Exploring Bangkok’s Many Possibilities
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in Bangkok and hard to know what to do first especially if you only have a couple days. But by planning, prioritizing and realizing you can’t see it all, you’re on your way to a great adventure, wonderful memories and even a little relaxation.
Bangkok is a city of waterways; from the Chao Phraya River to the canals of Thonburi snaking their way into neighborhoods, the only way to get this view of the city is on a longtail boat tour.
Modern skyscrapers, beautiful homes alongside shanties, and Buddhist temples share the river view with colorful water birds and the water monitors, lizards that grows to be 10 feet long.
Although you can reach the Temple of the Dawn by taxi, it’s easier to take a longtail boat to the Buddhist temple.
The temple’s center spire is nearly 230 feet high, and the entire pagoda is beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of colored glass, seashells and Chinese porcelain that was once used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China.
Many visitors climb up the pagoda with its steep steps and the promise of a glorious view of the city and Grand Palace across the river.
Next to the pagoda is the Ordination Hall; its entrance guarded by two demons. There are 120 Buddha images inside and the presiding Buddha image, cast in the reign of Rama II, is said to have been molded by the king himself. The ashes of King Rama II are interred in the base of the image.
THE GOLDEN BUDDHA
The Sukhothai Thaimit Golden Buddha, at a height of more than 15 feet, is valued at nearly $45 million. It is the largest golden Buddha in the world and the most valuable treasure of Thailand and of Buddhism.
The Buddha, made of 18-karat gold, was made more than 700 years ago and hidden under a layer of plaster to hide it from enemy invaders. For centuries, this priceless Buddha hid in plain sight until its true beauty was rediscovered nearly 50 years ago.
It was in 1801 that Thai King Rama I established Bangkok as a new capital city of the Kingdom. After commissioning the construction of several temples in the city, he ordered old Buddha images to be brought to Bangkok from ruined temples around the country. It is believed the Golden Buddha was brought from Ayutthaya to Bangkok at this time.
In 1931, the Buddha statue was relocated to Wat Traimit, which was undergoing a major renovation and expansion. In 1955, when the structures were completed, the Buddha statue was being moved to one of the buildings. Because it was so heavy, it fell from the lifting crane and its surface was cracked to reveal pure gold hidden inside.
Running along Yaowarat Road from Odeon Circle, a huge ceremonial Chinese gate marks the entrance of Bangkok’s Chinatown, one of the oldest, biggest and best-preserved in the world. Thousands of images, sounds and smells surround you as you walk along crowded sidewalks and into large warehouse-like buildings.
Past a vendor selling roasted chestnuts, others with religious and funeral items, and colorful fruit and vegetable displays, it is a kaleidoscope of sensation.
More than two centuries ago, the Chinese community relocated here from what is present-day Ko Ratanakosin. Chinatown has retained much of its original personality, all wrapped up in movement, conversation, color; a very uplifting experience.
Tam Piyawadi Jantrupon, owner of Amita Thai Cooking class, immediately puts everyone at ease whether you are a cook or not.
With her class gathered around a large table in a beautiful courtyard shaded by ancient trees, Tam explains how she watched her grandmother and aunts prepare meals and how she was fascinated by their use of vegetables, herbs and spices they picked from their own garden. She explains the dishes class members will prepare – Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad, Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce, Green Curry Chicken in Coconut Milk and Mango Sticky Rice – and then takes her class into her herb and spice garden.
Later, Tam and her assistants demonstrate how to prepare each course before class members give it a try. Her assistants are right there to help. After the preparation, students retire to the courtyard to have their own creations for lunch.
Asiatique The Riverfront is a dining destination, entertainment hub and shopper’s paradise right on the river. Once a bustling international trade port, Asiatique is now a complex of more than 1,500 stalls and shops, and 40 restaurants. It is split into four districts.
The Chareonkrung District features more than 1,000 shopping stalls. Everything from clothing and jewelry to souvenirs and home decorative items can be purchased here. Prices are fair, but negotiation is common and will net you some excellent bargains.
The Factory District offers another 500 shops and the Waterfront District features upscale restaurants and event venues along the river and where Asiatique’s landmark Ferris wheel is located. Down Square District features a sports bar, food venues and a small event area.
A Thai massage is a system of massage and manipulation developed in this Southeast Asia nation, influenced by traditional medicine practices of India, China and other Southeast Asia countries as well as yoga.
At Oasis Spa, guests are led to a small room scented with exotic flowers and instructed to take a shower and put on loose pajama-style clothing. Although some Thai massage is done on the floor, at Oasis Spa guests lie on a traditional massage table. The technique is rhythmic and effective at taking away the stress of a busy city and a busy life. The masseuse is quiet and ghost-like. It is easy to understand why a Thai massage is so highly recommended.
There are actually several variations depending on where you are in Thailand.
Thai massage is considered a branch of Thai traditional medicine and is regulated by the government. It is used for the treatment of a wide variety of ailments. Claimed benefits include everything from migraines to anxiety. Other benefits include the relief of physical and emotional tension.
Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok Hotel offers every guest a view of the Chao Phraya River or the city. The rooms are beautiful and well-appointed.
Breakfast, which is included in the room rate, is a massive buffet featuring traditional Thai breakfast food and western breakfast entrees. This 5-star hotel is surrounded by beautiful gardens alive with color and the soft music of several fountains and water displays. The hotel water taxi is complimentary to guests. The longtail boat makes frequent trips to nearby piers where other boats to destinations along the city’s waterways are located. Rates start at less than $100 a night. An average stay is $125 to $150 a night.
IF YOU GO:
Bagkok is the most visited city in the world. As much as Bangkok, with its eight million residents, seems daunting, locals seem to understand the needs of visitors and are very willing to help. Most of the population speaks English. There are several flight options to Bangkok including Thai Airways. The service is impeccable.
For more information check the following websites:
Travel by Water With Kayaks or Canoes
Gain access to remote areas with the right kayak or canoe.
There’s No Shoes Like Snowshoes
Snowshoes used to be a necessary means of getting around in heavy snow. Now they are more for recreation, but they can still help you get places where you otherwise could not tread. Originally published in January of 2016.
New Explorations: Old Hotels Part 2
Continuing the exploration of historic hotels, in this piece we’ll look at the story of three more hotels that were built in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.