Bangkok Travel Guide - with Wired Destinations
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Bangkok Culture - with Wired Destinations
Bangkok is home to most of the beautiful temples in the world. The majority of Thailand's population is Buddhist and locals take their religion very seriously. It is not uncommon to find shrines in front of Bangkok hotels, office buildings or taxi dashboards. You can find all the information you need for your Thailand travel on Wired Destinations' Bangkok Travel Guide, Bangkok Travel Tips and Bangkok Travel Info. We provide your perfect accommodation with Bangkok Hotels, also facts about Bangkok Nightlife, Bangkok Shopping, Bangkok Transport and Bangkok Sightseeing.
Great effort goes into constructing these monuments and the result is absolutely breathtaking. The Bangkok temples are very distinct from those found elsewhere in the world, with exquisitely designed roofs, gold trim and intricate carvings and images.
Buddhism is a very open religion, but be aware that sensitivity and respect must be shown at all times when visiting these temples. There is no need to overdress, however shorts and sleeveless shirts are usually unacceptable, so be sure and wear long pants and a t-shirt (sometimes a long sleeve shirt is required). Listed bellow are some of the outstanding and famous Bangkok temples.
Wat Phra Kaew, known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is located on the grounds of the Grand Palace and serves as the personal temple of the Thai royal family. This temple not only stands as a national symbol of Thailand, but also features one of the most intricately carved Buddha images in the world: the Emerald Buddha, an amazing and elaborate figure made of solid jade and skillfully clothed in gold. The mother of Thai Buddhist temples, this is a must-see on any trip to Bangkok.
Wat Arun, also called the Temple of the Dawn, is one of the most uniquely designed temples in Bangkok located just across the river from the Grand Palace. Featuring a central pagoda (known as a prang) and surrounded by four smaller towers, the image of this temple is instantly recognizable to locals and tourists alike. The temple's name comes from the magnificent glow given off by the temple at dawn, due to the intricate porcelain decoration on the monuments.
Wat Suthat is not usually on the top of the list for tourists. This temple features several stylistic curiosities, most notably the famous Giant Swing, a large Chinese swing which was commonly used in religious ceremonies. The temple also features 28 pagodas (one for each Buddha born on Earth) and over 150 golden Buddha images, the principal one measuring 9 meters tall.
Wat Benchamabophit is more commonly called the Marble Temple, this beautiful building is made of flawless Italian marble and was especially created for King Rama V, whose ashes still reside in the temple. One of the more interesting aspects of this temple besides the superb architecture is the gallery of gold Buddha images all hand picked to showcase different styles of Buddhist design.
Wat Saket, known as The Temple of the Golden Mount, lives up to its name with its magnificent golden chedi (pointed roof) where the adventurous can climb to the top and take in a spectacular view of the city. Originally built to house the Buddhist relics that still reside there, the temple also has a dark history as it was once Bangkok's main crematorium as well as a disposal for victims of the plague in the 19th century.
There no way around Bangkok temples on a Bangkok sightseeing tour. Wat Po (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), is the popular name for Wat Phra Chettuphon. The oldest and largest temple in Bangkok, it is located just south of the Grand Palace and is divided into two sections, one containing the living quarters of 300 resident monks and the other, a variety of religious buildings. The two sections are separated by the narrow and easy to miss Chettuphon Road. There are 16 gates in the massive walls of Wat Po, but only two of them, both on Chettuphon Road, are open to the public. Each of the 16 gates is guarded by giant demons. While the temple compound can seem dauntingly large, it is crammed with a multitude of fascinating buildings, pavilions, statues and gardens. The first temple building on this site was built in the 16th century, but the wat did not achieve real importance until the establishment of Bangkok as the capital. Wat Po was a particular favourite of the first four Bangkok kings, all of whom added to its treasures. The four large chedi to the west of the main chapel are memorials to them, the earliest being the green mosaic chedi built by King Chakri, and the last being the blue one built by King Mongkut in the mid-19th century. Around the chapel are 91 other chedi. The wat contains 1,000 bronze Buddha images, retrieved from ancient ruins in Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.
Acclaimed as the kingdom's first university, Wat Po was also the fountainhead of many branches of learning. Objects were placed in the compound as a way of letting people acquire knowledge, and not necessarily connected with Buddhism. Murals illustrated treatises on such diverse subjects as military defence, astrology, morality, literature and archaeology. Twenty small hills around the compound serve as a useful geology lesson, displaying stone specimens from different parts of Thailand.
Wat Po's bot is considered to be one of Bangkok's most beautiful. Girdling its base are sandstone panels superbly carved and depicting scenes from the Ramakien. The striking bot doors are also devoted to Ramakien scenes, brilliantly rendered in some of the finest mother-of-pearl work found in Asia. The surrounding cloisters contain some of the best Buddha images in the city.
Wat Po's great attraction is its gigantic Reclining Buddha, commissioned by King Rama III. The largest in Thailand, the 46-meter-long (150-ft), 15-meter-high (50-ft) image is covered entirely with gold leaf, and it depicts the dying Buddha entering nirvana. The soles of the Reclining Buddha's feet, just over 5 meters (161/2 ft) high, are inlaid with mother-of-pearl designs, illustrating the 108 auspicious signs for recognizing Buddha.
Bangkok National Museum
To the northwest of Sanam Luang is the National Museum, several buildings housing art and ethnology exhibits. Besides housing a vast collection of antiquities, the museum has an interesting history of its own.
The oldest buildings in the compound date from 1782 and were built as the palace of the Prince Successor, a feature of the Thai monarchy until 1870. Originally, the palace included a large park that went all the way to Wat Mahathat and covered the northern half of the present Phramane Grounds. The first building to the left of the entrance is the Sivamokhaphiman Hall, which was originally an open-sided audience hall. It now houses the prehistoric art collection, in particular, the bronzes and some of the handsome painted earthenware jars found in northeast Thailand. The front of the building is the Thai History Gallery which narrates the country's history, from the Sukhothai period (13th century) to the Rattanakosin period (1782 to present).
Directly behind the entrance is the Buddhaisawan Chapel, built in the late 1700s by the Prince Successor as his private place of worship. It contains some of Thailand's most beautiful and best-preserved murals depicting 28 scenes from the Buddha's life and dating from the 1790s. Above the windows, five bands of thep (angels) kneel in silent respect to Thailand's second most-sacred Buddha image, the famous Phra Buddha Sihing, a bronze Sukhothai-style image which legend says came from Ceylon, but which art historians attribute to 13th-century Sukhothai. The image is paraded through the streets of Bangkok, for once empty of cars, each year on the day before Songkran.
Also in the museum compound is the Tamnak Daeng (Red House). Originally located across the river in Thonburi, it was the residence of an elder sister of King Chakri and was formerly located in the grounds of the Grand Palace. It has a fascinating collection of early royal furniture.
The finely-proportioned old palace of the Prince Successor, which formerly held the museum's entire collection, is now reserved for ethnological exhibits of elephant howdah, ceramics, palanquins, royal furnishings, weapons and other objects. The Buddhist art collection in the new wings, includes sculptures from Asian countries, but its main exhibits are of Thai art and sculpture.
Thai Dance Drama
After a Bangkok shopping spree, recharge your batteries with some drama or classical music. The Fine Arts Department periodically offers concerts of Thai music and dance/drama at the National Theatre. On Saturday afternoons at 2pm, programs of Thai classical dance are presented at the auditorium of the Public Relations Building on Rachadamnern Klang Avenue opposite the Royal Hotel. Each Friday, Bangkok Bank offers traditional Thai music on the top floor of its Pan Fah branch (Rachadamnern Avenue at the intersection with Prasumane Road) at 5pm.
A must-see on your Bangkok sightseeing tour is the National Theater. It presents Thai works and, occasionally, big-name foreign ensembles like the New York Philharmonic. The Thailand Cultural Centre, which is a gift of the government of Japan, is located on Ratchadaphisek Road north of Bangkok. Its three stages present everything from pianists to puppets. See the newspapers for forthcoming performances.
It is also possible to find Chinese opera performed as part of funeral entertainment or during the Vegetarian Festival each September in Bangkok Chinatown. These performances are normally not announced, but they are hard to miss; the clash of cymbals and drums and the screech of violins identify them.
Likay, the village version of the great lakhon and khon dance/dramas of the palace, was once a staple at temple fairs. Alas, most of the fairs have faded away in the city and are found only in rural areas. About the only place one can see truncated likay performances is at Lak Muang, where supplicants pay a troupe to perform for the gods of the heavens and the angels of the city.
Adjoining the National Museum is Thammasat University, a very prestigious campus. The site was once a part of the Prince Successor Palace compound. Opposite the Prince Successor Palace, across a small road, is Wat Mahathat, which means "The Great Relic Monastery". The temple also houses the Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, one of the two highest seats of Buddhist learning in the country.
Another university in the area, opposite Wat Phra Kaew, is Silpakorn University (University of Fine Arts). This area earlier had three palaces where the king's relatives resided until the fifth reign (1868-1910). Trok Petch, behind Silpakorn University, turns into an "Artists' Street" every weekend afternoon, with art students displaying and selling their art and craft works, while art activities such as painting classes are held. Going further along the same route, there is the Ratchaworadit Royal Pier and Ratchakit Winitchai Throne Pavilion which are exclusively used for royal ceremonies. The pavilion is the only one remaining of four similar structures that were built in the mid-19th century.