Another reconstructed traditional Thai residence, Ban Kamthieng (Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; B100) was moved from Chiang Mai to 131 Soi Asoke (Soi 21), off Thanon Sukhumvit, and set up as an ethnological museum by the Siam Society. Unlike Suan Pakkad and Jim Thompson's House, it is the home of a commoner, and the objects on display represent rural life in northern Thailand. Next door to Kamthieng House, in the same compound, Sangaroon House houses the folk-craft collection of Thai architect and lecturer Sangaroon Ratagasikorn, which includes baskets, fishing pots and rattan balls used for takraw (Thai volleyball).
Chatuchak Weekend Market
With six thousand open-air stalls to peruse, the enormous Chatuchak Weekend Market (Sat & Sun 7am-6pm) is Bangkok's most enjoyable shopping experience. Best buys here include antique amulets and lacquerware, unusual sarongs, northern crafts, jeans, musical instruments, jewellery, basketware and ceramics. The market also contains a controversial wildlife section and is renowned for its role in the international trade of endangered species. The market occupies a huge patch of ground near the old Northern Bus Terminal on the far northern edge of the city. The quickest way to get there from Thanon Sukhumvit, Siam Square and Thanon Silom is to take a BTS Skytrain to nearby Mo Chit Station. Buses also run from Banglamphu: take air-con buses #3 or #9 from Rajdamnoen Klang (1hr). Nancy Chandler's Map of Bangkok, available in shops in tourist areas, shows the location of all the specialist sections within the market. TAT have also produced a free map of Chatuchak, and they have a counter in the market building on the southwest edge of the market, across the car park. You can change money (7am-7pm) in the market building too.
The sprawl of narrow alleyways, temples and shophouses packed between Charoen Krung (New Road) and the river is Bangkok's Chinatown (Sampeng). Easiest access is to take the Chao Phraya Express boat to Tha Rajavongse (Rajawong) at the southern end of Thanon Rajawong; or get a longtail boat from Banglamphu to Hualamphong , then walk. Any Hualamphong-bound bus is also useful, as is #56 from Banglamphu .
Just west of Hualamphong Station, Wat Traimit (daily 9am-5pm; B20) boasts the world's largest solid-gold Buddha. Over 3m tall and weighing five and a half tons, the Golden Buddha gleams as if coated in liquid metal and is a fine example of the curvaceous grace of Sukhothai art. Cast in the thirteenth century, the image was brought to Bangkok completely encased in stucco - a common ruse to conceal valuable statues from would-be thieves. The disguise was so good that no one guessed what was underneath until 1955, when the image was accidentally knocked in the process of being moved to Wat Traimit. The discovery launched a country-wide craze for tapping away at plaster Buddhas, but Wat Traimit's is still the most valuable - it's valued, by weight alone, at $14 million. Sections of the stucco casing are now on display alongside the Golden Buddha.
Turn right outside Wat Traimit onto Thanon Yaowarat, then left onto Thanon Songsawat, to reach Sampeng Lane (also signposted as Soi Wanit 1), which stretches southeast-northwest for about 1km, and is packed full of tiny shops selling everything at bargain-basement rates. About halfway down Sampeng Lane, take a right into Soi Issaranuphap (also signed in places as Soi 16) for tiny shops selling more unusual fare, like ginseng roots, fish heads, cockroach-killer chalk and the like. Soi Issaranuphap finally ends at the Thanon Plaplachai intersection with a knot of shops specializing in paper funeral art: Chinese people buy miniature paper replicas of necessities (like houses, cars, suits and money) to be burned with the body. Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, 10m up New Road from the Soi Issaranuphap junction, is a lovely example of a much-used Mahayana Buddhist Chinese temple. It's dotted with undulating Chinese dragons, statues of bearded sages and saffron-clad Buddha images, and centres on an open-sided room of gold paintwork, red-lacquered wood, and panels inlaid with mother-of-pearl
Marking the horribly congested corner of Ploenchit and Rajdamri roads, the luridly ornate Erawan Shrine is essentially a huge spirit house for the neighbouring Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, but also serves any Bangkokian who feels the need to pray - or offer thanks - for good luck. The shrine is dedicated to Brahma, the Hindu creation god, and Erawan, his elephant, and is always garlanded in offertory flowers and incense. The shrine's group of classical dancers are frequently hired by devotees to perform offertory routines here too.
Five minutes' walk southeast of Democracy Monument stands a dirty yellow hill crowned with a gleaming gold chedi, which is grandiosely named Golden Mount , or Phu Khao Tong. It rises within the compound of Wat Saket, a dilapidated late eighteenth-century temple built by Rama I just outside his new city walls to serve as the capital's crematorium. The temple became the dumping ground for some sixty thousand plague victims, most of whom were left to the vultures. The Golden Mount was a late addition to the compound and dates back to the early nineteenth century. To reach the base of the mount, follow the renovated crenellations of the old city wall. Climb to the top for good views of the city. Wat Saket hosts an enormous annual temple fair in the first week of November.
Jim Thompson's House
Even now, over thirty years after his death, Jim Thompson remains Thailand's most famous farang (foreigner). A former American OSS (CIA) agent, Thompson was involved in clandestine operations in the Far East, before settling in Bangkok at the end of the war and eventually disappearing mysteriously in Malaysia's Cameron Highlands in 1967. But he is most famous for introducing Thai silk to the world and for his collection of traditional art, much of which is now displayed in his home at Jim Thompson's House (Mon-Sat from 9am; last tour 4.30pm; B100, under-25s B40), just off Siam Square at 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Thanon Rama I. The grand, rambling house is a kind of Ideal Home in elegant Thai style, constructed - without nails - from six 200-year-old teak houses which Thompson shipped to Bangkok from all over the kingdom. The tasteful interior has been left as it was during Thompson's life and displays dozens of fine Southeast Asian artefacts.
The National Museum (Wed-Sun 9am-4pm; B40), on Thanon Na Phra That, houses a colossal hoard of Thailand's chief artistic riches, and offers worthwhile free guided tours in English (Wed & Thurs 9.30am). Among its numerous attractions are King Ramkhamhaeng's stele (displayed in the information office), a black stone inscription from Sukhothai which dates back to the thirteenth century and is thought to be the earliest record of the Thai alphabet. The main collection boasts a fine chronological survey of the developing styles of religious sculpture in Thailand, from Dvaravati era (sixth to eleventh centuries) stone and terracotta Buddhas through to the more naturalist style of the modern Bangkok era.
Elsewhere in the museum compound, Wang Na , a former palace, contains a fascinating array of Thai objets d'art, including an intricately carved ivory howdah, some fine theatrical masks, and a collection of traditional musical instruments. The second holiest image in Thailand, after the Emerald Buddha, is housed in the beautifully ornate Buddhaisawan Chapel , the vast hall in front of the eastern entrance to the Wang Na. On the south side of the Buddhaisawan Chapel, the sumptuous Ayutthaya-style house, Tamnak Daeng , is furnished in the style of the early Bangkok period.
Suan Pakkad Palace Museum
The Suan Pakkad Palace Museum (daily 9am-4pm; B80), 352-4 Thanon Sri Ayutthaya, comprises a private collection of Thai artefacts displayed in six traditional wooden houses, which were transported to Bangkok from all corners of Thailand. The highlight is the renovated Lacquer Pavilion, an amalgam of two temple buildings set on stilts whose interior is beautifully decorated with Ramayana panels in gilt on black lacquer. The Ban Chiang House has a fine collection of pottery and jewellery from the tombs at the Bronze Age settlement in Ban Chiang, and elsewhere you'll find Thai and Khmer sculptures, ceramics and teak carvings.
Vimanmek Palace (daily 9am-4pm; compulsory free guided tours every 30min, last tour 3pm; B50, or free if you have a Grand Palace ticket, which remains valid for one month) stands at the end of Rajdamnoen Nok in the leafy royal district of Dusit. It was built for Rama V and is constructed entirely of golden teak, without a single nail; gardens and lotus ponds encircle it. On display inside is Rama V's collection of artefacts from all over the world, including bencharong ceramics, European furniture and bejewelled Thai betel-nut sets. Considered progressive in his day, Rama V introduced many newfangled ideas to Thailand: the country's first indoor bathroom is here, as is the earliest Thai typewriter. Note that the same dress rules apply here as to the Grand Palace .
Almost directly across the river from Wat Po, in the Thonburi district, rises the enormous five-pranged Wat Arun (daily 7am-5pm; B10), the Temple of Dawn, probably Bangkok's most memorable landmark. To get there, just take a cross-river ferry from Tha Thien. The temple has been reconstructed numerous times, but the Wat Arun that you see today is a classic prang (tower) structure of Ayutthayan style, built as a representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods in Khmer mythology. The prangs are decorated with polychromatic flowers made from bits of broken porcelain donated by local people. Statues of mythical figures support the different levels, and on the first terrace there are statues of the Buddha at the four most important stages of his life. Climbing the two tiers of the square base that supports the central prang, you get a good view of the river and beyond.
Until over twenty years ago, the king would make an annual procession down the Chao Phraya River to Wat Arun in a flotilla of 51 ornate royal barges. The three intricately lacquered and gilded vessels at the heart of the ceremony are now moored in the Royal Barge Museum on the north bank of Khlong Bangkok Noi (daily 9am-5pm; B30). To get there, cross the Phra Pinklao Bridge and take the first left (Soi Wat Dusitaram), which leads, along stilted walkways, to the museum. Alternatively, take a ferry to Bangkok Noi Station, then follow the tracks to the bridge over Khlong Bangkok Noi, from where the museum is signed. Either way it's about a ten-minute walk.
One of the most popular ways of seeing Wat Arun and the other Thonburi sights is to embark on a canal tour by chartering a longtail boat (B250 per person) from Tha Chang, in front of the Grand Palace. A less expensive alternative is to use the public longtails that run along back canals from central Bangkok-side piers, departing every ten to thirty minutes and charging B10-30 a round trip. The most accessible ones include the Khlong Bangkok Noi service from Tha Chang; the Khlong Mon service from Tha Thien; and the Khlong Bang Waek service from Tha Saphan Phut.
Ten minutes' walk southeast from Vimanmek along Thanon Sri Ayutthaya, Wat Benjamabophit (daily 7am-5pm; B10) is the last major temple to have been built in Bangkok. It's an interesting fusion of classical Thai and nineteenth-century European design, with its Carrara marble walls - hence the touristic tag "The Marble Temple" - complemented by unusual stained-glass windows. The courtyard behind the bot houses a gallery of Buddha images from all over Asia. This is also a very good place to see the early-morning ritual alms-giving ceremony. Between about 6 and 7.30am every day, Wat Benjamabophit's monks line up with their bowls on Thanon Nakhon Pathom, awaiting donations from local citizens - a sight that's well worth getting up early to witness.
On the western side of the huge grassy area of Sanam Luang, with its main entrance on Thanon Maharat, Wat Mahathat (daily 9am-5pm; free) houses the Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University and hosts a daily herbal medicine market. Situated in Section Five of the wat is its International Buddhist Meditation Centre (tel 02/222 6011) where English-language meditation sessions are held on the second Saturday of the month (4-6pm). Outside, along the pavements of Maharat and surrounding roads, vendors set up stalls to sell some of the city's most reasonably priced amulets.
Wat Phra Kaeo and the Grand Palace
Built as the private royal temple, Wat Phra Kaeo is the holiest site in the country and houses the most important image, the Emerald Buddha. The temple occupies the northeast corner of the huge Grand Palace, which dates back to 1785, but is now only used for state functions, as the king resides in Chitrlada Palace in Dusit. The only entrance to the complex is on Thanon Na Phra Lan, within easy walking distance of Banglamphu, and close to the Tha Chang express-boat pier. Admission to Wat Phra Kaeo and the palace is B125 (daily 8.30am-3.30pm), and includes entry to Vimanmek Palace . As it's Thailand's most sacred site, there's a dress code (no vests, shorts, sarongs, miniskirts, slip-on sandals or flip-flops), but you can borrow suitable garments and shoes at an office just inside the entrance.
The turnstiles in the west wall open onto the back of the bot (main sanctuary), which contains the Emerald Buddha and is encircled by eight boundary stones, each sheltering in a psychedelic fairy castle. The walls of the bot itself, sparkling with coloured glass, are supported by 112 golden birdmen (garudas), holding mythical serpents (nagas). Inside, a pedestal supports the tiny sixty-centimetre jadeite Emerald Buddha, a hugely sacred figure renowned for its miraculous powers. The king ceremonially changes the statue's costumes according to the season: the crown and ornaments of an Ayutthayan king for the hot season; a gilt monastic robe for the rainy season retreat; and a full-length gold shawl to wrap up in for the cool season. (The spare outfits are displayed in the Coins and Decorations Pavilion.)
North of the bot is a scale model of Angkor Wat, the Cambodian temple complex which was under Thai rule during the reign of Rama IV. At the western end of the terrace, dazzlingly gold Phra Si Ratana Chedi enshrines a piece of the Buddha's breastbone. Extending for over a kilometre in the arcades which run inside the wat walls, the surreal murals of the Ramayana depict every blow of this ancient Hindu story of the triumph of good over evil. The story is told in 178 panels, labelled and numbered in Thai only, starting in the middle of the northern side. Panel 109 shows the climax of the story, when Rama, the hero, kills the ten-headed demon Totsagan.
Coming out of the exit in the southwest corner of Wat Phra Kaeo, you'll pass a beautiful Chinese gate before reaching the grand residential complex and its main audience hall, Phra Thinang Amarin Winichai , which centres on an open-sided throne with a spired roof, floating on a boat-shaped base. On the western side of the courtyard, the delicately proportioned Dusit Maha Prasat , another audience hall, epitomizes traditional Thai architecture with the soaring tiers of its red, gold and green roof culminating in a gilded spire. Inside, you can still see the original throne, a masterpiece of mother-of-pearl inlaid work.
Bangkok's oldest temple, the seventeenth-century Wat Po (daily 8am-5pm; B20) is most famous for housing the enormous statue of a reclining Buddha. It lies south of the Grand Palace, close to the Tha Thien express-boat pier. In 1832, Rama turned the temple into "Thailand's first university" by decorating the walls with diagrams on subjects such as history, literature and animal husbandry. The wat is still a centre for traditional medicine, notably Thai massage: a massage here costs B200 per hour. The elegant bot at the centre of the compound has beautiful teak doors decorated with mother-of-pearl, showing stories from the Ramayana, but it is the chapel of the Reclining Buddha, in the northwest corner of the courtyard, that draws the crowds. The image in question is a 45-metre-long gilded statue of plaster-covered brick, depicting the Buddha entering Nirvana. The beaming smile is five-metres wide, the vast black feet are beautifully inlaid with mother-of-pearl showing the 108 lakshanas or auspicious signs which distinguish the true Buddha.
|Discount Hotel Reservations||Online Hotel Reservations||Hotel Reservations Online||Hotels in Europe||Discount USA Hotel Reservations|
|Discount European Hotels||Cheap Hotels in Europe||Cheap Hotels in Barcelona||Hotels in Calgary Canada||Hotels in Miami USA|
|Hotels in Brussels Belgium||Hotels in Rome Italy||Hotels in Budapest||Venice Italy Hotels||Bangkok Hotel Reservations|
|Hotels in Barcelona Spain||Hotels in Vienna||Hotels Nice France||Hotels Sorrento Italy||Hotels in Singapore|
|Discount Hotel Reservations Sitemap|