Published on October 12, 2007
The Princess Mother's Memorial Park is a green space located off a small alley alongside the Chao Phya in an old community of Thonburi - the area where she was born. The 4-rai park comprises shady areas, old-style wooden structures containing displays about her life story and works, historic remains of ancient Thonburi's communities, a model of the Princess' old home and a gallery where Thai arts and cultural exhibitions are held throughout the year.
The park is an initiative of His Majesty the King to perpetuate his mother's life. And, there's no better way to remember that life than to celebrate it daily. There's always something going on, from exercise sessions to weekend workshops for women and children.
"This place is used for all types of activities," says the park's public relations director, Rungson Gerdjumroon. "Mornings are filled with runners and those using the place for lawn exercises. Afternoons are for visitors to the museums or the exhibition hall. Some people, especially housewives or mothers, come here and retreat to our shady corners to read and relax. Weekends, however, are always packed with families enrolling for our communal workshops such as flower arranging, cooking or even reading."
At the entrance of the park is a big green and shady lawn adorned with a bronze monument of the Princess Mother. You can sit back and relax and enjoy the rare peacefulness of the day. Walking past the park and you will see two small buildings that house exhibitions of the Princess Mother's life from childhood to her motherhood of two Kings. Here, I learn that the Princess Mother was born into a commoner family. She excelled in her studies and earned a Royal scholarship. She chose to pursue a nursing degree in the US, where she met her future husband, the Prince of Songkhla, a son of King Rama V.
The exhibition shows their wedding banquet menu that consisted of dishes considered supremely lavish back in 1920s, including shark fin soup, suckling pig and so on. Viewed by Thai people affectionately as Somdet Ya, "the Royal Grandmother", she took an active role in charitable activities, with special attention given to aiding sick and disabled people, and promoting health care and schools for hilltribes in the remote north.
She was also an avid cook who loved gardening and creating pottery as gifts to her entourages and families.
Outside the museum area, there's a model of her own home, believed to be near the nearby Wat Anongkaram on Thonburi, where she lived in a shared community of the old town. There are also some actual traces of the old town in the compound. where remains of old housing units, believed to be from the era of King Rama III (almost 200 years ago), complete with an ancient well that served as the settlements water source.
If you get thirsty, there's a small coffee shop, and there's a small corner where souvenirs are sold.
The park regularly holds workshops and seminars for families and children. And during this coming weekend (20-21 October), they are having a memorial celebration of Princess Mother's 107th birthday with productive and fun activities on social and cultures such as Thai classical music and dance, puppet show from Joe Louis' theatre, displays of rare flowering plants as well as outlets of handcrafts products for the public to enjoy.
The Princess Mother passed
away 12 years ago at the age of 94. Parking is available in the compound of the park.
The Princess Mother's Memorial Park
Soi Somdej Chaophraya 3, Klong San
Daily, 6am to 6pm for the park area; museum is open from 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday (closed during public holidays)
(02) 437 7799, www.theprincessmothermemorialpark.org
Sirin P Wongpanit
The writer can be reached at www.ohsirin.blogspot.com