Facelift for Thai capital’s historic Sanam Luang

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The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration will officially open the Thai capital’s Sanam Luang to the public on August 9 following 300 days of renovation to make the historic royal events field more appealing to both the city’s own population and tourists alike.

Once the dignified ceremonial centre of the city, Sanam Luang  has for some time been littered with refuse, mounds of dirt, and even serving as a temporary shelter for the city’s homeless and displaced persons, as well as a sales venue for small traders struggling to make ends meet by selling food and beverages, now the 74-rai (30 acre) historic royal ground has been transformed into a fresh and inviting open space filled with fresh green grass against the magnificent backdrop of the illuminated the temple of the Emerald Buddha and Grand Palace.

For several decades, Bangkok’s historic Sanam Luang has witnessed many of Thailand’s major political changes. It also served as venue for royal ceremonies and entertainment for the public.

The historic ‘Royal Field’ is also officially known as Thung Phra Mane (Royal Cremation Ground) and has been used as a site for royal cremations since the reign of King Rama I, founder of the Chakri dynasty in 1782.

The last cremation there was for the late princess sister of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX), HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana in 2008.

In the early 20th century King Rama IV, King Vajiravudh, established a site for performing the Royal Ploughing Ceremony until present during the reign of the world’s longest-reigning monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej .

Linking the contemporary city with living memories of the early days of the Ratanakosin period, the lovely foliage of slow-growing but long-lived tamarind trees line the giant square to witness the change of time.

Kite-flying, a favourite recreational activity here in the past, offers opportunities to lift the past into life along with other leisure activities for those who love the traditions of Sanam Luang.

Gone are the flocks of noisy pigeons which formerly filled the field as their home and seeming ‘convention centre’ are no longer on stage. Nowhere to be seen, the former avian occupants no longer annoy visitors and passers-by with droppings or disease.

Political activities, overnight stays and trading are prohibited.

With a budget of 180 million baht (US$6 million) for the facelift, the city administration also installed an LCD lighting system with spotlights and 42 closed-circuit televisions to prevent trespassers enter off-limits zones between 10pm and 5am. Only the walkway will be opened 24 hours.

Some 100 city officials will keep a close watch round the clock to ensure no intruders with folding metal fences and automatic gates around the site.

Violators could face jail terms of up 10 years and/or a fine of one million baht (over $1,600), warned Deputy Bangkok Governor Theerachon Mamomaipiboon.