Affording some of the best views and photography opportunities in the city, Bangkok’s Victory Monument had always been a mystery to me. Victory! In what war? Thailand hasn’t fought any wars this century other than a few pot shots at Japan in the Second World War and some nurses in the trenches in World War One, the Thai army just isn’t really designed for war, it’s a well known fact the Thai army is painfully inefficient at killing foreigners. So this time round I was determined to find out a little about it.
The monument was built in 1941 by the Fascist dictator Field Marshal Plaek Phiboonsongram to celebrate a bit of barney Thailand had with some French colonies left undefended by the Fall of France. The monument itself has statues of a soldier, a sailor, an airman, a government officer and a policeman, representing the five heroic roles in the war, forgetting the contribution of medics and undertakers. Now Plaek and his wife who ruled Thailand between 1938 and 1957 were pretty remarkable people and virtually invented modern Thailand. Apart from famously changing the name from Siam to Thailand they made up much of what is sold to tourists as ancient Thai culture these days, they encouraged western dress, swapped the nation from chopsticks to spoon and fork and planted Thai flags and speakers blasting the national anthem everywhere.
The monument itself commands the sky in the area and even makes the Skytrain take an expensive detour, though it is probably not the prettiest object on any horizon as was pointed out by one of its disappointed builders. Around it is the bus hub of the northern part of the city, this most useful place for easy transport to anywhere in the city is noticeably devoid of tourists, thanks largely to the unspeakably difficult “Unusawreechaisamorapoom” you would need to say to the bus conductor to get there.
Victory monument is one of my favourite places in the city, it is well worth a visit for the views from the bridges spanning the roads around it. For anyone bored of the artificial environments of the World Trade Centre or Siam Paragon yearning to see how the locals shop, the hustle and bustle of the shops and stalls around provide a great opportunity for exploration. It is easily reached from Silom and Sukhumwit by Skytrain, from Khao San it is also an excellent staging post for anyone going to the Northern Bus Station, with plenty of buses heading there from Ratchadamnoen Road.