AYUTTHAYA AND PLACES NEAR BANGKOK

BANGKOK AREA THEME PARKS AND ATTRACTIONS

Samut Prakarn Crocodile Farm (in Samutprakarn, 30 kilometers outside Bangkok) was started in 1950 and is now home to 100,000 crocodiles, including the largest crocodile in captivity, a six- meters (19 feet, 8 inches) monster named Yai that weighs 1114.27 kilograms (2465 pounds). The brainchild of Thailand’s 'Crocodile King’ Utai Youngprapakorn, the farm has been recognized as the world’s largest centre for crocodiles. In 1995 many crocodiles escaped om a flood.

In addition to being a zoo and hosting shows the Crocodile Farm aims to help preserve crocodiles by breeding them in captivity and acting as an education and research centre for the conservation of wildlife. In ‘Crocodile Wrestling’ show keepers putting their heads into crocodile’s mouths and vacationing school children are taught how to handle the crocs. There are also ‘acrobatic elephant’ shows, elephant and camel rides, paddle boats on a lake and a visit a “Dinosaur Museum” to the “Monkey Playground.”

Admission for non Thai adults is 300 baht. Admission for children is 200 baht. Note that Thai nationals and people who look Thai pay 60 baht admission. Foreign looking residents of Thailand still pay 300 baht. The Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm is located at 555 Moo 7 Taiban Road, Taiban Sub-District, Amphur Muang, Samutprakarn, Thailand. The facility is open everyday from 8:00am to 6:00pm.

Ancient Siam (near the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm) has been dubbed as the world's largest outdoor museum. Formerly called Ancient City and known in Thai as Mueang Boran, the park covers 320 hectares and features 116 structures, many of them copies of Thailand's famous monuments and architectural attractions. The grounds of Ancient Siam correspond roughly to the shape of the Kingdom, with each of the monuments lying at their correct places geographically. Some of the buildings are life-size replicas of existing or former sites, while others are scaled down. It is the brainchild of man named Lek Viriyaphant.

The replicas were constructed with the assistance of experts from the National Museum to ensure historical accuracy. Outstanding works include the former Grand Palace of Ayutthaya (destroyed in the Burmese invasion of 1767), Phimai Sanctuary in Nakhon Ratchasima, and Wat Khao Phra Viharn on the Cambodian border. Meuang Boran is located on the old Sukhumvit Highway, about 33 km east of central Bangkok. Golf carts and bicycles can be hired for moving around the park, and private vehicles are also allowed at a fee.

The founder's original idea was to create a golf course with miniatures of Thailand's historically significant structures spread around the course. During his research he found most structures being severely damaged over time and decided instead of creating new miniatures to save the original structures when possible or re-creating them full size or scaled down.

Chonburi (100 kilometers southeast of Bangkok on the way to Pattaya) is a coastal province famous for its seafood and spicy fish sauce. Si Racha is the main town. Islands such as Ko Loi and Ko Si Chang are good place for a weekend escape from Bangkok.

Si Racha Tiger Farm (outside of Bangkok at the km. 20 marker on highway No. 36) raises a large number of Bengal tigers as well as large crocodiles. Visitors can see tigers, pigs and dogs living together in the same quarters. The farm is open daily from 9.00am. to 6.00pm. Call 530-7412-3 or (038) 296556-8 for more information and reservations or visit www.tigerzoo.com for more information.

Dream World (10 minutes north of Don Muang Airport) is a Disneyland-like theme park where kids can take sleigh ride and make snow angels in Snow Land, and ride a rollercoaster up Space Mountain. The park is divided into Fantasy Land, Dream Garden and Adventure Land and has roller coasters, a haunted mansion, bumper cars and a Viking boat. In Fantasy Land, kids can climb up a beanstalk to the giant's house, look inside Sleeping Beauty's castle, check out Cinderella's pumpkin carriage, or the pond where the frog turns into a prince. [Source: Bangkok.com]

You can take the monorail around Adventure Land, or ride the waves at Super Splash, the White Water Rapids at Grand Canyon, or test your driving skills on the Go-Kart track. Snow Land has an enormous snow field where you can ride a sleigh, make a snowman and find out what an igloo is. There is also a daily parade where the kids get to meet their favourite cartoon characters and a Hollywood Action Show with spectacular effects.

The park is open everyday from 10:00am to 17:00pm and stays open until 19:00 on weekends and holidays. It is minutes north of Don Muang Airport at KM. Stone 7 on Rangsit-Ongkharak Road. By air-con bus, take No. 538 Victory Monument - Don Muang - Rachamonkolk or No. 523 (Mochit - Kasetsart University). Tel: +66 (0)2 533 1152 Price Range: One Entry including re-riding, Snow Town, buffet lunch and round trip transfers from any hotel within Bangkok is 1,000 baht.

Siam Park City (in Minburi, 10 kilometers northeast of Bangkok) is a huge recreational park featuring various swimming pools, towering waterslides, whirlpools, fountains and a lake. The park's highlights are the 400-metre Super Spiral waterslide and the world's largest wave pool (according to the Guiness Book of Records).The largest water park in Southeast Asia, Siam Park has enormous artificial with a beach, playgrounds, gardens, an open zoo, an aviary, an amusement park. Among the amusement park rides are a huge pirate ship, a Jurassic Park ride, a loop-the-loop, a Vortex ride, a couple of excellent roller coasters and a haunted house. Prices start at 850 baht (around $24). Hotels often have specials so check at the reception desk before you go.

Try to go on a weekday as it tends to get pretty busy on weekends and public holidays. Facilities include changing rooms, swimsuit rental and fast food outlets. Opening Hours: 10:00 - 18:00 (Monday - Friday); 09:00 - 19:00 (Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays). Location: On the far eastern edge of town, 101 Sukhapibarn 2 Road, tell the taxi driver 'Suan Siam'.

Safari World (in Minburi, near Siam Park City) is said to be the largest open zoo in the world and is comprised of two parts: Safari Park and Marine Park. Unfortunately, you have to pay two separate entrance fees so, if you want to see both places, it can get quite expensive. At Safari Park you can drive your car on a seven kilometer drive past giraffes, elephants, zebras and other animals (75 mammal species and 300 bird species) . If you don't have a car, there's a bus you can take with a guide. The shows include an orangutan boxing show, a Hollywood cowboy stunt show, a Jungle Walk and more. [Source: Cassandra James, Yahoo! Network, September 3, 2009]

Marine Park has a lot of animal and marine life shows (sea lions, dolphin, polar bear) that kids will really enjoy. Also, don't miss Spy War, where a 'secret agent' has to evade enemy gunfire, and capture the bad guys - all done from the seat of a jet ski - a really exciting show to watch.

For Safari World, it's best to avoid the organized tours as they get very expensive. Instead, take a number 26 bus from Victory Monument to Minburi and then a taxi or minicab from there will take you straight to Safari World. Entrance fee is around 750 baht ($21) per park for adults and 450 baht ($13) for kids, but well worth the money.

Fantasia Lagoon (on the rooftop of the Mall Department Store) has water slides and whirlpools. Also worth a visit is Fantasia Island, the adjoined theme park that offers endless hours of fun and a dose of adrenalin rush - all in an air-con comfort! Opening Hours: 08:00 - 20:45 (The Mall Ngam Wong Wan and Bang Kae from 07:00 - 20:45). Tel: +66 (0)2 173 1000

Leoland Water Park (on top of Central City Bangna shopping mall on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok) is another rooftop water park. set This fun water park features waterslides, tube rides and sun beds! Not exactly located near the centre, but worth the trip when you combine it with some shopping at Central. Opening Hours: 11:00 - 18:00 (Monday - Friday); 10:00 - 19:00 (Saturday & Sunday) Location: Sixth Floor, Central City Bangna at Km.3 on Bangna-Trad Road

Samphran Elephant Ground & Zoo (32 kilometers west of Bangkok on the way to Kanchanaburi) features The Elephant Theme Show and The Crocodile Wrestling Show. In the Elephant show complete with Surround sound system. The elephants are the stars of the show where they dance, race, play football and games, “Yutha Hathi”, a great royal battle scene, is even performed with the actors riding on the elephants. As for the wrestling show, the crocodile and the master crocodile catcher perform breathtaking stunts to their audience’s delight. Visitors can also check out a tropical garden and waterfalls on the elephant’s back, visit the orchid nursery, and sample a variety of Thai and Indian cuisine. The facility is accredited by CITES as “One of the cleanest and most impressive public displays of crocodiles in the world.” The admission fee including all shows is 600 baht, for adults and 350 baht for children below 130 centimeters. Open daily from 08.30am to 5.30pm.

Rose Garden Country Resort (one kilometers south of Samphran Elephant Ground & Zoo) is an exceptionally well manicured lush tropical garden. The brainchild of a former lord mayor of Bangkok, it contains a 24-hectare landscaped gardens with 20,000 rose bushes and a dozens of different kinds of orchids and a cultural village with handicraft exhibitions. There is also accommodation, restaurants, tennis courts, a golf course (reputed to be among the 25 best in the world), a kids playground, a swimming pool and an artificial lake where you can take a paddle boat ride. The rose garden near the town of Nakhon Pathom on route 4.

AYUTTHAYA

AYUTTHAYA (100 kilometers north of Bangkok) was the capital of Thailand from 1350 until it was ransacked by the Burmese in 1767. For four centuries it was one of Asia's greatest cities. At its height it had perhaps a million people living its general vicinity and 4,000 war elephants. Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya is laid out among trees, gardens, houses, fields and farms still in use today. Built on island situated between the confluence of the Chao Phraya River and two other rivers, it encompasses elaborately-decorated temples, some of which date back to the 12th century.

Describing his reaction to laying eyes on Ayutthaya the first time, Hou Weiping of Asia News Network wrote: My heart flipped at the sight of an immense wine-coloured brick sea. Each of the solid, rectangular red clay was baked hundreds of years ago to pave roads, pile shrines, construct spires and celebrate grandness. They made every aspect of the old Buddhist steeples exquisite, every line sharp, every detail distinct. They drew up so high as if an invisible magnet was stretching the steeples they built toward the sky. I stood, amazed, amidst the huge constellations of red brick buildings glowing in the sunset.

Some of the temples are little more than heaps of stones and bricks; others are nearly intact. Most of the major temples can be climbed for delightful views of the countryside. The most impressive structures resemble temples at Angkor Wat. They have ornately-carved stone stupas, and domes that look like bells with a javelin points sticking out of the top. Others have squared off bases and elaborate prangs that resemble a headdress on some great Hindu god. Many are made of reddish-colored bricks.

The Ayutthaya period is considered one of the most glorious eras of Thai history. The realm lasted for 417 years, with 33 kings from five dynasties; Ou-Thong, Supanapoom, Sukothai, Prasatthong, and Baanpluluang. It is the longest-lasting capital in Thai history with King Ou-Thong as the first king of the era.

When it was the capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya was protected by six miles of walls. According to a Burmese account the city was defeated when get a great Thai cannon was loaded and lit but didn't fire. The Thai believed their most powerful spirit lived in the cannon and when it didn't go off they gave up. The Burmese destroyed many statues, buildings and works of art. If you see a headless a Buddha the chances are the Burmese—or perhaps looters—did it. See Floods

Accommodation: Ayutthaya has a variety of accommodation for visitors on nearly any budget, with options ranging from luxurious resorts to rustic village home stays. Many visitors stay in Bangkok and visit Ayutthaya on a day trip.

Getting to Ayutthaya: Like Bangkok, Ayutthaya is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and can be reached via car, bus, boat, or train. Once there, visitors can explore the city with standard forms of local transportation, including songtaews, motorbike taxis, and tuk tuks, bicycles, or even elephants! Trains to Ayutthaya leave Bangkok's Hua Lumphong Station approximately every hour between 4.20am and 10.00pm Train schedules are available from the information booth at Hua Lumphong Station. Alternatively, call 0 2223 7010, 0 2223 7020, or 1690 or visit www.railway.co.th for reservations.

By Car: There are a variety of routes to drive from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.1) Take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road.) and then Highway No. 32. 2) Take Highway No. 304 (Chaeng Watthana Road.) or Highway No. 302 (Ngamwongwan Road.); turn right onto Highway No. 306 (Tiwanon Road.), then take Highway No. 3111 (Pathum Thani - Samkhok - Sena) and turn right at Amphoe Sena to Highway No. 3263. 3) Take Highway No. 306 (Bangkok - Nonthaburi - Pathum Thani Road.) and then take Highway No. 347.

By Bus: Ordinary buses depart from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) for Ayutthaya's main terminal on Naresuan Road every 20 minutes between 5am and 7pm The fare is 30 baht and the trip takes around 2 hours. Air-conditioned buses operate the same route every 20 minutes from 5.40am to 7.20pm (departing every 15 minutes between 7am and 5pm) at around 50 baht; the trip takes 1.5 hours when traffic north of Bangkok is light, otherwise it takes two hours.

By van: There is a public van from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. Route No.1: Take the van at the Victory monument, in front of Robinson Department Store. When approaching the Great Pagoda circle in Ayutthaya, get dropped off and take a motorcycle taxi for about THB10 to Wat Yai Chaimongkol. Route No.2: Take the van at the Southern Bus Terminal (At Q8 Gas Station next to the Barn House Restaurant) to Ayutthaya city centre. Take a local means of transport i.e. bus, tuk tuk or motorcycle taxi to Wat Yai Chaimongkol. The fares are very low.

Getting Around Ayutthaya: Songtaew and tuk-tuk will go anywhere around Ayutthaya for 10 to 30 baht per person depending on the distance, destination. A tuk-tuk from the train station to any point in the old Ayutthaya zone is approximately 30 baht. Note that the trip on the island (old Ayutthaya city) itself costs 20 baht/trip maximum. To tour the ruins, the most economical and ecological option is to rent a bicycle from one of the guesthouses (40 to 50 baht/day). Walking is also an option, but not recommended during the hot or rainy seasons.

It is possible to charter a samlor, tuk tuk or songtaew by the hour or by the day to explore the ruins but the prices are relatively high by Thai standards (150 baht/hour, or 500 baht for the entire day). Another interesting way to explore the area is to charter a boat from Tha Chan Kasem (Chan Kasem Pier, next to Hua Ro Market) for a semicircular tour of the island that allows visitors to see some of the less accessible ruins. A long tailed boat with a capacity of up to 8 people can be hired for 400 baht for a 2 to 3 hour trip with stopovers at Wat Phutthaisawan, Wat Phanan Choeng and Wat Chai Wattnaram.

Minibus services operating from the railway station into the city are also available. Hiring a minibus within Ayutthaya costs 250 - 300 baht/day. If you wish to travel between Ayutthaya and Bang Pa - In, minibuses regularly leave Chao Prom Market (on Chao Prom Road). Daily schedules start from 6.30am with a fare of 30 baht. The trip takes approximately 50 minutes.

AYUTTHAYA HISTORICAL PARK

Orientation : The modern city of Ayutthaya is situated at the confluence of three rivers: the Chao Phraya (which flows south to Bangkok), the Pa Sak and the smaller Lopburi. A canal connects the rivers, encircling the town into kind of makeshift island. Long-tailed boats can be rented from the landing near Chan Kasem Palace. What Phanan, Wat Phutthaisawan, Wat Kasatthirat and War Chai Wattanaram can be seen from the canal.

There are hundreds of ruins in the Ayutthaya area and giving the place its due requires time and determination. The main central ruins can be visited on foot. These and some of the ones that are further away can be visited using a rented bicycle. With a bit of planning a nice day can be spent visiting a several places on foot, by bicycle and on a boat.

Most tourists start off by visiting the places near the centre of the city: Wat Praseesanpet, the ancient royal palace, the root-covered sandstone Buddha’s head and Wat Ratburana, built by King Baromarajadiraj II and place where the Oath of Allegiance Ceremony is assumed to have occurred. Tourists that have time cross the river to the eastern side of the island where the old capital was located. Situated here is Wat Yai Chaimongkol with its prominent chedi and Wat Panancherng with a Buddha statue believed to have been cast twenty years prior to the establishment of the Ayutthaya kingdom.

Wat Samanagotharam, Wat Gudidao, Wat Jakkrawat, Wat Ayothaya and Wat Dusitaram are among the temples open to visitors. The unique architecture of these temples includes huge bell-shaped chedi decorated with lotus-shaped stucco. On the northern side, the chedi of Wat Mae Nang Pluem is surrounded with beautifully carved stucco lions. The last spots tourists on a day tour of Ayutthaya visit are Wat Puttaisawan, a temple built by King Ou-Thong, and Wat Chaiwattanaram, resembling an Angkor Wat structure, on the western side of the island.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Office. 108/22 Mu 4, Tambon Phratuchai Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, 13000, Tel. +66 3524 6076-7, Fax. +66 3524 6078, E-mail Address: tatyutya@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/ayutthaya .

Hours and Fees: Open everyday from 8:00am - 6:00pm. Many of the temples have their own entrance fees of 10, 20 or 50 baht. A package ticket valid for 30 days is available for 220 baht, covering admission to Wat phra Si Sanphet and the Ancient Palace Complex, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Phra Ram and Wat Maheyong. Ayutthaya Historical Park provides an audio tour in English describing Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Chai Watthanaram, and Wat Mahathat. Available at Ayutthaya Historical Park ticketing counter. The fee is 150 baht.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet (northern end of Si Sanphet Road in Ayutthaya) is one of the grandest-looking temples in Ayutthaya and its original royal temple. Built in the 14th century, it served as the kingdom’s royal chapel, as Wat Phra Kaeo does in Bangkok today. In Ayutthaya's heyday Wat Phra Si Sanphet was the largest temple in the city. The three main chedis, which have been restored, contain the ashes of three Ayutthaya kings.. The royal chapel does not have any monks and novice inhabitants. The temple can be climbed for a nice view of Ayutthaya. Admission fee is 50 bahts.

Wang Lung Royal Palace (surrounding Wat Phra Si Sanphet) was a large compound, whose foundations are still visible. This palace was built by King U-Thong upon the founding of the city. Used as a residential palace, it became a monastery in the reign of King Ramathibodi I. When King Borom Trai Lokanat became monarch he commanded the construction of new living quarters, this residential palace was transformed into a temple, and the establishment of Wat Phra Si Sanphet. The compound once contained a 16-meter-high standing Buddha covered with 250 kilograms of gold, which was melted down by Burmese invaders.

Across a road from Wat Phra Si Sanphet is a wonderful garden with a teak pavilion that was used by the Thai kings 500 years ago. The fact the pavilion is still standing will give you some idea of how strong teak is. Next to the garden stands Phra Mangala Bophit, a huge, blackened 15th-century bronze Buddha. It is one of the largest coated bronze Buddha images in Thailand. The structure ( wihaan ) that protects it was built in 1956. East of the old palace grounds, inside the river loop, is Wat Thammikarat, with its overgrown ruins and lion sculptures.

Wat Phra Mahathat (on the corner of Chee Kuri and naresuan Roads) dates to the 14th century and was built during the reign of King Ramesuan. Despite being badly damaged during the Burmese invasion it retains an impressive cambodian-style prang. Across the road is Wat Ratburana, whose chedis contain some murals from the early Ayuuthaya period.

Wat Phra Meru (reached by a bridge across for the royal palace grounds) is worth a look because it escaped destruction by the Burmese in 1767 although it has been periodically restored. The central sanctuary ) bot ) was built in 1546 and features fortress-like walls and pillars. During the Burmese invasion the Burmese king Chao Along Phaya chose the site to fire cannons at the royal palace. He was fattaly injured when one of the cannons exploded, and this eneded the invasion. Inside the bot is an impressive carved wood celing and and six-meter-high, Ayutthaya-style stitting Buddha. In the smaller wihaan is green stone Buddha from Ceylon, sitting European-style in a chair.

Wat Phanan Choeng (on the Chao Phraya River, south of Phra Nakhon Si and southeast of Ayutthaya town) is a riverside temple that predates the establishment of Ayutthaya by 26 years. Founded in 1324, it houses a huge, much-revered 30-meter-high seated Buddha which attracts worshippers from all over Thailand. Other Sukhothai and Ayutthaya style images in the temple include one made from gold alloy and another made of silver. The temple itself is thought to be of Khmer origin. Open everyday from 8.00am-5.00pm Admission fee is 20 baht. Contact: Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Phra NakhonSi Ayutthaya, Tel. +66 3524 1708. The easiest way to get there is take the ferry from the pier near Phom Phet fortress. A few extra baht will allow you to take a bicycle on the boat.

Wat Phra Maya is a royal palace founded in 1384. It is spread out over a large area and has a huge wall and beautiful columns. Although much of it is ruins it is by still impressive;

Wat Chaiwatthanaram (a few kilometers southwest from Ayutthaya town on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, to the west of the city island) is a recently restored temple which will give you some idea of what the Ayutthaya temples were like back in the 15th century. Monks still buzz around and keep the place tidy. Rows and rows of Buddha statues and flowers line the walkway that leads to the main kaiser- helmet-shaped stupa.

The central prang at Wat Chai Wattanaram illustrates the basic features of Ayutthaya-style architecture. At the top of the dome-like prang are pediments, antelix decorations and circular tiers symbolizing the lower heavesn. The base is topped by platforms representing the celestial regions of the Traphum. In the middle are niches with sculpted guardians or Buddha images.

Wat Chai Wattanaram was built in 1630 by King Prasat Thong to honor his mother and was conceived as a replica of the Angkor temple. A Royal monastery, the temple features a huge prang which is surrounded by smaller prangs. This symbolizes Mount Meru, the abode of the heavenly gods. Now restored, the temple is accessible by bicycle and a long-tailed boat trip from Chankasem Palace Pier. This 1-hour trip to the temple costs approximately 300 to 400 bahts (round-trip).

Wat Yai Chaimongkon (outside of Ayutthaya city to the southeast in the same direction as the railway station) was constructed in the reign of King U-Thong. Its large pagoda is visible from far away. King Naresuan the Great commanded that the pagoda be built to celebrate the victory of his single-handed combat on the elephant back. He also intended a huge construction to match the large pagoda of Wat Phukhao Thong, and named it “Phra Chedi Chaiyamongkhon”.

Wat Yai Chaimongkon is open everyday from 8.00am-6.00pm Admission fee is 20 baht. For more information Tel: 0 3524 4193. How to get there: By Bus: Frequent services from the North Bus Terminal of Bangkok (Mohchit 2). When approaching the Great Pagoda circle in Ayutthaya, get dropped off and take a motorcycle taxi for about THB10 to Wat Yai Chaimongkol.

Wat Ratchaburana (near Pa Than Bridge opposite Wat Mahathat) was built under King Borom Rachathirat II (Chao Sam Phraya). Its two pagodas were built on the ground where Chao Ai and Chao Yi engaged in a one-on-one, elephant-back battle in which both were killed. Later, he established a wihaan combined with the pagodas and upgraded it to be monastery. The admission fee is 50 baht. Nearby are the smaller ruins of Wat Suwannawat, a 400-year-old temple eight chedis, a bot and a wihaan arrnaged in a circle

Wat Puttaisawan (Tambol Rasome, Amphur Pachee, PranakornsriAyutthaya) was built by King Oo-Thong. Wat Puttaisawan. One of the oldest temples in Ayutthaya and one of the five main stupas of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, it is a big, well-preserved temple situated in an appealing manner among the villagers on the bank of Chao Praya River. Here, visitors can worship the Buddha image and if they are lucky they can observe sword fight training at the Sword School of Wat Puttaisawan. Inside the temple, there is also a wall painting of Praputta Kosajarn during his visit to Sri Lanka. The wall painting was created by Ayutthaya artists. Beside the temple, there is a star-like shape belfry, which is the invention of the artisans of that time. Wat Puttaisawan is popular for their Jatukam.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon (on Route 3059, near Phanan Choeng Temple, in southeast Ayutthaya town) is one of the most important temples of Ayutthaya. Popular with both Thais and foreign tourists, especially on the weekends, the reconstructed pagoda it is the tallest in Ayutthaya. Behind the temple is the palace of King Naresuan. Around it is a pleasant park. Wat Yai Chai Mongkol also features dozens of life-size sitting Buddhas covered in saffron robes donated by religious supplicants.

According to legend Yai Chai Mongkhon Temple was built in 1087 by King Naresuan. King of Hong Sa and the king of Ayutthaya, King Narai had a competition of constructing pagodas around the site of the present temple. The previous name of this temple was Pha Keaw which was built in 1357 after the deaths from cholera of Chao Keaw and Chao Tai, the sons of King U Thong.

In 1592, Phra Maha Upparacha who was the leader of Myanmar’s army moved his troops to Ayutthaya. King Naresuan and Phra Eka Thotsarot were the leaders of Thai army. In the ensuing battle, the Thai army was not completely victorious because part of the army did not arrive in time. The king was very upset and wanted to execute some of the men. However, Somdej Phra Wannarat (Pa Keaw Temple) asked for the life of those soldiers. Somdej Phra Wannarat also recommended to make the pagoda sixty meters high and gave it the name Chai Mongkhon. Local people always call it Yai Chai Mongkhon Temple because Yai means big. On the pagoda, there are two molded lime Buddha images at the foot of the stairs and a huge Buddha image in front of the pagoda. The left one is called Chao Kaew and the right one is called Chao Tai.

Kala Temple is a temple complex centered around a 10th-century Khmer prang with three huge water-filled urns which are used by a troop of monkeys as swimming pools. Sometimes the monkeys dive into the urns from the branches of overhanging trees.

Other Temples in Ayutthaya include Wat Lokaya Sutha, which contains a large reclining Buddha; Wat Raj Burana, partially ruined by still impressive; Wat Damrik Raj, simple and dignified, with a crumbling stupa; and

MUSEUMS AT AYUTTHAYA

Chao Samphraya National Museum (near the intersection of Rojana Road, Ayutthaya city’s main street, Si Sanphet Rd, near the center of town) is the main museum at Ayutthaya. It has an extensive collection of Ayutthaya-period artifacts, including bronze Buddha images, carved wooden doors and panels. The most valuable art objects are the royal gilded ornaments found in 1958 in the crypt of Wat Rajaburana from the early Ayutthaya period.

Objects at Chao Sam Praya National Museum include ancient treasures from Ratburana Temple, Mahatat Temple, and Sri Suriyothai Chedi. In 1956, the treasure of Ratburana Temple was looted. The treasure was recovered and found to contain over a hundred kilograms of gold. Many of the Buddha amulets, found among the gold and other things, were sold to villagers and the profits were used to construct the museum’s first building. The museum was named “Chao Sam Praya” to honour King Sam Praya who built Ratburana Temple. King Bhumibhol and Queen Sirikit opened the museum in 1961.

The gold ornament showroom is located on the second floor of the first building. Over a hundred pieces of gold are displayed in the hall, which is divided into three rooms according to the treasure’s original locations: Ratburana Temple, Mahatat Temple, and Sri Suriyothai Chedi. Each piece is exquisitely adorned with colored gemstones. Various Buddha images are also displayed here with explanations describing the era and the place of discovery.

An Indian cultural influence is manifested in the second building. A map of the route from India to China and Thailand indicates the unique culture of Ayutthaya as shown in marble and bronze Buddha images in different postures. The third building features country life. Folklore, tools, and the lifestyles of Ayutthaya people, many of which have disappeared are exhibited in a well-organized area. Such objects represent how life today has so greatly changed from the past.

Chandra Krasem National Museum ( Ou-Thong Road, near Hua Ror Market and the river in the northeast corner of Ayutthaya) houses a collection of objects and artifacts, mostly Buddha images found at Ayutthaya. The museum is located in lovely Chandrakasem Palace, an old palace belonging to the viceroy of Ayutthaya and restored under King Rama IV. The palace used to be the front palace and the rersidence of the King’s son, the crown prince of Ayutthaya. Apart from the Front Palace, Ayutthaya also had two more palaces; the Royal Palace and the Back Palace. The Royal Palace was used by the King and the Back Palace was the house of other members of the royal family.

The Front Palace was built by King Thammaracha to be the residence for his son, Prince Naresuan, in 1577. The Front Palace became the residence for crown prince and was occupied by King Baromakote and King Narai. The Front Palace was severely damaged during the Burmese invasion of 1767, partially because of its close proximity to Mahchai Fortress where the city walls were breached. It was later renovated by King Rama IV. Jaturamook Pavillion and Piman Rattanaya Throne-Hall were later added to the palace, which was renamed to Chandrakasem Palace in 1853.

Highlights of the museum include the Jaturamook Pavilion, ahalf-teakwood-half-concrete building decorated in traditional Thai style with a set gable apex decorations. The roof is delicately tiled with the exquisite Chinese carved tiles. This building contains antiques such as old Buddha images, ancient weaponry, and royal utensils. Piman Rattanaya Throne-Hall is a group of 4 buildings constructed in western style. The front of each building faces an open area in the middle. Today, these buildings display antiques such as traditional craftworks, altar tables, and royal thrones.

Pisaisunluck tower is a 4-story tower initially built by King Narai. It was later renovated by King Rama IV to be an observatory tower. Mahat Thai Building, a one-story teakwood structure, was built in the period of Phraya Boran Rachatanin as the government office. Several rooms in this building are used to show celadon utensils and traditional five-colored Thai ceramics.

Ayutthaya Historical Study Center (near Chao Sam Praya National Museum) contains models of the royal, religious, commercial and daily activities of people who lived in the Ayutthaya Period. The $6.8 million facility was built with Japanese funding near the area where Japanese lived during the Ayutthaya period.

Bang Pa-In Palace (20 kilometers south of Ayutthaya) served as the summer palace for the Thai kings during the Ayutthaya period. Restored by King Rama IV and extensively renovated by King Rama V, this sprawling complex features an unusual collection of buildings, including a Thai-style pavilion, a neoclassical palace, a Swiss chalet and a Buddhist temple, called Wat Nivet Thammaprawat, that resembles an English Gothic Church.

The main attractions include: 1) Aisawanthipphaya, a pavilion is located in the middle of a pond built by King Rama V, featuring an image of the king in the royal uniform of a field marshal; 2) Hem Monthian Thewarat Tower (Phra Chao Prasat Thong shrine), a Cambodian-style stupa with an image of Phra Chao Prasat Thong; 3) the Varopas Piman Pavilion, a two-storey building with Corinthian columns, a throne and stateroom.

Uthayan Phum Sathian Pavilion is the main pavilion of Bang Pa-In Palace. The original two-storey pavilion made of wood and painted green was lost in a fire. The current building is a concrete reconstruction. Withun Tassana Tower is a three-storey building, round on the top which is used to be a telescope viewpoint.

NAKHON PATHOM

NAKHON PATHOM (40 miles from Bangkok) is regarded as Thailand’s oldest city. It is the home of around 50,000 people and the world's largest Buddhist monument, Phra Pathamom, a 380-foot-high, orange-tiled structure that marks the spot, some say, where Buddhism was introduced into present-day Thailand 2300 years ago. To amrk the 2,500th anniversary of Buddhism in 1957, a 16-meter walking Buddha statue was built at a asite called Buddhamonthon. At the site there are also flower gardens, a Buddhist museum and meditation halls.

The first structure to stand here is believed to have been an Indian-style stupa built during the Dvaravati period in the A.D. 6th century. The present chedi was started in the reign of King Rama IV and completed under King Rama V. The Nakhon Pathom Chedi Museum houses a fine collection of stone, terra-cotta and stucco objects, mostly dating for the Davaravati period.

Also worth a look is Sanam Chab Palace built for King Rama VI between 1907 and 1912. Built next to a canal, it is an ecletic group of a dozen or so buildings that are heavily latticed and feature a number of European Renaissance touches. The king occasionally hosted plays and presided over religious ceremonies in four teak houses, built on 100 solid teak pillars. A two story red house is where a queen lived along with the king’s concubine. A covered bridge links a pleasure house with the other side of the canal. The palce is only open several days a week and even then not all the buildings are open.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand, 2/1, 2nd Floor Amphawa Municipality City Hall, Amphawa, Samut Songkhram 75110, Tel. +66 3475 2847-8, Fax. +66 3475 2846, E-mail Address: tatsmsk@tat.or.th . Accommodation: Because Nakhon Pathom is so close to Bangkok accommodation options are limited. Most visitors stay in Bangkok and come on a day trip. There are a few golf resorts and budget bungalows in Nakhon Pathom.

Getting to Nakhom Pathom: Only 100 kilometers from Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom can be reached easily by car, bus, or train in around 1 ½ hours.

By Car: From Bangkok, drive along the old route of Petchakasem Road (Highway No.4) through Aom Noi, Aom Yai, and Sam Phran to Nakhon Pathom, or drive on the new route from Bangkok through Buddhamonthon and Nakhon Chaisi to Nakhon Pathom.

By Train: The State Railway of Thailand operates daily trains from Bangkok to Nakhon Pathom. There are regular trains departing throughout the day for the two hour ride from Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong Station to Nakhon Pathom. For more information contact Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong Railway Grand Station tel: 1690, 0 2223 7010, 0 2223 7020 From Thonburi’s Bangkok Noi station to Kanchanaburi’s Nam Tok station it is possible to get off at Nakhon Pathom. Until recently, this twice daily service was a provided for the benefit of commuters, but because a portion of the line is part of the historic ‘Death Railway’, built by WWII prisoners of war during Japanese occupation, rates for foreigners have been set higher than for ordinary commuters, though its still an enjoyable way to make the day trip to Nakhon Pathom. For more information contact the Thonburi Railway Station tel: 0 2411 3102.

By Bus: From Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal on Boromrajajonnani Road there are two bus services. Old Route (Bangkok-Aom Yai-Sam Phran-Nakhon Pathom): There are several lines of 2nd class air-conditioned buses: Bangkok-Nakhon Pathom, Bangkok-Ratchaburi, and Bangkok-Bangli. There are also 2 lines of non air-conditioned buses: Bangkok-Nakhon Pathom, Bangkok-Ratchaburi, and Bangkok-Suphanburi. New Route (Bangkok-Buddhamonthon-Nakhon Chaisi-Nakhon Pathom): There are 2 lines of 1st class air-conditioned buses: Bangkok-Nakhon Pathom and Bangkok-Dan Chang (blue bus). For more information, contact the Southern Bus Terminal on Boromrajajonnani Road. Non air-conditioned buses - tel: 0 2434 5557-8 and Air-conditioned buses - tel: 0 2435 1199.

Phra Pathom Chedi is the largest chedi (pagoda) in Thailand, some say the world. Standing 120.45 meters high and with a total diameter at the base of 233.50 meters, it was commissioned during the reign of King Rama IV in 1853 over an older chedi said to date back to A.D. 539. The construction of the new huge chedi was completed in the reign of King Rama V in 1870 after 17 years. The completed Chedi is a circular and features an Sri-Lankan-style, upside-down, bell-shaped Ched and houses Buddha’s relics. During the reign of King Rama VI, Wat Phra Pathom was renovated and later the temple became the royal temple of King Rama VI. Within the monastery compound, there are various interesting historical items, including the Phra Ruang Rodjanarith, an image of Buddha bestowing pardon, enshrined in a vihara located to the north and in front of Phra Pathom Chedi. The head, hands and feet of the Buddha were brought from Muang Srisatchanalai, Sukhothai. The Wat Phra Pathom Chedi Museum houses artefacts and historical remains which were discovered during excavations in Nakhon Pathom. Among the more interesting objects are a coffin and funeral ritual set used in Ya-Lei’s cremation ceremony. Ya-Lei was a dog very dear to King Rama VI, that was shot and died. The King was much saddened and commanded to building of a monument for Ya-Lei as a token of his grief. The museum is open daily from 9:00am-16.30 except Monday and Tuesday.

Damnoensaduak Floating Market (40 minutes by boat from Nakhon Pathom) is Thailand's most vibrant floating market, intimately better than the ones located closer to Bangkok. The best time to visit is in the morning. Most of the sellers are old women who paddle their boats to the market before dawn. The market is located along the 32-kilometer-long Damnoen Saduak canal, which in turned is surrounded by more than 1,000 other channels.

Some boats are filled with fruits such as durians, rambutans, bananas and lychees. Others are packed with flowers. Yet others contain woodcarved elephants, hill tribe hand bags and other souvenirs. Some have stoves and gas cylinders and can cook up a noodle dish for you in a couple of minutes. Altogether there are more than 100 merchant boats stretched along an 800-meter stretch of canal. Sightseeing boats weave through them. Behind the boats are stilted buildings with yet more stuff.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is in Ratchaburi province. Photos of this vibrant market featuring many small boats laden with colourful fruits and vegetables and paddled by Thai women wearing bamboo hats, are among the most often published in travel magazines and brochures of Thailand. The Damnoen Saduak canal was built in 1866 under King Rama IV to facilitate boat travel between Ratchaburi and Samutsakhon Provinces. It was finished and opened to the public in 1868.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is quite popular with tourists. There is even a portion of it set aside for them, featuring souvenir-laden shops and souvenir-laden boats. The main 100-year-old market is at Talaat Tom Khem on Khlong Damneon Saduak Canal. Talaat Hia Kui, to the south on a parallel canal, Khlong Hia Kui, gets the most tourists. A third, less crowded market, called talaat Khuan Phitak, is on a smaller canal south of Damnoen Saduak. It can reached by water taxi. Taxis and rented boats can also be used to explore the canals and klong life.

Don Wai Floating Market (near Don Wai temple on the banks of the Ta Jeen River, Tambol Bangkratuek, Amphur Sampran, Nakornprathom) is centered around a Thai style cottage at the bank of the Ta Jeen River that still preserves the old style of living from the reign of King Mongkut. Don Wai is the center of growing area for many agricultural products especially organic vegetables and Thai desserts. Popular dishes include boiled carp in salt, pot-stewed duck, and boiled bamboo shoots with chili sauce.

At Don Wai Floating Market, there is a jukebox for visitors to make merit at the Rai King temple. All the songs are from Yordluk Salakjai (a famous Thai singer). There is also fan palm, a rare fruit that crops only every 50 years. Another attraction of the market is the floating restaurant and a boat cruising tour to see the both sides of the river. The market is open daily from morning until evening.

Bang Luang Market (in Bang Lane district, Nakhon Pathom) is a traditional marketplace on the Suphan Buri River where local residents still live and trade as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago. A feature of the market are ancient wooden townhouses built during the reign of King Rama V. The market takes place on both sides of Chiang Rai road and stretches a about 200 meters. On weekdays, the place is relatively quiet, however the weekends it comes alive with crowds and vendors. Some have their own kiosks, while some roam around with pushcarts. Most of the goods sold here food items such as; pad thai, tua pab (sweet rice dessert with yellow beans), freshly made rice noodle crepes with shrimp and assorted vegetables. You may wish to try the food from houseboats to get the riverside atmosphere, or indulge yourself with a cup of coffee in one of the vintage coffee shops. When visiting Bang Luang market, most tourists are tempted to try chun pia, a traditional Teochew Chinese recipe. It consists of fried egg spring rolls stuffed with minced pork, dried shrimp and chive leaves served without any sauce.

Thai Human Imagery Museum (43/2 Mu. 1, Pinklao-Nakhon Chaisi Road at km. 31, Tambon Kun Kaew) displays life-like wax/fibreglass created by Duangkaeo Thippayakonsilp and a group of Thai artists. The wax-museum-like figures include famous Buddhist monks, former Kings of the Chakri Dynasty. There are aso themed tableaux on Thai chess, the Thai family, and abolishing of slavery, among others. The museum is open daily (Monday-Friday from 9:00am-17.30, Saturday-Sunday, and national holidays from 8:30am-6:00pm). Admission for adult Thai is 50 Baht, a child fee is 10 Baht. Admission for foreigners is 200 Baht. For more information contact tel: 034 322-061, 332-109, 332-607.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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