A different view of outskirts of Bangkok
07.11.2013 - 10.11.2013 25 °C
Bangkok – land of a thousand smiles. Actually this is not the first time I am going to Bangkok but it has been a few years since I last went there. I had thought this would be the usual Bangkok trip, with shopping, eating and massage as the main objectives. And I had thought I would have nothing to write in the blog. But thanks to my local Thai colleague, I was brought to places where I had never been before and few tourists would venture to. A search in the website also barely had a mention of these locations. In that I really enjoyed this encounter.
The agenda was pretty simple – eat, shop, trip to nearby Ayutthaya, followed by more eating and shopping. But my colleague told me she would bring me to some other places to the outskirts of Bangkok which would show us a different view from the eating and shopping activities.
So I’ll skip the usual normality – Sukhumvit, Siam Square, Pratunam, MBK, Central World, Terminal 21 etc – these are the normal, boring touristy areas that one can find in any guidebook or website. I’ll start with our original target, the ancient capital of Siam – Ayutthaya. Ever since I was introduced to this place, it had always been a wish to go there to see another ancient ruin site. The journey is about 1.5 hour bus ride from Bangkok. Initially I had wanted to join a cruise tour followed by a unique biking experience. But in the end the tour package we picked did not offer that, which was a slight disappointment to me. Instead we were whisked away in a 30-seater bus (mass tourism again) with a return cruise trip via Chao Phray river. We went to 3 locations (4 actually plus a temple which I can’t remember the name), namely the palace at Bang Pa In, the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya and Wat Lokayasutha, which I will touch on below.
Bang Pa In Palace – Also known as the Summer Palace, the ground are open to the public to visit and enjoy and still occasionally use by the royals for special events or for entertaining guests. Although hundreds of years old, the palace is touched with a class of modern feel thanks to the restoration efforts of King Chulalongkorn. Among the highlights include a big lake, the throne hall with nice furniture decorations (unfortunately, no pictures allowed), a big watch tower, a Chinese styled palace, memorial for Queen Sunanda (inclusive of a poem composed by King Chulalongkorn) and a lover’s lane.
Ancient ruins of Ayutthaya – This was the highlight of any Ayutthaya tour. There were no spectacular structures unlike Angkor Wat. Most of it was remains of buildings and structures enclosed in an open space. Having visited many temples, ancient structures and ruins, this was not really a place to set the mouths gaping wide. But still this was an interesting place worth visiting. The highlight must surely be the Buddha head miraculously growing right smacked in the middle of a tree. Whether you believe it or not, it is said that the Buddha head gave the tree the strength to grow. To really believe it, you have to see it yourself. That was the only site that set the wows going.
Wat Lokayasutha – Also known as the Sleeping Buddha, this was the site where the statue of a giant reclining Buddha lies. The statue is about 30 foot long and basically everybody had a field day taking photos.
After the half day tour, it was back to Bangkok. We chose to go back by a river cruise, lunch included. The cruise along Chao Phray River, was in essence a normal boat cruise. Maybe my expectations were too high after my Halong trip but there was nothing really spectacular along the way to leave me with a deep impression. Well, it is another experience after all and you won’t know what you are in for unless you try it.
Looking forward to the next day, my Thai colleague met us at Chatuchat market. I had actually been there before but that was donkey years ago but I certainly did not mind going there again. But to my surprise, she skipped it altogether and brought us out of town, to Ko Kret. I tried to google for it afterwards but the only thing I could find was a section under Wikitravel. Both Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor did not pick this place up. This is basically a small man-made island accessible by boat along Chao Phray River, located in the province of Nontjaburi. This is a place locals go to, with few tourists so forget about speaking English or English language signs. Had it not been for my colleague, I don’t think I would have dared go due to the distance and language difficulty. The island was filled with locals making their way round a bazaar as well as several temples located on the island. This was certainly a refreshing experience and the trip can be covered on foot in 1 hour. What strikes me most is how low-lying the island was – in fact several areas of the island were covered with water. Even in our place where we had lunch, we had never felt so close to the river. A foot higher and we would be swimming with the sharks! The other thing worth mentioning is the pottery centre where one can get to see some nice handicraft work and if one has the time, can also pay a small fee for a crash course in pottery.
After this we headed for another previously unheard of location – Ampawa floating market. The journey took about 1 hour by car from Bangkok. This is an area where we can find more foreign tourists and is featured in Trip Advisor. The market is open only on weekends. Before reaching Ampawan, my colleague brought me to a Buddhist temple where I had the chance to offer some prayers and blessings. This was a temple unlike any temple as the ‘temple’ was located inside a tree.
Back to the main attraction and we had a great time walking around the floating market and mingling with tourists and locals alike. There were lots of activities and items on offer, from food to souvenirs and everyday items. One can also choose to buy food from the boats located along the market and choose to take a boat ride round the market. Or one can just simply do nothing, choose a place to sit down with a cuppa and just enjoy he sight and sounds of activities around. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I certainly enjoyed every minute of it. If only I had more time!
It was then time to leave and back to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Thailand does really surprise with new unexplored places and I look forward to coming back again to another part of Thailand where few tourists venture. Think it is time to brush up my Thai language!
P.S; I certainly hope the political situation will stabilize and peace can return to Bangkok soon.