The East Asiatic Company was a Danish conglomeration that spanned the globe, taking its share in almost “everything from shipping, ship-building, slaughterhouses, plantations, pharmaceutical industry, industrial companies and agencies for countless global corporations”. The company has a rise and fall tale that is over a century long that has been archived by the Danish government. In its story, Bangkok was the chosen location for its operations in Asia and played an instrumental role in the development of this global company.
To understand why Bangkok was selected, one has to know its visionary founder Captain Hans Niels Andersen. In his youth, Hans received training as a carpenter at a ship-building yard and eventually traversed the globe as a ship’s carpenter. He arrived in Siam in 1873 and proved his worth to become first mate and then a master on the Siamese ship Thoon Kramom owned by the king. But Hans wasn’t just a sailor. He was also a shrewd businessman. In 1881, Hans bought the premises of the current Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Bangkok and built the first luxury hotel in Siam. In 1897, his vision to create a shipping line between Denmark, Thailand, and East Asia materialized in the form of the East Asiatic Company.
The East Asiatic Company’s building stands on the Chao Phraya River’s edge right next to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Bangkok, and today is considered a rare historical structure. To walk along beside it is to be thrown back in time when Bangrak was the de facto European quarter of Bangkok. The building is designed of Venetian architecture and a standout in the Creative District. Be sure to walk to the Oriental Pier and look up to see the company’s name and symbol on the building gable.