lies between the Menam and the Thatchin.
The wat Monkong showed that the brotherhood took care that it should present a good appearance. The sala was ornamented by paintings in fresco; the most remarkable of which was the representation of a vessel, tossed by the stormy waves of the sea, with the consternation of the crew at the danger, visible as depicted by the artist, and a man overboard; a monster, very much like a whale, its enormous jaws open, ready to swallow the poor wretch!
Is it not remarkable how frequently we find biblical accounts repeated, either in writing, where written language exists, or by allegorical representations — the latter principally amongst those nations where Christianity does not exist?
Before this sala stood two noble taxus (yew) trees. I think the first which I have seen of that kind in Siam.
We started at nine in the morning, and about half an hour afterwards we passed another of those internal water-communications, which may be considered in the shape of our European “by-ways on land.” It was Klong Kan-sho-wah, connecting some part of the lower Menam with the Thatchin. A short distance beyond it entered from the left (or north-west) Klong Kokam, affording to the people of Talat Khuen a water-course, to communicate with the Thatchin and with Bangkok. A little beyond that point came from the left another canal, constructed for the facility of offering to the people of that district an easy water-communication by canals with Bangkok, which, of course, is the great mart for the produce of the kingdom of Siam.
We now followed the fine broad waterway of the Thatchin, passing populated districts, with signs of cultivation on both sides of the canal.
At about ten o’clock we turned sharply to the left and entered the narrow canal, which, at the first evening of our starting from Bangkok for Pechaburri, had caused us so much trouble, partly by the numerous boats that blocked it up, partly by its low depth.
The monotony of the scenery which banks clothed with mangrove had offered for several hours of our progress was nicely interrupted by our arriving at a place where numerous houses on both sides of the canal, and boats lying in front, gave to it a kind of industrial appearance. I was told that the name of this settlement[Note 17] was Smadom. The wat at this village was of rather better construction than those we had hitherto seen in the country districts.
The canal was much winding: its general course was, however, north-east, our direction towards Bangkok. Soon after we reached the junction of the canal Bangoboon with the Bangbon; the former coming from the south and the latter from the north. We followed the Bangbon, passed the wat Sarabon on our right hand, and shortly afterwards the small village, Banglan.
My boat was far in advance of the other, and as the water ebbed rapidly I halted at wat Pohoh, with the intention of awaiting here the setting-in of the flood. The wat was very neat and the sala comfortable. The grounds were kept in excellent order; altogether it seemed a most eligible halting-place. However, my companions, on coming up, thought differently and passed on, and I followed their example, to my regret; for scarcely had we advanced 150 yards when our boats grounded in the mud, at a place where any communication with the banks was impracticable in consequence of the mud.
It was then about three o’clock in the afternoon, nevertheless we had to await midnight before the boats were again afloat. I regretted that even by the danger of losing the companionship of my fellow-travellers I had not remained at wat Pohoh, for, although their boat was only a couple of hundred yards in advance, we could not communicate with each other.
I arrived at the Consulate in the morning of the 12th of May, at half-past 4, it having taken us more than four hours to make a distance of about three miles, the time having been principally employed in making our way through a similar phalanx of market-boats to those by which we were obstructed on the former occasion.
Notwithstanding the indisposition of which I suffered during the latter days of my stay at Pechaburri, which in some degree marred my pleasure, I enjoyed the trip so much that I shall endeavour to return with more time and a better stock of health at my disposal.
[Note 1]From: Family Politics in Nineteenth Century Thailand by David K. Wyatt
The bulk of the higher ranks of the nobility was concentrated in the capital, in the six major departments of government, each of which was headed by a caophraya, a noble of the highest rank. Although each of the six departments originally had been defined functionally, the functional distinctions between them had broken down by the eighteenth century, to the extent that three, the mahatthai, kalahom, and phrakhlang (originally ministries of civil administration, military administration, and finance, respectively), each governed provinces, collected taxes, and maintained law and order in a section of the country. Each, however, still retained some measure of its original functions. The kalahom, the ‘Ministry of the Southern Provinces’, retained many of its military functions, and the phraklang (sometimes rendered as the ‘Ministry of Finance’) retained control over the conduct of foreign trade and foreign relations, as well as some of its treasury functions; while the mahatthai extended its ‘civil administration’ only over the provinces of the North and East.
B. Krom Kalahom (Ministry of the South)
*1. 1782-1787 Caophraya Mahasena (Pli) mat. 1st cousin to B.2 and B.4
x2. 1787-1805 Caophraya Caophraya Mahasena (Bunnag)
*3. 1805-1809 Caophraya Mahasena (Pin Singaseni)
brother’s daughter married to B.8
x4. 1809-(1811?) Caophraya Mahasena (Bunma)
half-brother of B.2
*5. (1811)-1822 Caophraya Wongsasurasak (Saeng Wongsarot na Bang Chang)
rachinikun Bang Chang; granddtr. married son of B.8
*6. 1822-1824 Caophraya Mahasena (Bunsang —na Bang Chang)
rachinikun Bang Chang; maternal 1st cousin to B.8
*7. 1824-1830 Caophraya Mahasena (Noi Si Suriyaphaha)
cousin of father of B.2
x8. 1830-1851 Caophraya Phrakhlang (Dit Bunnag)
son of B.2; married d r. of F.2
x9. 1851-1869 Caophraya Si Suriyawong (Chuang Bunnag)
son of B.8
xlO. 1869-1888 Caophraya Surawong Waiyawat (Won Bunnag)
son of B.9
11. 1888-1894 Caophraya Rattanathibet (Phum Sichaiyan)
* Affinal relative of the Bunnag family.
x In the direct male line of the Bunnag family.
That document also explained the term rachinikun as “the family providing the royal family with the mother of a king” with the following footnote:
For a full explanation of the term rachinikun, see Prince Damrong Rajanubhab’s introductory essay in Lamdap rachinikun bang chang pp. (3)-(8). There are obvious sociological and psychological reasons why maternal descent should be stressed in the royal family: among the fifty to eighty children of a single king, it was natural that individuals should be distinguished one from another by their maternity, as their paternity was common to all.
Wikipedia’s article Thai royal and noble titles has a section Nobility : Civil and military peerage : Men that offers some information on Chao Phraya (เจ้าพระยา) (i.e., the Caophraya above) indicating that only men received the non-inheritable title; it was conferred on the most-senior commissioned officer by a royal letter of appointment; and there were three classes of distinction (i.e., Gold, Silver, and Regular).[Note 2]It would certainly have helped me to know what the address of this “Consulate” was – I am surmising that it was the German Consulate, but I am only doing so because the author was German, although he was a “Corr.” F.R.G.S., which I am guessing means a “corresponding” Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. (What little research I have done concerning Fellowship certificates has yielded that there are Honorary Members, Honorary Corresponding Members, and Fellows.)
I am also presuming that it was likely the German Consulate because, of course, one of Robert Schomburgk’s two “travelling companions” was murkily identified “Mr. T, the Consul of Hamburg“.
Since I am unable to know just exactly where this expedition set out from within Bangkok ─ that is, upon which specific waterway ─ I struggled identifying any of the mentioned canals or klongs.
“We passed Klong (canal) Bangbong” ─ passed it via what waterway? The Chao Phraya River? And did they pass an end of what I assume is Bang Bon, or did they pass it by crossing through it via an intersecting canal? Such are fairly common.
I am wondering if Robert Schomburgk was overly generous with his identification of Bang Bong, or if the Bang Bong of today may have a more limited scope than it did in his day?
For example, if we leave the Chao Phraya River via the canal Bangkok Yai ─ which opens onto the Chao Phraya very near the Thonburi Palace (Google map) ─ we can follow it along and then turn into the Khlong Dan.
Then as we proceed along Khlong Dan, at some very rapid point it has a name change, it seems to me, and becomes Bang Khun Thian.
Continuing along Bang Khun Thian, we can soon turn onto the canal Sanam Chai ─ although from the map, Sanam Chai seems a continuation of Bang Khun Thian, for Bang Khun Thian makes a most unnatural turn to merit retaining that name.
The route along the Sanam Chai is very long before inexplicably becoming the canal Maha Chai (see next two images). However, Wikidata.org here says that Khlong Sanam Chai is also known as Khlong Maha Chai ─ so they truly are the same canal, but renamed in the vicinity of Phanthainorasingwittaya Pak Khok Kham Shrine.
And following the Maha Chai, it will flow into the Tha Chin River at Mahachai. Is this “the village Thatchin?” It is certainly the historic Sakhon Buri (see Wikitravel’s article Samut Sakhon).
But let us return to the length of the canal currently identified as Sanam Chai. There is a point where a canal called Wat Sing enters into it.
If we then enter Wat Sing and commence following it, at some unidentified point it seems to change its name and become Bang Bon (see image ─ you can notice the name Wat Sing in the upper right, but in the lower left the same canal line reads as Bang Bon).
Proceed along Bang Bon, and suddenly another name change takes place ─ it becomes Luang Doem Bang.
And follow Luang Doem Bang far enough, and it ends right into the canal Si Wa Pha Sawat (see image ─ the Luang Doem Bang is unidentified in the image, but I assure you that it is the canal line that ends with the canal Si Wa Pha Sawat just at that point where the word “Google” is in the centre of the bottom of the first map).
Turn onto the Si Wa Pha Sawat and follow it to the upper left, and eventually you will run into the Tha Chin River not too far from Wat Panthuwong.
If one had turned in the other direction along the Si Wa Pha Sawat, it would eventually pour into the larger canal Sanam Chai / Maha Chai.
So again ─ did Robert Schomburgk identify as Bang Bon sections of other canals that are now known by alternate names?
There is no sign of a canal Bang Kaveh, nor anything that resembles that name ─ not that I came across, at any rate. Please advise me if you know better, and I will revise this post.
There needs to be an atlas of Bangkok klongs. And maybe there is, but I do not know of it. But if Wikipedia’s Khlong entry is telling the truth, “Today, most of the khlongs of Bangkok have been filled in, although the Thonburi side of Bangkok (covering areas west of Chao Phraya River) still retains several of its larger khlongs.”
If “most” klongs that existed at the time of this account are now gone, then is it even possible anymore to trace the route followed by Robert Schomburgk? I certainly cannot do it from here in Canada. And if there are any klong atlasses to reference, I expect that they are all in Thai.[Note 3]My initial guess was that Nakong Kaisi was Nakhon Chai Si; but was Nakhon Chai Si ever anything like a province?
Then I came across this bit of text ─ the following paragraph is taken from page 192 of Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor (edited by Keat Gin Ooi):
Ayutthaya had its origins in the union of Suphanburi and Lopburi, the two “local” powers dominant in the central region of today’s Thailand. Suphanburi was overlord of the region to the west of the Chao Phraya River. It encompassed various ancient statelets, such as Nakhon Chaisi (later Nakhon Pathom), Ratburi, and Phetburi, and its influence probably extended as far south as Nakhon Srithamamarat. Lopburi, by contrast, dominated the region to the east of the Chao Phraya.
Today’s Nakhon Chai Si is one of seven districts in the province of Nakhon Pathom. Then was the “statelet” of Nakhon Chai Si once of considerably grander scope before becoming reduced to its status today of a mere district in what is today’s Nakhon Pathom Province? In other words, did perhaps the “statelet” Nakhon Chai Si occupy far more extensive geography which today is recognized as being encompassed by the province of Nakhon Pathom?
Whether or not, I still do not know if Robert Schomburgk’s province of Nakong Kaisi was supposed to refer to just today’s district of Nakhon Chai Si, or instead to the entire province of Nakhon Pathom. He could easily have meant Nakhon Pathom, for the whole province only occupies 837 square miles, including its seven districts.[Note 4]I would not have expected that when Robert Schomburgk visited this spot in 1860, that it was identified by him as a mere village with only 150 to 200 dwellings and shops. The “village” had been around for a long while. Quoting from Thai website SamutSakhon.go.th (which seems to be offline, so I will not link to it):
The oldest name of the area is Tha Chin, probably referring to the fact that it was a trading port where Chinese junks arrived. In 1548 the city Sakhon Buri was established, and was renamed in 1704 to Mahachai after the khlong Mahachai which was dug then and connected with the Tha Chin river near the town. It was renamed by King Mongkut to its current name, however the old name Mahachai is still sometimes used by the locals.
King Mongkut (Rama Ⅳ) apparently ruled from 1851 to 1868, so he was on the throne at the time of this voyage. Thus, it was renamed at that time to Samut Sakhon from Mahachai or Maha Chai ─ a name it had held since 1704. And prior to that, it was called Sakhon Buri ever since 1548. So why is Robert Schomburgk identifying it as Thachin (Tha Chin)? Had the locals persevered so steadfastly in ignoring all of these royal name-changings?
But aside from all of that, I do not understand what fork of the Tha Chin River it was that Robert Schomburgk claimed existed there. He called the river itself a canal (or khlong), but that is still done. For instance, Wikipedia’s article on Samut Sakhon Province says this under the “Geography” section: “Samut Sakhon is at the mouth of the Tha Chin Klong River, a distributary of the Chao Phraya River, to the Gulf of Thailand.”
I had been thinking that Robert Schomburgk’s company had reached the Tha Chin River by travelling the Maha Chai. It made sense to me that the two vessels originally left the Chao Phraya River via the canal Bangkok Yai, then proceeded along it and turned into the Khlong Dan; the Khlong Dan at some point seems to undergo a name change to Bang Khun Thian, but the voyage continues along it. Then comes a canal change when the company turns from Bang Khun Thian into the canal Sanam Chai…which turns out to be the upper section of the Maha Chai canal. And there we are at Thatchin (Tha Chin), or the modern Samut Sakhon (and formerly called Maha Chai, after the canal).
But now I suspect that the route deviated from that outlined just above; and as I implied in Note 2, from Sanam Chai ─ the upper reach of the Maha Chai ─ the two vessels pursued Khlong Wat Sing:
And as I further described in Note 2, Khlong Wat Sing seems to become first Khlong Bang Bon, and then Khlong Luang Doem Bang. Then Khlong Luang Doem Bang abruptly terminates into Khlong Si Wa Pha Sawat where roadway Rat Phatthana intersects Highway 3242 as identified on this map:
That canal just discernable that runs alongside Highway 3242 from the top of the map is Khlong Luang Doem Bang, and it terminates on the Khong Si Wa Pha Sawat almost precisely at that roadway intersection:
The two vessels then followed Khlong Si Wa Pha Sawat toward the map’s left border, eventually arriving at the Tha Chin River:
Now do you notice across the Tha Chin River and just slightly downriver there is yet another much smaller Tha Chin waterway that branches off? ─ this just has to be the fork spoken of, heading “to the west by south.”
Anyway, from this point, the travellers then went downriver along the main Tha Chin River to Samut Sakhon (Maha Chai or “Thatchin”).
Incidentally, I never could find a wat along the Khlong Si Wa Pha Sawat (anywhere near the Tha Chin River) where there was supposed to be a canal heading off to “Nakong Kaisi“. Perhaps any such canal fell victim to being filled in, as Wikipedia claims was the fate of so very many.[Note 5]This canal or khlong is never named, and thus I have no guesses as to which one is was. It could certainly help if the presentday identity of “wat Kuthia” could be known, but I never arrived at any possibilities. If the reader is perchace privy to this temple, I truly would appreciate guidance. [Note 6]Initially I thought that Robert Schomburgk meant the Mon, but perhaps he was referring to the Khon Muang (Tai Yuan). [Note 7]The Wikipedia article on the Mon says this under its section “Exonyms and endonyms”: “In the Burmese language, the term Mon မွန် (pronounced [mʊ̀ɰ̃]) is used. During the pre-colonial era, the Burmese used the term Talaing (တလိုင်း), which was subsequently adopted by the British, who also invariably referred to the Mon as Peguans, during the colonial era.” If this is the same identification that Robert Schomburgk intended, I am left wondering if the origin of that term relates to the Myanmar (Burmese) city of Bago that was apparently “formerly spelt Pegu“. Wikipedia by way of reference links to this 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 21 article on Pegu that says that “It gave its name to the province (including Rangoon) which was annexed by the British in 1852.” Thus, if an entire area of Myanmar or Burma was called Pegu, then it is reasonable to me that the people from there would find themselves referred as Peguans by the British. And the British may have been even more liberal than that in using the term to label an even broader population. [Note 8]I thought it appropriate to bring attention to this word in relation to the previous note ─ the following quote is from a definition of the term at WESPA.org: “TALAPOIN is a title of respect for a Buddhist monk, used especially in Myanmar: the word comes via Portuguese from the Old Peguan tala poi, meaning my lord. (Peguan is the language spoken in southeastern Myanmar and western Thailand, more commonly known as Mon).” [Note 9]Ratchaburi. Whether Robert Schomburgk meant the province or the city of the same name, I cannot say. It probably matters little. [Note 10]From the Wikipedia article on Thai baht: “The baht was originally known to foreigners by the term tical, which was used in English language text on banknotes until 1925.” [Note 11]Samut Songkhram. See the WikiTravel.org article on Samut Songkhram where former mentioned names include Maekhlong, Mae Klong, Suan Nok, and Bang Chang.
Unfortunately, I am unable to suggest what “Maikongkosi” is referencing in relation to today’s nomenclature ─ if only I had a clear idea on just what canal the travellers were progressing along. Please feel open to filling in the gap if you are privy to that information.[Note 12]”The mouth of the Pechaburri River.” A few paragraphs back I lost an enormous amount of time researching because I had become misdirected by this Mapcarta.com image:
Try as I could, I was unable to reconcile it with this Google map showing the mouth of the Bang Tabun River ─ the two rivers looked uncannily similar to someone ignorant of either river.
This is so because ─ unless the Phetchaburi River does sometimes commonly lend its name to that portion of the Bang Tabun River ─ the Mapcarta.com map has been labelled incorrectly. The Phetchaburi River does not meet with the sea. If you refer again to this Google map and follow the Bang Tabun down to the Hai Lam and keep taking that downward trend, you will find that the Hai Lam suddenly ‘forks’ into the Bang Sam Phraek and the Phetchaburi as can be seen at this Google map.
Is Robert Schomburgk making the same error? That is, identifying the mouth of the Bang Tabun River (or Khlong Bang Tabun) as being the mouth of the Phetchaburi River?[Note 13]Solely out of curiosity, I used Google Maps just to see where Captiain John Richards’ cooridnates for “the town of Pechaburri” would take me ─ the location I was brought to was here ─ i.e., supposedly “Ban Rai, Damnoen Saduak District, Ratchaburi 70130, Thailand“. I had reduced “Lat. 13° 36′ N., long. 99° 55½’ E.” to 13°36’N 99°55.5’E for purposes of accommodating input requirements for Google Maps. [Note 14]I hope that I am not overreaching, but I have a hunch that “Chao Mùn Katchamat” is not the man’s actual birth name. Rather, I suspect that “Chao Mùn” is a title. I located the following in a CIA document published on July 23, 1964 that you may be able to access as Chapter 34 │ Thai Personal Names:
Might not the “Chao Mun” listed near the bottom actually be what I suspect is the prefix in the appellation “Chao Mùn Katchamat“?[Note 15]From Carriage Terminology: An Historical Dictionary By Don H. Berkebile:
CHAISE-A-PORTEURS ─ Contracted to ᴘᴏʀᴛᴇ-ᴄʜᴀɪsᴇ. A French term, meaning literally chair by porters, synonymous with the English term sᴇᴅᴀɴ ᴄʜᴀɪʀ.
A source reference is given within that dictionary relating to the definition ─ the explanation came from The Hub’s Vocabulary of Vehicles by George W.W. Houghton (New York, 1892).[Note 16]I am at a loss to understand “the second king” reference, for according to Wikipedia, Rama II “was the second monarch of Siam under the Chakri dynasty, ruling from 1809 to 1824.” He could, therefore, clearly have had nothing to do with anything that occurrred in 1834.
The only resolution I can settle upon is that ─ if Robert Schomburgk was not simply incorrect concerning succession ─ perhaps the English inscription itself was placed there on a November Monday in 1834.[Note 17]The original text did not have the word “settlement“, but instead had published just “settle-“.
I took it upon myself to suppose that there must have been a need to employ an end-of-line hyphenation, and that the hyphenated word so benefitting must have been “settlement“; but somehow in editing, the continuation of the hyphenated word suffered from omission.