In 1767 (BE2310), a few months after the destruction of Ayutthaya—the former capital of Siam—King Taksin established the new capital city of Thonburi on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The monarch also allocated pieces of land to different communities, including one called Kudejeen to a small Portuguese community.
The name Kudeejeen is said to be derived from either kutijeen which means “Chinese monk’s residence” in Thai, or kuleejeen, which translates into “Chinese laborers.” The Portuguese settlement brought about a complex yet harmonious set-up where Christians, Buddhists and Muslims have been co-existing together peacefully for more than 200 years. The settlement also introduced a culture that was distinctive to the place, as well as unique Portuguese-influenced cuisine.
Getting to Kudeejeen is easy aboard the Chao Phraya Express boat. Hop on the boat from the pier nearest to you and get off at Wat Kanlaya. From there, it’s a three-minute walk to the community. The Italian Renaissance-style Santa Cruz Church marks the entrance to one of Bangkok’s longest-running hoods.
Things to do in Kudeejeen
One of the oldest Catholic churches in Bangkok, Santa Cruz Church was built in 1770 to cater to the religious needs of foreigners living on the west bank of the Chao Phraya.
This old wooden house turned restaurant whips up Thai-Portuguese food and dessert that are cooked with much respect to original family recipes.
Tucked at the end of the main alley is a renovated wooden structure that houses a cafe (featuring lovely Azulejos tiles) on the ground floor. Get your fill while enjoying a view of the small garden before making your way up to the upper floor where a small museum showcases the relationship between the Kingdom of Siam and Portugal.
One of the oldest shrines in Thonburi, Kuan An Keng has been praised for its perfectly preserved wooden carvings and mural paintings. The shrine was awarded Best Architectural Preserve by the Association of Siamese Architects in 2008.
Built in the reign of King Rama III, this temple is where locals go to pay their respects to the Luang Poh Tor or Sum Por Kong statue, and pray for safe travels and good relationships.
Not to miss: Kudeejeen cupcakes
Don’t forget to hunt down the famed Kudeejeen cupcake, a traditional Portuguese-influenced treat made from a recipe dating back 200 years. The cupcakes are made with three main ingredients—flour, eggs and sugar—and are topped with raisins, persimmon, dried winter melon and sugar. Only four bakeries in the neighborhoos sell the cakes—Baan Pah Lek, Baan Pah Pan, Baan Lan Pah Pao and Tanoo Sing—most of which have been making these treats for more than five generations.