In the 1500s, Portugal signed a treaty with Ayutthaya that would lead to centuries of friendship. The Portuguese were to supply firearms and weaponries while the Siamese granted them the rights to live, work, and play in Thailand. With this also came their freedom to practice their religion. When the fall of Ayutthaya came in 1767, the Portuguese continued to support to King Taksin in driving the Burmese out of Siam and even followed him to the new capital site in present day Bangkok.
Upon arrival, the Portuguese were given land to build their communities. On Thonburi side, Santa Cruz Church was established and quickly became a center for Catholics. However, the Portuguese were soon to be splintered into two groups. One decided to follow the leadership of the French clergy that established the Santa Cruz church in Thonburi while the other rejected it to go off on their own and eventually built a sister church Holy Rosary Church on the opposite bank.
Santa Cruz Church’s presence eventually became the reason for the surrounding community’s name today. Its architecture, having Chinese influences, led the locals to nickname it Kudi Jeen, meaning “Chinese church”. Today, if you find the church, marvel at its features and history, but also be sure to explore the winding alleyways of the charming Kudi Jeen neighborhood. You will find Khanom Farang Kudi Jeen, a Portuguese influenced sweet baked pastry, yet another heritage of the Portuguese ties.