It won international awards, but the years-long revamp of Bangkok’s Ong-Ang and Saphan Han Bridge markets gutted both sites of their history, culture and feel.
Now Bangkok is doing it again in the Old City, using Ong Ang as its model.
On Oct. 20, 2015, City Hall began its “reorganization” of the Ong-Ang Market space by destroying about 500 old shops and stalls.
Bulldozers then razed Saphan Han (Han Bridge) and in June 2018. Work continued on both spots until 2019, when they were registered as national historical sites.
The project resulted in the Ong-Ang Canal winning the 2020 Asian Townscape Awards from UN-Habitat Fukuoka in 2020.
However, many locals and tourists who used to visit the old market saw that the renovation changed the whole area, with no trace left of the historical canal and its old market.
Some, though, saw it as a positive development, as demand for the area has improved and, with time, it could turn into a destination for tourists.
Now, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administratin has moved forward with its landscape improvement projects in other historical canals around Rattanakosin Island and other areas of Bangkok with Ong-Ang Canal as its model.
Referring to the advantages of the project, a member of Saphan Han Community Kriangkrai Theekamongkol stressed that people of the area can make their living at some points.
Also, the owner of a drink shop at Saphan Han Market added that foreigners, including Japanese, come to take pictures and hang around, stressing that clients prefer the old vibes of the place.
“I asked clients if they like it now. They told me they preferred the old vibes which they took pictures of back then. It’s just like the other canals now, nothing is unique, they said,” Kittiyaporn Damrongpanich continued.
During an interview with Sangwan Gawinsongsuk, a cloth shop owner at the market, he said that people no longer come to the market after it was deconstructed last 4-5 years.
“It was Saphan Han, Sampeng- Saphan Han. Without it here, no one would come and they began to promote the walking street with all those advertisements. (Soccer legend David) Beckham even visited here. So, now it’s lively and many people started to visit,” he added.
“If for selling, it was better before, of course. In 6-7 years ago, it was very lively. Now, it’s not bad. They started to promote it. I was against it in the first place, as I told. However, I’ll just take it as is. It’s an improvement that we have to accept it,” Sangwan Gawinsongsuk added.