Bangkok -a preservation of culture

Click to see photos of Bangkok

Day 1: A taste of Bangkok. We landed in Bangkok, at 6 a.m., taking the Thai Airways flight from Bangalore to Bangkok. Indians and citizens of many countries are granted visa on arrival, so follow the signs in the airport to get the visa (1000 Baht per person) before you head through passport control or customs. We took the first option available to us to head into the city, a pre-paid taxi from AOT Limousine. This might be the most convenient but at 950 Baht, it is three times as expensive as a regular taxi. Given the political situation and the tourist lull, AOT also gave us a half-day tour of Bangkok for 650 Baht in a private car with a guide and so that made it worthwhile. We checked into the Metropolitan Hotel by Como located in the heart of Bangkok, in the Central Business District known as Sathorn. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and headed out on our half day tour.

154845439The first stop on our taste of Bangkok was the Wat Traimit temple in Chinatown, home of the Golden Buddha, officially titled Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon, the world’s largest solid gold statue. The statue is 3 metres tall and weighs 5.5 tonnes and is made of 18 karat gold and is estimated to be worth over 250 million dollars in pure gold. As a cultural relic, it is priceless. The statue was most probably made in the Sukhothai Dynasty style, between the 13th and 14th centuries. The Buddha is represented in the traditional pose of Bhumisparsha Mudra (touching the earth with the right hand to witness Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment at Bodh Gaya). The second stop was the Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram, a Buddhist temple (wat) in the Dusit district of Bangkok, Thailand. Also known as the marble temple, it is one of Bangkok’s most beautiful temples and one of the most serene. Despite being one of the biggest tourist attractions, the grounds of the temple seemed eerily vacant. Inside the ordination hall (ubosot) is a Sukhothai-style Buddha statue named Phra Buddhajinaraja, cast in 1920 and is a copy of Phra Buddha Chinarat that resides in Phitsanulok in northern Thailand.

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Wat Bennchamabophit Temple, Buy this photo

Take your time to explore the temple complex and the many rows of Buddhas in various styles from all over South-east Asia. The rest of the tour was spent in being stuck in Bangkok traffic or visting jewel showrooms and fashion stores. I did manage to get a custom made wool suit for 5000 Baht at S.J. Fashion which was delivered the same day.

We returned to our hotel, and spent the evening being pampered Thai style with a massage and relaxation at COMO Shambhala Urban Escape, the hotel Spa.

Determined to not let the pampering stop, we made dinner reservations at nahm, the restaurant at the hotel. As we took our first bite, we realized we were tasting something extraordinary. From then on, every bite, every dish was an explosion of flavors and we couldn’t stop. 154850394We returned to the room and researched the restaurant. Awarded the prestigiou154850399s World’s 50 Best Restaurants (Top 32) and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants (No. 1) by UK’s industry publication, Restaurant Maga
zine, nahm is a place both for serious gourmets and for those who desire to learn more about authentic local cuisine. The world’s finest authentic Thai cooking from David Thompson with each plate a perfect interplay of sour, sweet, salt and spice – the latter sometimes at inferno levels. Wow! We slept well that night.

Day 2 and Day 3: Bangkok, from the sky, land and water. 154901238Day 2 was reserved for a wedding and our reason for visiting Bangkok. The wedding was held at the Sukhothai Hotel, a 5-star oasis in the middle of the business district and two hotels down the street from the Metropolitan. The reflection pool with the stupas rising out of it was stunning. After a morning of festivities, and an afternoon of lounging by the hotel pool we made dinner reservations at Vertigo and Moon Bar, a rooftop restaurant on the 62nd floor of the Banyan Tree hotel, one of the tallest buildings in Bangkok.

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View of Bangkok from Vertigo, Buy this photo

With 360 degree views of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya river, and drinks that made you feel higher in spirit to match the body and food that somehow didn’t fall into mediocrity just because it could have, being compensated by the view, and the attention to detail extending to a personalized photographer who took our photo with the Bangkok skyline and printed us a free souvenir, this is a must eat at place.

Day 3 was the tourist day. We started with the Grand Palace or in Thai the Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang, the official residence of the Kings of Siam (Thailand) since 1782. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), currently resides at Chitralada Palace, but the Grand Palace is still used for official events.

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Grand Palace, Buy this photo

Several royal ceremonies and state functions are held within the walls of the palace every year. The palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand. We entered the palace grounds from the Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple (wat) in Thailand. It is located in the historic centre of Bangkok (district Phra Nakhon), within the precincts of the Grand Palace. The temple complex is a like a world out of the ordinary. Spires in gold rise into the sky, the buildings glimmer with billions of rare gems, the walls are painted in gold with stories from the Ramakien and the Emerald Buddha sits peacefully in the middle.

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The Grand Palace is on the banks of the Chao Phraya river, which courses its way through Bangkok.

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We boarded a longboat, a traditional passenger boat used to navigate through the canals of Bangkok and spent an hour winding through the waterways and experiencing Bangkok away from the crowds. The boat dropped us off at the banks of the Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.

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Wat Arun and Chao Phraya River, Buy this photo

The temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun. The temple is 86m high and the steps to the top tier are very steep and requires caution while climbing but the views of the Chao Phraya river and the Wat Pho and Grand Palace across the river are stunning. The last stop of the day was the Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Officially the Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhlaram Ratchaworamahawihan, this temple is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. On its walls are 60 plaques, 30 each for the front and back of human body. Therapeutic points and energy pathways known as sen were engraved and the explanations were carved on the walls next to the plaques, the full extent of which is still to be decoded. The temple is also home to more than one thousand Buddha images, as well as one of the largest single Buddhas, an enormous statue, 160 feet long. The Buddha is reclining, resting his head on his hand and is one of the most beautiful statues we have seen.

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Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho, Buy this photo

We ended the day with a quick, but delicious meal at the Metropolitan hotel and then headed to the airport to catch our flight back. Bangkok is the most visited city in the world, even more than London, Paris or New York and after spending two days in the city, it was enough to be charmed into the legend that is Bangkok.

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Journey dates: 19th February – 21st February, 2014
Travelers: Shwetha Shrivatsa, Karthik Raja

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