In the midst of dynamic modern growth, Bangkok miraculously manages to preserve its cultural heritage to a marked degree. The soaring roofs and gleaming spires of the Grand Palace and the city’s many historic temples. Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Temple of Dawn and other evocative shrines, present the visitor with a picture of medieval Oriental wonder; the very stuff of Eastern fairytales. And contained within Bangkok’s monuments and sights are treasures of the nation’s artistic and cultural endeavour that typify the land and the people.
Bangkok Temples Shrines:Â In 1782 Bangkok was founded by the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty. It is now the country’s spiritual, cultural, diplomatic, commercial and educational hub. Bangkok 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.
Bangkok has a feast of attractions to tourists. Bangkok is dotted with 400 glittering Buddhist temples of great beauty and fascination, magnificent palaces, classical dance extravaganzas, numerous upcale 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 influence of the past and the enduring threads of the social fabric are not limited to the static. They continue to pervade daily life. Files of saffron-robed monks making their early morning alms round, for example, present an image unaltered in essentials by the passing of time. Today’s backdrop of highrise buildings serve only to emphasize the exotic and timeless scene, while the city draws definition from it.
Indeed, there is much to discover, and in addition to the city’s most famous monuments there are numerous lesser known sights of great interest. The Chapel of the Emerald Buddha, which enshrines the national palladium, rightly tops the sightseeing list, but Bangkok numbers more than 400 temples, many of which have their own fascination.
A similar selection can be made with museums. The National Museum is excellent and comprehensive, but as impressive in their own way are the Jim Thompson House, Vimanmek Mansion and Suan Pakkad Palace, all of which house fine art collections within noteworthy settings.
Not least, cruising the Chao Phraya river and the remaining canals which once made Bangkok the, Venice of the East? offers a glimpse of traditional riverine lifestyles, affording insights into the history and character of this wondrous city.
At least three to five days should be allowed for Bangkok. Clearly it is not possible to see all the city has to offer in that time, but it will give a good introduction. The best way to experience and appreciate what can seem an overpowering city is to be selective, both in what to see and how to see it, sparing time for the modern as well as the ancient. A day of temple sightseeing could be followed by a relaxing cruise on the Chao Phraya river, or a round of golf at any one of several splendid courses on Bangkok’s green outskirts. Museum treasures can be complemented by a wealth of shopping, while traditional entertainments, from kick boxing to classical dance, are balanced by discos and jazz pubs.Both Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi can be visited on full-day excursions, although with the latter a stay of one or two nights is recommended for a full appreciation of the scenic beauty of the countryside.The beach resorts of Pattaya, Cha-am and Hua Hin can be similarly visited on full-day trips, but again most visitors prefer overnight stays. Shopping, dining out and sampling Bangkok’s legendary nightlife provide ample evening options.
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