Bangkok: A Few Highlights

Every traveler to Bangkok will have a unique experience. Amazing architecture, stunning temples, exotic and delicious food, chaos and serenity. There’s something for everybody.

Walk the city. Tour the canals. Take a day trip to Ayutthaya.

During my last trip to Thailand, I was one among the 2.6+ million foreign visitors annually. My recommendation is that you create your own itinerary. The following are a few to help you get going.

Ramakien Mural in Wat Phra Kaew Temple

The Ramakien is the Thai version of the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana. The epic is widely known in South and Southeast Asia.

The Ramakien mural is found on the outer walls of the Wat Phra Kaew temple within the Grand Palace. There are 178 mural panels in the galleries depicting the scenes from the Ramakien epic. If you are familiar with the epic, you can see the story unfold in the mural, from left to right.

Wat Phra Kaeo

King Rama I built Wat Phra Kaeo and enshrined the Emerald Buddha as a symbol of Siam's regained nationhood. A Buddha figure, 26 inches in height, is located inside the temple and is carved from a large solid piece of green jadite. The temple does not house any monks. Only the King of Thailand is allowed to touch the Buddha figure and change its clothing thrice a year during an official ceremony.

Wat Pho

Located south of the Grand Palace, Wat Pho is a Buddhist temple and is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Wat Pho is considered to be the earliest centre for public education in Thailand. Illustrations and inscriptions in the temple have been recognized by UNESCO in its Memory of the World Programme.

There are four chapels in Wat Pho with 394 gilded Buddha figures in the lotus position. A guidebook will come in handy to appreciate the wonders at Wat Pho.

Traditional Thai Medicine

Traditional Thai medical knowledge and practices, including Thai massage, are documented in the Wat Pho temple complex. The first school of Thai massage in the Thai kingdom started in Wat Pho. Thai massage is still taught and practiced at the temple. The halls of the temple grounds contain images displaying front and back parts of the human anatomy. Therapeutic points and energy pathways are engraved, with explanations carved into the walls next to the stone images.

Auspicious Symbols

This photo of a sole is taken from the heel of the reclining Buddha. The soles of the feet are 9.8 feet high and 14.7 feet long. Inlaid with mother-of-pearl, each foot is divided into 108 panels that displays auspicious symbols by which Buddha is identified – flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers, and altar accessories.

The reclining Buddha represents the entry of Buddha into Nirvana and the end of all reincarnations. The figure is 49 feet high and 150 feet long. It is one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand.

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya, the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom, was founded in 1350. From the 14th through 18th centuries, Ayutthaya grew to be a center of global diplomacy and commerce. In 1767, Ayutthaya was attacked and razed by the Burmese army, which forced the inhabitants to abandon the city. The ruins today are an extensive archaeological site.

Buddha's head encased by roots of a banyan tree

Built during the 14th century, Wat Mahathat is an ancient temple that was reduced to ruins in 1767 by the Burmese army. The area remained abandoned until the 1950s, when the Department of Fine Art began restoration work. There are several theories as to how the Buddha head became entwined in the roots of the tree. One theory is that the tree grew around the Buddha head during the period when the temple lay abandoned.

Bang Pa-In Royal Palace

Bang Pa-In Royal Palace is used by the Royal Family and was formerly used by the Thai kings. The Palace was left abandoned for almost a century when Ayutthaya was invaded and destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. During the reign of King Mongkut in the 1850’s sections of the Palace were rebuilt.

The Thai style pavilion in a small lake is called “The divine seat of personal freedom”. Built during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910), this is the only building on the Palace grounds in traditional Thai style.

Wat Na Phra Mane

Wat Na Phra Mane was built in 1503 by Phra Ong In, a son of King Ramathibodi II. The principal Buddha image in the ordination hall is one of Thailand's largest crowned Buddha statues.

Crowned Buddha images have existed in Thailand since the 12th century and were influenced by the ancient Khmer Kingdom's Bayon art style. During the reign of King Nangklao, the practice of building crowned Buddha figures flourished but became less popular during the reign of King Mongkut (1804–1868) when Western art and the threat of colonialism arrived in Thailand.

Wat Lokaya Sutharam

A significant surviving relic of the Wat Lokaya Sutharam temple is the large reclining Buddha. The figure was once housed in it's own chapel but now resides in the open. The reclining Buddha is 131 feet long and 26 feet high. The arm supporting the head is vertical, which indicates that the figure was built during the middle Ayutthaya Period (1351 to 1767).

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