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Bangkok Travel Guide - with Wired Destinations
Discount Hotels in Bangkok : Sukhumvit, Silom, Siam Square, Ploenchit, Riverside, Sathorn, Pratunam, Suvarnabhumi Airport, Ratchadapisek, Petchburi, Banglumpu, Don Muang Airport, Yawaraj (China Town), Nakorn Pathom, Huamark, Saphankwai, Nonthaburi, Pattanakarn
Bangkok Sightseeing - with Wired Destinations
At first sight, this metropolis of almost 10 million seems a bewildering mélange of old and new and work in progress, an exotic place, both intricate and ordinary and sometimes even beyond description boasting cultural highlights on your Bangkok sightseeing tour, as well as joyrides for the thrillseekers in shape of Bangkok Nightlife. Years after that first glance, the impression tends to remain intact. Navigating around while Bangkok sightseeing requires a few anchors for travelers and residents alike, a mental Bangkok map of the city. So if you have ended an initial Bangkok shopping spree, the cultural sights will be next on your agenda. Follow Wired Destinations' Bangkok Travel tips to reach you Bangkok sightseeing destination.
Obvious choice for such an anchor is the regal Chao Phraya, the very river that Thai rulers throughout the centuries have used to define their splendid cities, first Ayutthaya to the north, then Thonburi and eventually Bangkok itself. The kings would take a turn of the riverbed, dig a connector or two between two of the bends and thus divide off a parcel of land into an artificial island. Within Bangkok, the royal island became known as Rattanakosin. It has since become an essential part of any city tour, including the Grand Palace, Wat Po, and the National Museum.
With diminishing outside threats, Thai kings often established palaces in the suburbs, just beyond Rattanakosin. Dusit to the north, a rural countryside at the time was popular. Today, one finds the current king's residence, a number of parks and the Dusit Zoo. To the east the main boulevards and shopping malls of modern Bangkok are located.
South of the royal city are those areas where foreigners settled, such as Yaowaraj or Yawarrat, A Chinese expression naming Chinatown, or Sampeng one of the many bargain markets, and Silom Road. This is where the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the Shangri-La and several other Bangkok riverside luxury hotels now seam the Chao Phraya. Silom Road itself is an important business and retail place. At its eastern end, near Bangkok’s green lung, Lumpini Park, side streets lead to the more worldly fulfillments of Patpong.
All of this is the east-side of the Chao Phraya. On the other, Thonburi can be found, the royal capital prior to Krung Thep Mahanakorn. Thonburi hasn't been entangled in a building frenzy just as much. Canals (Klong) still make their way through the neighborhoods, old wooden houses, sometimes on stilts seam to the canals. The development that essentially defines Bangkok to the east of the Chao Phraya trails in intensity on the Thonburi side. However, 5-star Bangkok hotels as the Millennium Hilton, the Peninsula or the Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa have settled just there. Shuttle boats on the Chao Phraya River are means by which visitors can reach these Bangkok hotels easily. Check out Bangkok Transport for more information.
Bangkok’s evolution has caused confusion; most clearly this can be witnessed in the city's world-class traffic situation, a noisy and mostly congested conglomerate. Just like any other metropolis, Bangkok in no way represents the country as a whole. Bangkok is a unique and compelling urban entity a highlight far from privy to travelers.
RATTANAKOSIN ROYAL BANGKOK
When Bangkok became the nation’s capital in the 18th century, the monarch began to erect ornate palaces and temples in the inner city to reflect its regal connections. In the heart of Bangkok is the royal center, Rattanakosin, an artificial island with most of the major royal and religious buildings of the city. Rattanakosin literally means "Resting Place of the Emerald Buddha" and it became the capital of the kingdom when King Rama I ascended the throne in 1782. He then decided to shift the seat of royal power from Thonburi on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River to the opposite side for strategic reasons.
Search for the Chao Phraya River on the left-hand side of any Bangkok map. To its right is Klong Koo Muang Derm, more widely known as Klong Lawd, the city's inner moat. This canal runs north from Pak Klong Talad (Flower Market) to Phra Pin Klao Bridge. It thereby defines the boundary of Rattanakosin Island, or the "inner city". Any exploration of Bangkok should begin here.
On your Bangkok sightseeing tour, approach the island from the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue (King Chulalongkorn's version of the Champs Elysées). The lawns of Sanam Luang will appear ahead. At its far end is Wat Phra Kaew, the temple enshrined in the Grand Palace, a sight so majestic it will entice even the most uninspired traveler.
The Grand Palace
Parallel in design to the royal palace in Ayutthaya, the palace complex embodies Thailand's characteristic blend of temporal and spiritual elements. Surrounded by high, fortified walls and entered by a huge double gate, the Grand Palace’s construction was started by King Chakri in 1782. Nearly every king since added to it, so that today the compound is a mélange of architectural styles from traditional Thai and Chinese to French and Italian Renaissance.
Thai medicine and massage
After the sudden death of King Ananda in 1946, his younger brother, the incumbent King Bhumibol, moved to the more modern and comfortable Chitralada Palace, in the Dusit area. Today, the Grand Palace is used for state banquets and other royal ceremonies.
The Grand Palace Complex
The grandest of the buildings in the compound was actually the last one to be built. The triple-spired royal residence that overlooks the courtyard is Chakri Maha Prasad (Grand Palace Hall), the audience and reception hall. This two-storey hall on an elevated base was constructed during King Chulalongkorn's reign (1868-1910) commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Chakri dynasty in 1882. An impressive mix of Thai and Western architecture, the lower part of the building was designed by a British architect; the Thai spires were added at the last moment, following protests by purists that it was unacceptable that a sanctified Thai site be dominated by a building in a European style. The top floor contains golden urns with ashes of the Chakri kings. The pair of spires on either side holds the ashes of princes of royal blood. The large reception rooms are decorated with images of past kings, busts of foreign royalty and art collectibles, most of them European. The central hall is the magnificent Chakri Throne Room, where the king receives foreign ambassadors on a niello throne under a nine-tiered white umbrella.
The northernmost of the three-buildings is Amarin Vinitchai Throne Hall, just east of the doorway leading to the former Inner Palace, is another of the palace's few remaining original buildings. The three-room building originally served as a royal residence, the bedroom lying just beyond the main audience hall. In the early days of Bangkok, the building was also the royal court of justice, where cases were heard and adjudicated by either the king or his ministers. The audience hall now is used for coronations and special ceremonies.
The building just to the west of the Chakri Maha Prasad is the Dusit Maha Prasad (Dusit Hall), built in 1789. Deceased kings and queens lie in state here before their bodies are cremated on Sanam Luang, called more formally for these occasions the Phramane Ground.
Nearby, a splendid collection of small Buddha images made of silver, ivory, crystal and other materials can be seen at Wat Phra Kaew Museum north of the Dusit Maha Prasad.
The Royal Chapel
Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) is next to the Grand Palace and serves as the royal chapel. Contrary to the rest of Thailand’s 28,000 temples, no monks live here. It is what most visitors expect to see when they are in Thailand, and it is the single most powerful image they take away when they leave. Bathed in an eerie green light, high on its pedestal, the small Emerald Buddha looks placidly down on the by-goers. It sits atop a 2-meter-high (36-ft) gilded altar, protected by a nine-tiered umbrella. Three times a year, at the beginning of each new season, the king presides over the changing of the Emerald Buddha's robes: a golden, diamond-studded tunic for the hot season; a gilded robe flecked with blue for the rainy season; and a robe of enamel-coated solid gold for the cool season.
Wat Po is also a centre for traditional medicine. The building to the left is the headquarters for traditional medicine practitioners. The dozen stone statues of hermits were used as diagnostic tools by herbal physicians. In the late afternoon people still flock here for herbal treatments.
A traditional Thai massage is based on reflex massages, yoga and acupuncture, and originated from 1,000-year-old Indian therapies. Strong thumbs dig deep into tense muscles and work at the body's energy points. The masseurs bring their full body weight to bear as they rub vigorously up and down on either side of the spinal column. When the pressure from hands, feet and elbows ceases, the pain (the massage is vigorous) gives way to relief. The massage school at Wat Po offers hour-long massages.
Rattanakosin, the heart of the city, also has within its confines the National Theater, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defense, the Royal Institute, and the Saranrom Royal Garden (now a public park).
All venues on your Bangkok sightseeing tour can be reached by means of Bangkok public transportation.
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