Travel Tidbit #8: Victory Monument
If you are going to spend any time in or around Bangkok, you better get familiar with Victory Monument. The towering, phallic obelisk is a tribute to the Thai defeat of France in the 1940s (a war fought to reclaim Siamese land earlier annexed by France). Though it does look pretty cool and can be the focal point of some great, slow shutter photography- it’s not exactly a tourist destination. Getting to the center island is a dangerous endeavor and there isn’t much space to lineup panoramic shots or travel portraits. But, it is the keystone to Thai public transportation and thus an unavoidable experience. Every private bus running in or out of Bangkok to the surrounding cities, be it to Ayutthaya, Pathumthani, Suan Luang, or Nakhon Pathom, stems from Victory Monument. Over 20 different local bus numbers run out of the traffic circle and it’s a major BTS stop. In terms of automobile traffic, the circle is always packed and get ready to wait in long traffic gems in any direction if you need to utilize the traffic circle.
Victory Monument also hosts a bustling open air market set up. Packed mostly with neighborhood inhabitants and college students scanning for steals, the street venders turn every surrounding sidewalk into a tunnel of merchandise. The wall of vendors is only interrupted at stoops and entry ways for more permanently established shops in the street side buildings; the walls separate so slightly that walking two abreast is impossible and passing any group of shopping females feels more like clubbing than traveling.
There are a couple free standing malls at Victory Monument circle, but I really have no information about them. Unless you couldn’t resist a triple cheeseburger from McDonald’s, I’m not really sure why anyone would need to go in. Not only do the street vendors cover just about anything a person could be looking for, but Victory Monument is only 2 stops from Siam Square on the BTS line (see tip #7 for all the wonders of Siam Square). The place is essentially how you would picture Thailand. The completely unthought out combination of massive logistical importance and debilitating abundance of entertainment and stimulation. I have never been more annoyed trying to catch a train or bus than when slipping through people lazily enjoying an evening shopping outing. Similarly, I would never, ever want to deal with the amount of traffic that goes to and through Victory Monument, but for some reason, even though it’s not really a central point in the city, Victory Monument is unavoidable. Every time you get in a taxi it seems like you have to shoot by the area.
Just around the great pillar is a wealth of entertainment and green space: the zoo, a college, some parks, palatial grounds, the horse racing grounds, etc. Though these aren’t big name places in Bangkok, in a city this big, they get used plenty and probably account for a good portion of the unrelenting traffic. So, if you are coming to Bangkok, don’t make it a point to get to Victory, but rest assured, contentedly, that you will have to deal with it at some point.