A Brief History of Silom Road and the Cultural Landmarks That Still Remain
With towering skyscrapers, massive mall complexes, and a busy SkyTrain system running overhead, it’s hard to imagine Silom Road as anything but a bustling, major road in Thailand. Dating back as early as the mid-19th century, Silom Road has been one of Bangkok’s most important roads, playing an integral role in the economic development of the growing Thai capital.
Today, Silom is considered the “Wall Street” of Bangkok as it serves as its financial district, along with neighboring Sathorn, and as one of the world’s premier precious gem trading hubs. It is also among the most vibrant and dynamic nightlife centers in the city and is a must-explore area for tourists visiting Bangkok.
So how did Silom become such an economic centerpiece for Bangkok?
Paving the Way
In the 1860s, during the reign of King Rama IV, Thailand began “modernizing” to become an attractive trading partner with the west. King Rama IV heard the requests of foreign visitors who wished to ride smoothly in their horse-drawn carriages and developed Thailand’s first paved road – Charoen Krung Road.
The King additionally dug a canal stretching from the Chao Phraya River to Thanon Trong, today known as Rama IV Road. The earth dredged from this canal was used to create a new road parallel to the canal, soon named Silom Road. Because of its utility as a trade route, Silom Road began to blossom.
Silom, meaning “windmill” in Thai, was initially an agricultural trade center, with fertile farmland flanking the areas along the canal and road. International merchants who landed at the Old Customs House – a historical landmark still standing today – would travel up Silom Road to access the rest of Bangkok, thus transforming Silom Road into a valuable piece of real estate.
A Rush for Development
Silom’s dramatic growth spurred the formation of sub-communities in the surrounding areas. Developers built trading posts, residential buildings, and houses of worship which catered to the many different religions followed by new foreign visitors and residents.
By the 1920s, Silom Road had its own tram system and was a hotbed for economic activity. During the next 40 or so years, developers were focused in other areas of Bangkok, chiefly creating Sukhumvit Road, initially established as a connecting road between Bangkok and Cambodia. Sukhumvit became the aorta in the heart of Bangkok and remains so to this day.
In the 1960s, Silom saw a resurgence of economic activity that called for the tram to be demolished and the canal filled in to make room for a wider road. The agricultural communities off Silom Road were paved over, and in their place came a network of residential roads housing the many hundreds of men and women working in new offices in the area.
Slowly, financial institutions congregated on Silom and Sathorn roads, erecting skyscraping office buildings and kickstarting the development of hospitality and food-service establishments in the area.
If Silom’s current and historical importance to Bangkok was in doubt, consider that the BTS SkyTrain system initially launched two lines: The Sukhumvit Line and the Silom Line.
Despite the surge in development over the 150-some years, many old buildings and landmarks remain functional and preserved. Just minutes from Triple Two Silom are a few places of cultural significance we suggest all of our guests visit.
Across the street from the hotel is the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple, a beautiful and ornate house of worship established by Indian Tamil immigrants. The temple is usually buzzing with activity, with daily worship and frequent Hindu rituals.
Closer to the river, you can find the Assumption Cathedral, a 200-year site for Christian worship in Bangkok. The current building was reconstructed in the early 1900s; however, the site itself was instrumental in the Christian community’s growth in Thailand. Around the corner from Assumption Cathedral, you can visit the Old Customs House. Though abandoned and in shambles, the bones of the historic port are still an architectural marvel.
Finally, what cultural tour of Silom Road would be complete without the iconic windmill at the intersection of Silom and Narathiwat roads? After all, why not visit the landmark that gave name to such an important district?