“We envisage a place offering intimacy and elegance, an individual private package full of bygone character and situated in a long-established Sino-Thai merchant community just a few steps walk from Bangkok’s glittering Royal quarter, all graciously wrapped in traditional Siamese hospitality.”
From this conceptual dream about a historic but crumbling run-down building, 1905 Heritage Corner has become a reality. An ideal choice for discerning, culturally-minded travellers seeking a change from ordinary hotels.
Our small 3-bedroom guesthouse is itself an integral part of this royal city’s preserved heritage, in the form of a traditional shophouse situated very close by the not-to-be-missed sites that make Bangkok one of the most visited capitals in the world - the royal palaces, exotic temples and bustling markets. Recently and meticulously renovated throughout, everything about the guesthouse, its décor and furnishing has been based on blending its original purpose, a teahouse for the merchant-class gentry, with the comfort and facilities sought by today’s sophisticated international visitor, while keeping its original Colonial style. This is undoubtable “my cup of tea” for those seeking to experience an enduring local community spirit and an authentic connection with history.
Two young Thais, passionate about their country’s past and the need to preserve remaining buildings together with their original communities, stumbled upon this adjacent pair of abandoned colonial-styled shophouses when strolling through a long-established Sino-Thai community in Bangkok’s historic quarter, very close to former Royal Palaces, later to became government ministries. Natgrita (Nan) and Mark quickly envisioned these shophouses as a perfect small guesthouse for culturally-minded visitors seeking the experience of a genuine traditional Bangkok community with close proximity to many of the most important heritage sites of Thailand’s capital city. While certainly different from a normal hotel, it would still provide the comfort and amenities of a luxurious room with the added appeal of real-life tradition, both in style and service.
Our property is charmingly situated on one corner of a residential square of similarly styled shophouses, called Phraeng Phuthon. Well-shielded from the noise and bustle of nearby city streets, this community of family-run businesses carry on their trades very much as in generations past including many that are famous among locals for genuine homemade food and sweets. In the square centre is a small park with trees as well as a health clinic, one of the first in Bangkok. It is an officially preserved neighbourhood instigated and built (around 1905) by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) who invited immigrant ethnic Chinese with the skills needed to bring new development to Siam.
From concept to opening, it took four years to complete 1905 Heritage Corner. We have been welcoming our first guests since 2018 following detailed planning, major renovation, meticulous decoration and installing all the comprehensive fittings. Both partners worked tirelessly in developing their concept together with specialist architect in historic building renovation, Pongsakorn Kitkajonpong. While the original building façade had been maintained, sadly most of the interior had been neglected beyond repair.
Based on similar shophouses with original parts remaining, the architect and owners devised an entire renovation to bring the construction back to its perceived original state while using the opportunity to incorporate modern materials and incorporate built-in air conditioning, ensuite plumbing and electrical fittings that greatly enhances safety and environmental conservation standards often very difficult to achieve in old buildings. At the same time, useable original features, such as some plastered brick walls and part of the second storey flooring (seen as the ceiling of the ground floor), have been preserved as a visible link with the original structure.
As much as possible, authentic style materials, including the roof with diamond (kite) shaped cement tiles commonly found on old buildings in Bangkok. Attention to such details has, in many ways, resulted in a more authentic building than the interior of many surviving old shophouses that have been gradually modernised over the years.
Research of the history of Praeng Puthon Square’s community indicates that the guesthouse building itself was formerly a Chinese teahouse where wealthy merchants would meet and chat about their business affairs. The owners have therefore focused on the decoration and furniture style to recreate the atmosphere of such a place both in the reception and common areas as well as in the guestrooms themselves.
Known as Phraeng Phuthon (pronounced “Preng Pootorn”), our community is still largely occupied by families of immigrant ethnic Chinese merchants of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They represent an essential element in the story of how Siam’s wise monarchs welcomed traders and artisans from other countries, mostly Chinese, to settle and integrate near to the royal palaces, teaching new skills and employing local people, therefore enabling the country’s economy to develop and prosper. Visible evidence of Sino-Siamese trading links can be seen in the Chinese-styled statues and decorations found in many of Bangkok’s historic temples. Even though this socio-economic history is little known even among Thais, it remains an important heritage that enables understanding of the depth of Thailand’s relationship today with regional countries, especially China.
Surrounding the inner sanctum (The Grand Palace) of the King of Siam’s court of the early Chakri Dynasty (1782 onwards), palaces were built for numerous princes, usually sons of former Kings. One such palace was occupied by Prince Bhutaret a son of King Mongkut (Rama IV). Following his early death in 1897, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) bought the palace property, eventually replacing the old palace building with brick-built shophouses set in a rectangle form with a central open area which he named Phraeng Phuthon.
Adopting a Mediterranean style and the residential square concept of a European city, which he had admired on his recent foreign travels, King Rama V encouraged immigrant traders, mostly Chinese, to rent rooms and start small enterprises. The King’s vision was to create a model community that would help bring prosperity to the people of a modernising city. Indeed, many families developed very successful businesses and in the first half of the twentieth century, the area became prosperous as Bangkok’s first retail area of high-class consumer products, both locally bespoke made and imported goods such as watches, glasses and even early automobiles. It also became and remains the main area producing all kinds of emblems, badges and uniforms for the military and government civil service personnel. It is a ready market, being very close by several government ministries including those of Defence, Interior and Justice.
"By staying at 1905 Heritage Corner, it is possible to experience this original trading community still active today and learn much more about Bangkok life past and present."