KHLONG SRA BUA (คลองสระบัว)
Text & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - March 2011
Khlong Sra Bua or the "Lilly Pond Canal" is an existent canal situated off the city island
in the northern area in Khlong Sra Bua district.

The canal splits off from
Khlong Hua Ro, in between the defunct Wat Ngiw and the not
restored ruin of
Wat Si Liam; and has its mouth at the city canal (or Khlong Mueang)
between
Wat Na Phra Men and Wat Mai (Khlong Sra Bua) in front of the north-eastern
corner of the Grand Palace. In fact this canal was a shortcut or "khlong lat" of the old
Lopburi River.

In the vicinity of
Wat Kamphaeng (ruin), a smaller canal branched off and formed a kind
of loop in the Sra Bua canal, running parallel with it, finally to exit in the same location
between Wat Na Phra Men and Wat Mai (Khlong Sra Bua). This canal was called
Khlong Pha Lai and is at present defunct.

The canal was likely men-dug with as purpose transportation in order to counter the
strong current of the old Lopburi River (1), which made a bend to the west near
Wat
Mae Nang Plum and ran in front of the Grand Palace.

In the Ayutthayan era,
kilns were situated along the banks of Khlong Sra Bua and in the
area opposite, where the canal branches off from the former old Lopburi River, along
present Khlong Hua Ro.

When going an elephant round-up, the royal barges went up the Sra Bua Canal, turned
into the old Lopburi River and went downstream towards the
Elephant Kraal and via the
same way back to
Tha Wasukri, the Grand palace landing.

The waterway unfortunately cannot be navigated anymore as instead bridges over the
road,  culverts under the road have been constructed. This is the case near Wat Na Phra
Men and near the confluence with Khlong Hua Ro. Both culverts are controlled by a
small water gate. It would definitely more accentuate "Venice of the East", if the first
solution had been chosen. The canal now tends to be stagnant as the water gates are
mostly permanent closed.

Temples on its west bank are from North to South: Wat Si Liam (ruin),
Wat Dokmai
(defunct),
Wat Bua (defunct), Wat Sri Pho (active), Wat Kamphaeng (ruin) and Wat Na
Phra Men (active). On its east bank are Wat Ngiw (defunct),
Wat Khrut (active), Wat
Chao Ya (restored ruin) and Wat Klang (active).

Khlong Sra Bua became a bit famous as it was on this canal that usurper King
Worawongsa and his Queen Sri Sudachan ran into an ambush when proceeding to the
Elephant Kraal, early 1549 to see a very large elephant. They were dragged ashore and
beheaded, together with their infant daughter. Their bodies were impaled in the vicinity of
the ambush, at
Wat Raeng. [2-3]

In 2009, a brick walk and bicycling path has been created along Khlong Sra Bua
between Wat Sri Pho and Wat Na Phra Men, giving access to the different ruins in this
area. The canal was at the same time dredged.

Footnotes:

(1) A connection was made between the old Lopburi River with the earlier dug Khlong
Khu Na. The current of the Lopburi River was so strong that on the north-east tip of the
city island (in front of the now defunct
Maha Chai fortress) a weir  made of wooden
beams had to be constructed in order to break the water flow and prevent damage to the
embankments, hence the name of that spot Hua Ro.

Apparently it could be due to this strong current that the rowers of King Naresuan's
barges had a problem with landing the barges at the Elephant Kraal on the occasion of his
coronation. Jeremias Van Vliet wrote the following in 1640:

"
He ordered the royal boats to be made ready and the mandarins to go by boat with
him to the Phaniat (the place where the elephants are kept and the kings are
crowned) in order to proclaim him king and swear their oaths of allegiance to him.
On arrival at Phaniat, Phra Naret’s rowers made an error in the process of
landing
, which he left unpunished at that time. He was crowned with the proper
solemnities when he was thirty-five years old and was called Phra Naret
Rachathirat. After having been crowned, he had all the rowers in his boat, as well
as those in the other royal boats (about 1600 men), burnt alive in that same place.
He told his mandarins that he wanted them to remember this as an example of his
rule and then returned to court
." [1]

References:

[1] Van Vliet's Siam - Chris Baker, Dhiravat Na Pombejra, Alfons Van Der Kraan &
David K. Wyatt (2005) - page 228.
[2] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 24 & 25 /
Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra
Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph.
[3] A History of Siam - W.A.R. Wood (1924) - page 111 & 112.
(Extract of a begin-20th century map)
(Mouth of the Sra Bua Canal in front of the Palace)
(View of the canal)
(Entry of the canal,
closed with a culvert and watergate)
(View of the canal near Wat Sri Pho)
(The canal near Wat Na Phra Men end 2008)
(The canal near Wat Na Phra Men in 2009)
(Another view of the canal)