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2007/09/17

Guide to Bangkok

by Hosh
Bangkok is an exhilarating destination, with her interesting mix of traditional sights and attractions, exotic aromas and western influence. To unravel the layers of this city, you'll need to understand its history and culture. A trip to this Kingdom of smiles will allow you to do this if you allow yourself enough time to see some of the treasures this place has to offer. At least three days, and this is not a problem with an abundance of cheap flights and good hotels available in Bangkok throughout the year. This article features some of the highlights and traditional must-see attractions.

Wat Pho Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is one of the oldest and largest temples in Bangkok and located next to the Grand Palace. It is most famous for its grand and splendid reclining Buddha, covered in gold leaf and measuring more than 150 feet long. There are some cool spots under the trees beside the temple for rest and rejuvenation as well. Treat yourself to their famed massage services where they offer trained professionals in the school of traditional massage housed within the temple itself. You will also enjoy the action of dropping coins into a long line of small containers around the reclining buddha, as an act of accumulating blessings for yourself and others.

The Grand Palace The Grand Palace, with its glittery, extravagant architecture, is simply grand. This famous palace was built in 1782, and it continues to capture visitors' imagination with its magnificent buildings and intricate details. It gives you an insight into Thai royalty, in local Siamese style with its wonderful mix of colours.

Entering the palace grounds, you will have to wear long trousers or skirts. The dress code states no jeans, but don't worry, you can always rent the appropriate clothing for free if you turn up in them. Audio guides are avaliable near the entrance and are helpful if you are not in a tour group.

There's always touts outside the palace scamming unaware tourists that the grand palace is closed, and suggesting to follow their tours. Just don't be fooled by them.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo) Located inside the grounds of the Grand Palace, and regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand, Wat Pra Kaeo enshrines Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), the highly revered Buddha image meticulously carved from a single block of jade. This temple is a huge incredible riot of glittering gold and colours, everywhere you look. There are a million details not to be overlooked and part of visiting the Grand Palace is seeing this Emerald Buddha. If you happen to visit the palace on the same day as the King himself, grab the chance to see the Emerald Buddha clad in its gold outfits!

Floating Market The floating market has been reduced to a touristy state nowadays, but even though transactions are more involved and to do with tourists rather than locals these days, the floating market boats are still piled high with tropical fruits and vegetables, fresh coconut juice and local food cooked right on the boat itself.

With each boat jostling for space within the narrow canals, it's absolutely frantic and disorderly. The paddling skills of each boat-woman are to be admired at and they will stop and bargain with you at any time. It's vibrant, noisy but great fun.

Chao Phraya River The Chao Phraya River flows through the capital and is where Bangkok's historic roots lie. One of the most fascinating and scenic areas of Bangkok, the riverside reflects a constantly changing scene day and night. The river is also one of the major transportation systems of the city, with massive traffic jams along the roads all day. The water-taxis ferries commuters up and doen the river, and heavily laden rice barges can also be seen in the waters.

The river is set against a backdrop of glittering temples, palaces and historical landmarks. You can also find luxury, five-star hotels, as well as cheap hotel deals along the riverside.

Chinatown Chinatown is a busy area, packed with market stalls and has probably the greatest concentration of gold shops in the city. Always crowded, especially during the Chinese New Year period, this area still retains its old look and relatively untouched by modern high-rise developments. The Chinese community here still continues their own traditions and religious practices. Restaurants can be found abundant along the streets, offering Chinese cuisines, delicacies and seafood. One of the best places to enjoy sumptuous seafood at relatively cheap prices, and this area has lots of budget hotels for any backpacker.

Jim Thompson House Jim Thompson or James Harrison Wilson Thompson was born in Greenville, Delaware in 1906. He is an American who started the Thai silk industry in Thailand after World War II. With his natural flair for design and color, and his dedication to reviving the craft, Thompson gained worldwide recognition for his success in generating international demand for Thai silk. This former residence of his houses a magnificent collection of Asian art and many unique displays, in addition to it being best place to purchase silk in Bangkok.

This place has an intriguing history to boot as well. During the Easter weekend in 1967, Thompson disappeared while on holiday with friends in Cameron Highlands, a northern Malaysian resort. An extensive and extended search failed to reveal any clues about his disappearance. Theories abound about his disappearance, but there has been no answer as yet.

Vimanmek Mansion Built by King Rama V upon his return from Europe in 1897, this palace is the world's largest golden teakwood mansion featuring an elaborate and unique blend of Victorian and Thai architecture. Altogether there are 31 exhibition rooms, with the bedrooms, the throne room and the bathrooms maintaining the atmosphere of the Thai past. Some display rooms house exhibitions of Thai art including silverware, ceramics, crystal ware, and ivory.
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