Thailand’s New Year 2023 Stamps

Starting in 2017 and continuing until last year, Thailand Post featured Thai sweets and desserts on its traditional New Year stamps which have been issued in mid-November each year since 1988. Lunar New Year stamps are issued at the beginning of January each year; the current series features artwork of each of the Chinese Zodiac animals as sketched by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, The Princess Royal of Thailand. For the latest edition of the November New Year set, the designs have been changed to portray various attractions in the capital city, formerly known as Bangkok.

I say “formerly” because in February of 2022, the Thai government announced that the name would be changed and expects this usage to be how the city is referred to internationally. The city is now officially known by a shortened form of the full ceremonial name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (กรุงเทพมหานคร), which is colloquially further shortened to Krung Thep (กรุงเทพฯ), or “city of gods”.

The full ceremonial name is listed in Guinness World Records as the world’s longest place name, at 168 letters:

Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit
กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์

Many Thais who recall the full name do so because of its use in the 1989 song “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon” by Thai rock band Asanee–Wasan, the lyrics of which consist entirely of the city’s full name, repeated throughout the song. The name, composed of Pali and Sanskrit root words, translates as:

City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra’s behest.

Of course, very few people are actually calling the city anything other than Bangkok. I can imagine the problems just changing the wording in postmarks!

Circular for the WSC Bangkok 2013 stamp show, posted by Thapanaphong Laoain on November 12, 2022.

Rather than promoting the name change, these New Year stamps, I believe the Bangkok attractions are featured due to the city’s hosting of the World Stamp Championship (WSC) at the Grand Postal Building (GPO) from November 23-28, 2023. The original General Post Office of Bangkok is pictured on one of these four stamps which were designed by Miss Euamporn Supharoekchai of Thailand Post. The stamps will most likely be issued on November 15 as listed in the latest edition of the Stamp Bulletin although the cancellation in the first day cover including in the press release is dated December 12. Under Thailand Post’s numbering system, this will be issue #1240.

The first stamp pictured features a skyline image of Bangkok including a BTS Skytrain and Wat Arun, also called Temple of Dawn.

The elevated rapid transit system was opened on December 5, 1999, by by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. It is operated by the Bangkok Mass Transit System PCL (BTSC), under a concession granted by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) which owns the lines. The system consists of 62 stations along three lines with a combined route length of 70.05 kilometers (43.53 mi). The BTS Sukhumvit Line running northwards and south-eastwards, terminating at Khu Khot and Kheha respectively. The BTS Silom Line which serves Silom and Sathon Roads, the central business district of Bangkok, terminates at National Stadium and Bang Wa. The Gold Line people mover runs from Krung Thon Buri to Klong San and serves Iconsiam. The lines interchange at Siam station and Krung Thon Buri. The system is formally known as “The Elevated Train in Commemoration of HM the King’s 6th Cycle Birthday” (รถไฟฟ้าเฉลิมพระเกียรติ 6 รอบ พระชนมพรรษา).

BTS Skytrain

Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn

Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan (วัดอรุณราชวราราม ราชวรมหาวิหาร) is a Buddhist temple (wat) in Bangkok Yai district on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruṇa, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun. Wat Arun is among the best known of Thailand’s landmarks. The first light of the morning reflects off the surface of the temple with pearly iridescence. Although the temple has existed since at least the seventeenth century, its distinctive prang (spire) was built in the early nineteenth century during the reigns of Rama II and Rama III.

Wat Arun was first known as Wat Makok, after the village of Bang Makok in which it was built and was shown on French maps during the reign of Narai (1656–88). The temple was renamed Wat Chaeng by Taksin (1767–82) when he established his new capital of Thonburi near the temple, following the fall of Ayutthaya. It is believed that Taksin vowed to restore the temple after passing it at dawn. The temple enshrined the Emerald Buddha image before it was transferred to Wat Phra Kaew on the river’s eastern bank in 1784. The temple was on the grounds of the royal palace during Taksin’s reign, before his successor, Rama I (1782–1809), moved the palace to the other side of the river. It was abandoned until the reign of Rama II (1809–24), who had the temple restored and had begun plans to raise the main pagoda to 70 meters. The work on the pagoda commenced during the reign of Rama III (1824–51). The main prang was completed in 1851, after nine years of continued construction.

The second stamp features the original General Post Office for Bangkok, known as the Praisaneeyakarn Building. The striking colonial-style building was originally built on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River in 1871 and became a symbol of Thailand’s embrace of western modernism. Unfortunately, the original GPO was demolished in 1982 but a replica was constructed on a nearby plot of land in 2010. Currently, it serves as a museum to commemorate the history of the Thai postal service. The structure was featured on a pair of stamps and a miniature sheet released on February 25, 1983, in conjunction with the Bangkok 1983 International Stamp Exhibition (Scott #1025-1026 and #1026a).

Praisaniyakan Post Office Building

Thailand Sc#1025-1026 (1983) first day cover

Thailand Sc#1026a (1983) miniature sheet

Grand Postal Building

The Grand Postal Building, site of WCS 2023, is located in the Bang Rak District of Bangkok on the former site of the British Legation and opened on June 24, 1940. It was designed by architects Sarot Sukkhayang and Mew Aphaiwong in a mixture of Art Deco and International Style architecture which reflected the desire of the ruling People’s Party to project a modern and powerful image of the state. In 2017, the building was converted for use as the new headquarters of the Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC). The conversion received the ASA Architectural Conservation Award in the New Design in Heritage Contexts category for 2020–2021. A branch post office of Thailand Post remains at the building, providing postal services to the general public. A popular weekend stamp market is held in the parking lot in front of the GPO every week.

The third stamp shows one of the four remaining defensive structures built to protect Bangkok during the late Ayutthaya to early Rattanakosin periods, although I am not sure which one. The earliest fortifications were built when Bangkok was an outpost of Ayutthaya guarding entry to the Chao Phraya River during the 15th–16th centuries. These were reinforced when the city became the site of the short-lived capital of Thonburi after the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. New walls and forts were built when the city of Rattanakosin replaced Thonburi in 1782, which were mostly removed and replaced in the second half of the 19th century in order to accommodate the expanding city. Today, four of the city’s defensive forts remain, along with two short sections of the Rattanakosin city wall and one of the city gates.

Phra Sumen Fort

Rama I’s city walls measured 7.2 kilometres (4.5 miles) in length, encircling an area of 2,589 rai (1.599 square miles). Fourteen defensive forts were built along the walls, and 63 gates provided access to the walled city. Of the 63 city gates, 16 were tower gates with pointed roofs. The rest were simple doors in the wall. All the gates bore enchantments warding off evil spirits, except for the gate known as Pratu Phi (ประตูผี, “Ghost Gate”), which was used to transport dead bodies out of the city. The Ghost Gate was left unenchanted in order to allow the spirits of the dead to pass. To prevent evil spirits entering, it was situated in the direct line of sight of the Emerald Buddha, enshrined on the other side of the city in the royal temple of Wat Phra Kaew.

Rama I’s fortifications were built to address traditional defense concerns, especially the lingering threat of a Burmese invasion that continued on for several decades. However, they never came into actual military use, as the Burmese threat ended following the Anglo-Burmese Wars and Britain’s colonization of Burma. Phra Sumen Fort is the northernmost of Rattanakosin’s original forts, located at the mouth of Khlong Rop Krung (the moat) where it meets the river, today the corner of Phra Sumen and Phra Athit Roads.

The final stamp pictures one of the twelve gates in the outer walls of the the Grand Palace (พระบรมมหาราชวัง, Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang), a complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok, and the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782. The king, his court, and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), resided at the Chitralada Royal Villa and his successor King Vajiralongkorn (Rama X) at the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall, both in the Dusit Palace, but the Grand Palace is still used for official events. Several royal ceremonies and state functions are held within the walls of the palace every year, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand.

Walls surrounding the Grand Palace

The castellated walls of the Grand Palace were constructed during the reign of King Rama I in 1782. Later during the reign of King Rama II the Grand Palace and its walls were extended towards the south. Cannon emplacements were replaced with guard houses and were given rhyming names. The northern wall measures 410 metres, the east 510 metres, the south 360 metres and the west 630 metres, a total of 1,910 metres (6,270 feet). There are twelve gates (ประตู, Pratu, literally a door), three along each of the four outer walls. These massive gates are built of brick and mortar and are topped with a Prang style spire, all painted in white with gigantic red doors. Each of these outer gates were given rhyming names, starting from the north west in a clockwise direction around. Inside the palace, there were over 22 gates and a labyrinth of inner walls. Around the outer walls there are also 17 small forts. On the eastern wall, facing Sanamchai Road, there are two throne halls.

The four New Year 2023 stamps were printed using offset lithography by a yet-to-be-announced printer in a press run of 500,000 stamps in sheets of 10 for each design. The stamps measure 31 x 31mm. Each is denominated at 3 Thai baht; the first day cover will be sold for 24 baht.

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