Set amongst the peaceful green patch of Santi Chai Prakan Park, the bright white tower of Phra Sumen Fort is one of the original battlements that once surrounded the old city of Rattanakosin. It now stands sentinel, having watched Thai culture change and grow, in the middle of one of Asia’s most thriving and busy cities. Phra Sumen fort is also called Phra Sumeru fort after Mount Meru in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist cosmology and is considered a national monument.
The octagonal stuccoed brick fortification was one of 14 city watchtowers that formerly dotted the old city wall alongside Khlong Rop Krung, now Khlong Banglamphu. Of the 14 original forts, only Phra Sumen Fort and Mahakan Fort now remain.
History of Phra Sumen Fort
When King Rama I ascended to the throne as the first ruler of the Chakri dynasty in 1782, he established Bangkok as the new capital of the Kingdom on the Eastern side of the Chao Phraya river in the Rattanakosin area.
The Burmese had completely destroyed the old capital of Ayutthaya in 1767 so the King had a number of fortifications built and canals dug to protect the new capital. With the Chao Phraya river protecting Rattanakosin in the West, the area was then surrounded by water, hence the name Rattanakosin Island.
Phra Sumen Fort was renovated by the Thai Fine Arts Department in 1982 to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of the founding of Bangkok and a museum was added the top floor.
What to see at Phra Sumen Fort
The octagonal white structure of Phra Sumen fort is three floors high and contains the rooms where weapons and ammunition were once stored. Cannons were deployed over two levels and the still stand guard over the city. There is an observation tower on the top level overlooking the river, the park and the city.
You’ll find a museum on the top floor of the fort where items found in the fort during the renovation are on display.
Santi Chai Prakarn Park is an excellent place to people watch and you will particularly enjoy watching the sometimes comical group exercise sessions held there.
Between the fort and the Chao Phraya river lies Santi Chai Prakarn Park, from which there are superb views of the river and the impressive modern Rama VIII bridge in the distance. After dark the fort is lit up by spotlights making it stand out and look even more striking.
The second fort remaining from the original 14 is Mahakan fort, which is located right next to the Golden Mount or Wat Saket temple. The Burmese invaded Siam again in 1785, but their armies never reached Bangkok so the forts never saw any action.
Once you’ve toured the fort and the park, you can grab a bite to eat at the local eateries lined up and down nearby Phra Arthit Road. It’s just a 15 minute walk you to Khao San Road, or you can hop on a river boat at Phra Arthit pier next to the park and head to your next destination.
Phra Sumen Fort is situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and surrounded by Santi Chai Prakan Park. The fort is open to the public from 5am – 10pm daily.