Dr. Chun
Bangkok, Thailand

June, 2015

 

The third and last stop during my backpack trip to Southeast Asia was Bangkok, which is the capital city of Thailand. This frantic and steamy tropical city is filled with gleaming skyscrapers, glittering temples, colorful street markets, sophisticated shopping malls, and bustling nightlife. I also took a day trip to Ayutthaya, which is famous for its ruins of palaces and temples.



     
     
013Air Asia landed at Don Mueang International Airport late at night. Using the offline map on my smart phone, I walked fast and found the budget hotel in a rough neighborhood. The room was clean, and all I need was a cold shower and a few hours of sleep before taking a train to Ayutthaya early in the morning. 023Next morning, I walked to the railway station across Don Mueang airport. The slow and open-window local train took me to the historic city of Ayutthaya in 40 minutes.
033In Ayutthaya, I intended to rent a bicycle or a moped and look around the city, but I had more confidence in my strong legs. Took a ferry to cross the river and started to explore the historic city with a backpack on my shoulder. 043Once considered one of the most spectacular cities on earth, the capital of the Kingdom Ayutthaya was completely demolished and burned to the ground during the Burmese invasion in 1767. It is now a major tourist attraction with the ruins of palaces and temples.
053Hundreds of Buddha statues were beheaded by the Burmese invaders, and this is the famous stone head of Buddha embedded in the roots of a banyan tree in Wat Mahathat in the Ayutthaya Historical Park. Miracle? Maybe... 063Ayutthaya is a small island surrounded by three rivers. Hotels and restaurants are clustered around the northeast corner of the island, while most temple ruins can be found at the northwest. Stopped by Wat Thammikarat to see the huge reclining Buddha statue.
073Headed for Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit. The fully restored temple enshrines one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand. The golden statue, originally constructed when the Ayutthaya Kingdom flourished, was badly damaged during the Burmese invasion, and later restored to its former glory. 083The neighboring temple, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, was considered the holiest temple on the site of the old Royal Palace until the Burmese invasion in 1767. I found an elephant sanctuary, but riding an elephant was not on my to-do list.
093My final stop was Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, which is the largest museum in the city.  It has 2400 items on display, ranging from a 2 meter-high bronze-cast Buddha head to glistening treasures found in the crypts of Wat Phra Mahathat and Wat Ratburana. 103Finally took a mini-bus back to Bangkok and got off at Victory Monument in the late afternoon.  Walked around Siam Center, Siam Paragon, Terminal 21, and Soi Cowboy (i.e., one of the Bangkok's oldest and most famous go-go alleys) just out of curiosity!
113Siam is the heart of Bangkok's shopping district, with many fancy shopping malls such as Siam Paragon, Siam Center, and Central World.  I just enjoyed people watching. 123Early in the morning, I checked out from the hotel and walked to Jim Thompson House.  It is now a complex of various old Thai structures that the American businessman, Jim Thompson, collected from all parts of Thailand in the 1950s and 1960s.
133Took a canal boat and headed for Wat Saket, popularly known as the Golden Mount.  Its towering gold chedi was once the highest point in Bangkok. Nice view from the top of the man-made hill! 143Kept walking towards Bangkok Swing, which is a religious structure located outside the main entrance to Wat Suthat Temple. The temple is home to a huge 25-feet-high bronze Buddha statue which dates back to the 13th century.
153The next destination was Khao San Road, popularly known as the "backpackers paradise". It’s got everything a backpacker could want: cheap hostels, bars with drink specials, massages by the minute, and tons of on-trend souvenirs. Had a late lunch at MacDonald's. 163Stopped by a temple at the end of Kao San Road, and then headed for National Gallery of Thailand. Without a great knowledge of Thai art, getting a good understanding of the permanent collection was difficult. I enjoyed more modern exhibitions, housed in the gardens and special collections building.
173Crossed a busy 8-lane street with no pedestrian crossing! Walked all the way to the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple,, but they were closed for some unknown reasons! Tough luck... 183Instead, I visited Wat Pho,, which is within a short walking distance from the Grand Palace.  It is a large Buddhist temple complex that offers serene grounds with historic art and golden statues.
193The temple complex houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including a 46 meter-long Reclining Buddha. It is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. 203Took a river boat to Asiatique the Riverfront in the late afternoon, which is a large open-air mall with river views and a cutting edge "festival market and living museum" concept. (I bought a small metal swan as a souvenir!)
213Stopped by Patpong Night Market on the way to Siam. Had dinner at a food court of Siam Paragon.  Wandering around shopping malls and streets in Siam in the evening. 223Took an airport express and arrived at Suvarnabhumi International Airport for the midnight flight. Exhausted, but excited, I finally came home in one piece after the amazing adventures in Southeast Asia!
     
 
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