Bangkok was founded in 1782 by the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty. It is now the country’s spiritual, cultural, diplomatic, commercial and educational hub. It covers an area of more than 1,500 square kilometres, and it is home to approximatlely ten million people or more than 10% of the country’s population.
Over the last few decades, Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok, has changed into a modern, exciting and sophisticated city. It offers to visitors not only the cosmopolitan amenities they would expect from other big cities, but also a unique treasure trove of cultural attractions. Thailand, in the heart of Southeast Asia, was never colonised and thus kept its unique culture and heritage intact. Bangkok offers visitors the opportunity to experience fascinating glimpse of Thailand’s gentle culture amidst the bustle of a great and dynamic metropolis. This great city has had astounding success in combining the ancient and modern world.
For tourists, Bangkok has a feast of attractions to offer. The city is dotted with 400 glittering Buddhist temples of great beauty and fascination, magnificent palaces, classical dance extravaganzas, numerous shopping centers and traditional ways of life, especially along the "Venice of the East" timeless canals and the Chao Phraya River of the "River of Kings" winding through the city. It is worth taking a trip along its waters before exploring further into different canals to take a glimpse of old Bangkok.
The Grand Palace
Every visitor to Bangkok should see the magnificent buildings within the Grand Palace compound to get a feeling of the grandeur architectural style.
Since the founding of Bangkok as the Nations capital by King Rama I, The Grand Palace has been the major architectural symbol of The Thai Royal Family. In the present time, The Royal Family resides at Chitralada Palace while The Grand Palace is used for ceremonial purposes.
The main buildings within the Grand Palace compound were built for King Rama V, who was the first Thai King to travel to Europe.
Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat, built in 1877 by King Rama V as his Royal Residence, is the most highly recognized architectural landmark of the Nation. The central Throne Hall, which was formerly used for the reception of foreign envoys, is flanked by reception areas decorated with galleries of portraiture. The central room on the second floor is used as a shrine for the reliquary ashes of Kings Rama IV, Rama V, Rama VI, Rama VII and Rama VIII.
Borom Phiman Mansion was also constructed during the reign of King Rama V. When his son, King Rama VI ascended to the throne, he had it improved for use as his residence. The three succeeding Kings also resided here at one time or another.
The Siwalai Gardens, where the office of The Royal Household Bureau is located, were used for receptions as well as a recreation area for the royal women and children.
Maha Monthien Prasat houses The Audience Hall of Amarin Winitchai where ceremonies of the Court usually take place in front of the throne surmounted by its canopy of nine tiers of white cloth
Wat Arun, often called The Temple of Dawn, is one of the most remarkable visual identities of Bangkok. The imposing Khmer-style prang or tower is 67 metres tall and decorated with bits of porcelain that was used as ballast by boats coming from China. It is surrounded by four smaller prangs. Construction of the prangs were started by King Rama II and completed by King Rama II.
The central balcony is an ideal spot for looking across the river to The Grand Palace and The Temple of The Emerald Buddha.
Each year at the end of the three-month lent period for Buddhist monks, H. M. The King or his appointed representative travels down river in a Royal Barge Procession to present new robes to the monks. This ceremony is called Royal Tod Kathin.
Tour Boats/bangkok river boat journey
Cruising along the klongs as the canals are called in Thai, takes you on a journey of contrast back to earlier eras and up to modern Bangkok.
The most popular klong trips start on the Bangkok side of the Chao Phraya River and cross over to the Thonburi side to venture up Bangkok Noi and Bangkok Yai canals. These journeys take you to fascinating places such as The Royal Barge Museum and the colonial-style Thonburi Railway Station.
On the way you will see a different side of life as you pass the homes of the klong-dwellers. Each home seems to have its own boat, be it a small canoe or a hang yao the long-tailed boats powered by car or truck engines and a propeller on a long shaft that acts as both propulsion and steerage.
The contrast continues as you pass into idyllic rural pockets where villagers grow fruit, vegetables and orchids which are sent to markets on the long-tailed boats. Youll see children on there way to or from school and saffron robed monks travelling to their klong-side temples. You may even come across Thai women in boats selling boat noodles, drinks, snacks and fruit.
Most organized canal tours take you to a floating market at Taling Chan in Thonburi that operates from 8.30 a.m. until noon. It is usually crowded with other tourists.
How to get there : Tour boats depart from the pier beside the Oriental Hotel, at River City and Tha Chang Wang Luang Pier.
The Royal Barge Procession
It is one of the most spectacular events in the world. It is performed occasionally during the Tod Kathin Buddhist Festival when H.M. The King delivers new robes to the monks at Wat Arun. It was also seen by millions of viewers around the world when it was specially staged for the 2003 APEC Conference in Bangkok and broadcast live to the participating countries.
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