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Bangkok and Ayutthaya

We recently spent a few days in Thailand, mostly in Bangkok but also spent one day in Ayutthaya with family. It was mostly a trip down memory lane as I had been to most places, but we still had different experiences.
We started with a personal guided tour of Bangkok – we decided that an experienced guide would help us learn more and see temples and monuments in a new way.
We started with my favorite temple, the temple of dawn or Wat Arun

The shape of the stupas is quite unique and the feel around the place is very special.  It is across the river (Chao Phraya) from the main part of Bangkok, so a little more difficult to get to.  This is where we met our guide for the day.

A view of the main temple with guarding deities – please do not ask me who they are, as I always get them confused.

Inside the temple is a golden Buddha and no matter what time you come, there are always people praying and paying respect.

We took a local ferry across the river (it is the fastest way to move in Bangkok) and went next to the Wat Phra Chetupon, or the temple of the reclining Buddha

It is impossible to get a good picture of the reclining Buddha as the room it is in is actually quite small and full of columns.  These are two views from each end.

Here too there are side temples with sitting Buddhas and people paying their respect.  The decorations are always very elaborate, and there is gold everywhere.

We went next to the imperial palace.  The main building was constructed to look like the residence of European royalty, in typical neo-classical style, but with an eastern twist, especially on the roof.  It is quite a combination.

The palace is also home of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, one of the treasures of Thailand.  The photo is terrible, as I was not allowed to take it from inside and the light was very dim, but it gives you at least an idea of what it looks like – the statue is about 1 m tall.

There was a time when Thailand ruled over most of South-East Asia, including the former kingdom of the Khmers and Angkor Wat.  In the imperial Palace, there is a building built to look like the main temple at Angkor, visible in the background here.

We visited lesser known temples, including one which had a number of old Buddhas  – I am not sure what is causing the flaking of this one, but I thought the effect was interesting.  Several others had similar appearance.

On the way to Ayutthaya, we stopped at a local market.  Unfortunately, the region around Ayutthaya had suffered from severe flooding in the weeks before we went there.  This particular market is not usually a floating market, but in order to be above the 60-70 cm of water, the market was on bamboo stilts.  All deliveries were by boat only.

To the vendors, this seemed to be routine as usual.

There was a combination of products for local consumers and some for the few tourists who happened to come by.  Mostly local customers though.

Nearer to Ayutthaya, we visited a temple that was also partially flooded.  Not to be stopped by this unfortunate event, the monks started to sell fish-food to the tourists who could then feed the thousands of fish that came from the free meal.

One of the temples was a combination antique store and stemple, or at least it seemed to be set up as a store.  You can see here that the lower edge of the carpet is wet.

There were several automatons throughout the place which were quite eerie.  Here is one going through his speech, which I did not understand…


Ayutthaya was an old capital of Siam, the old name of Thailand.  The old town exists inside a circular moat, part of which is the Chao Phraya which makes its way to Bangkok down stream.  The old town is a huge park with ruins of temples and a lot of greenery – quite nice to walk around when it is not too hot.  On the day we were there, it was hot!

This is a lot more touristy – several companies run day tours from Bangkok to visit the town – one of the flogged activity is an elephant ride.

It was not our thing, so we skipped that and went to explore the old temples.  The views were always very peaceful.

and there were ‘natural’ visitors too

This temple is often used on the posters extolling the benefits of paying for a day trip to Ayutthaya

We walked around Wat Phra Si Sanphet which dates back to the time when this was the capital and the emperor lived here.

and right next door is a modern temple: Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit – not sure if you can tell the difference 🙂

We had an excellent seafood meal right on the river before we headed back to Bangkok.

We visited Jim Thompson House Museum. Jim Thompson probably saved the Thai Silk industry by creating a company that would buy product from local producers and sell high quality luxury products to those who could afford it.  There was also a dark side – Jim Thompson disappeared one day while walking in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia; his body was never found.


He collected these paintings while he explored the wonders of Thailand.  He also spent a lot of time in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, in Northern Thailand, where there was (and still is?) extensive trading and smuggling with both Laos and Burma.  This fed many conspiracy theories as to why and how he disappeared, but none have been proven. 

The house is located next to a canal which used to be the way to get into the house by the ‘front door’.  This is a local water bus – traffic being very bad in Bangkok,  the fastest way to travel is by water.

And now for a little bit of history – we have to go back to Belgium in the 50’s.  Brussels is developing rapidly and traffic there too is becoming too dense and in preparation for the world expo of 1958, the army engineers built a temporary bridge (several km long) that would by-pass much congestion.  The bridge was dismantled 25 years later (1983) after a tunnel was built under the streets – this was originally called the Leopold II tunnel and has recently been renamed the Annie Cordy Tunnel.  The bridge was stored in a warehouse.

Baron Patrick Nothomb was Belgian Ambassador to Thailand from 1985 to 1988 (he is the father of the author Amélie Nothomb) and he convinced the Belgian Government to donate the bridge, or parts thereof to the Thai government in order to improve relations between the two countries.  Initially, the Thais did not know what to do with it, so he suggested to install it over a very busy intersection.  The foundations were built over several months, but then the traffic had to be stopped for the bridge to be built.  The intersection was closed at 6PM on Friday, 22 April 1988 and the bridge was opened to traffic at 6AM on Monday 25 April – just a very big puzzle!  The bridge is still there, still helping with traffic 35 years later!

The bridge was the center piece for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Belgian-Thai relations.

We also went to Chatuchak Weekend Market.  A sprawling place that caters to both locals and tourists.  We bought a print that we had framed at Angies and now adorns the wall by the kitchen.

This is “The Giant Swing” – probably not the name the authorities had in mind when it was installed, but very fitting.

Out last stop was the Golden Mound (Saket Temple which sits on top of a hillock and is mostly painted in gold colors).

The temple can be seen from most places in Bangkok, but I had never been there.  The view of Bangkok from the top is quite spectacular.

On the way up to the top of the temple mound, there are several shrines, some quite elaborate

There is even one that offers a tutorial on which Buddha is appropriate for which day

Yes, there are eight figures because Wednesday has two of them.

The base of the mound is decorated with many statues, some are quite macabre

Others are a lot more pleasant

We had a really good time – and shall return again in the near future.

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One thought on “Bangkok and Ayutthaya

  1. Beautiful temples and sculpture! The architecture is so distinctive and detailed. I enjoy your commentary & historic notes, too. Hope you and Bee had a wonderful time traveling & visiting with family & friends!

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