As the weather in Southeast Asia is getting better it is time once again to visit great places. One of the best places to visit in the region is Thailand, where you can have the best of both worlds. There is a cacophony of wonderful temples to visit, hundreds and hundreds of Buddha images in all forms, positions and conditions; some of the best culinary delights in the world, gracious and gentle people, gorgeous and colourful flowers, manmade and natural wonders and plenty of entertainment and shopping facilities with down-to-earth prices!
There’s another good thing coming your way right now, if you plan to travel to Thailand. Head to our Skiddoo Facebook page and get the chance to win two return flights with Thai Airways International from 12th April – 15th April 2015. This includes a three-night accommodation package at The Novotel Bangkok Premium. Visit the Skiddoo Facebook page for more details. Now let’s see what exciting things you can visit and do in Thailand!
DAY 1: EXPLORE THAILAND’S PAST
On your first day in Thailand, it is best to see some of its famous temples. Here’s some trivia for you. There are 40,717 Buddhist temples all over Thailand, 33,902 of which are still in use. In Bangkok alone are some 400 temples (wats) and our recommendation here is just one percent of the total, for Bangkok alone.
Wat Prayoon or Wat Rua Lek is located on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River. It was built early in the 19th century by Rama III. Outstanding among the things to see here is the tall mound, called the Turtle Mountain that is said to have been inspired by the forms created by a candle’s dripping melted wax. Various shrines or spirit houses dedicated to love ones cover the mound. The shrines are in different shapes and sizes, showing several architectural styles. The mound is surrounded by a small shallow pond where various species of turtle live. Visitors are allowed to feed the turtles and you can buy papaya and other fruits at the nearby stall. Turtles are sacred to Buddhism and a symbol of longevity. Another outstanding feature is the huge white bell-shaped pagoda (chedi), the only one of its kind in Bangkok.
The chedi, called the Great Chedi or the Phra Boromthat Maha Chedi has an 80-metre base, ringed by 18 satellite chedis and a porch. It is an impressive museum that contains artifacts, amulets and several Buddha images. An interesting Portuguese community a few metres from the temple grounds is worth exploring as well.
This temple echoes the loyalty of a subject to the King and the special closeness that developed between them. Wat Kanlayanamit is Thai for temple to a true friend. Nobleman and Interior Minister Chaophraya Nikonbodin donated his own real estate property and bought more land when King Rama III wanted to build a temple and the king properly named it as such to honor their special bond.
At the temple is the largest classically-posed Buddha image in Bangkok. The image, known as Phra Phuttha Trai Rattana Nayok, the “Lord of the Triple Gem” (also called Sam Po Hut Kong or Sam Po Kong in Chinese) shows Buddha seated on a rock. The palm of his right hand resting on his right knee faces upward while the left one resting on the left knee faces downwards. Murals depicting life during the reign of King Rama III and the story of Lord Buddha adorn the temple interior. The temple’s bell tower could barely contain the largest bronze bell in all of Thailand.
A flower garland, a pair of red candles and three incense sticks are used when you worship this particular Buddha, which is said to bring you safe travel and good companionship.
If you are a first-time visitor to Bangkok, this is the first temple that you should visit. Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha is one of the largest temple complexes in Bangkok. The golden reclining Buddha that it houses is 46 metres long and 15 metres high. Its sheer size seem to dwarf the entire building. The Buddha’s feet measures five metres and decorated with exquisite mother-of-pearl “laksanas” or identifying characteristics of the Buddha. Shoes are forbidden to be worn inside the temple and do keep in mind to dress conservatively. No exposed arms and skin above the knees, please. One of the mystical things to do here is to buy a bowl of 108 coins and drop each coin into the 108 bronze bowls lining one side of the temple. Aside from the wondrous ring each dropped coin makes, it is said that if you end up with some coins in your bowl after you’ve dropped a coin into each receptacle, you will have financial luck.
Around the complex are four chapels that contain a total of 394 gold-leafed Buddhas, several more golden statues around the temple complex and murals that are so intricately detailed you’ll appreciate them even without a guide. There are also 91 chedis that are colourfully decorated with tiles and ceramic flower pottery. The complex is also famous as a Thai massage school, so you know you’ll be in good hands if you need a massage.
This is known as one of most impressive and oldest temples in Bangkok, which was built in 1807 under the reign of King Rama I the Great. It houses a 13th century bronze statue of Buddha called the Phra Sri Sagaya Munee that came all the way from Sukhotai. It is a highly revered statue and the temple is a pilgrimage site, particularly on holy days such as Magha Bucha Day and Visakha Bucha Day. Surrounding the main chapel in the courtyard are 156 images of Buddha placed along its outer walls. Intricately hand-carved details decorate the four entry gates into the inner sanctum. The previous 24 incarnations of the Buddha are depicted in the frescoes on the walls of the main chapel.
In front of the temple is the iconic red-coloured Giant Swing, which was older than the temple. It was built in 1784 and stands 21.15 metres high. Made of golden teak, the Giant Swing was once used for special ceremonies, such as the main rice harvest in mid-
December, where men would ride the swing that was suspended 24 metres from the ground and make the swing ride high to enable them to grab with their teeth a bag of silver coins. Due to the danger it poses on the swing riders, the practice was discontinued in 1932.
DAY 2: MEET MODERN THAILAND
After a day spent visiting famous Buddhist temples in Bangkok, it’s time to shop, for which Bangkok is known for internationally. Indulge the shopaholic in you in these three super shopping destinations. As a vacation highlight, participate in one of Bangkok’s fun, festive, colourful, wet and exquisitely perfumed celebration: Songkran.
The Siam Paragon, which contains over 250 shops is one of the most popular in the city, hosting several high-end fashion brands famous internationally. It also houses the largest aquariums in Southeast Asia, a selection of restaurants serving cuisine around the world and a Cineplex with 16 screens. This is the place to shop if you want something special and have the right amount of cash.
The luxury brands are located on the main floor. Each brand vies for your attention with their amazing store window display as soon as you ride the escalators. This is the shopping ground of who’s who in Bangkok. For something more affordable but still high-end fashion items, head towards the first floor, which is called the fashion venue. Shops here conduct seasonal sales so you might spot a bargain on designer clothing and accessories when you’re there. The second and third floors showcase products dedicated to leisure and lifestyle, from home technology to luxurious cars.
More restaurants and an IT and electronic goods paradise are on the fourth floor while the fifth floor is where you’ll find the Cineplex and the newly-added Nokia VIP Ultrascreen, the epitome in luxurious and pampered cinema viewing pleasure.
MBK Shopping Center
The MBK is one of the busiest shopping malls in the city and a favorite among locals and tourists. It houses 2,000 stores selling almost every item you could think of, from fashion accessories, clothing, leather good, luggage and handbags to every kind of electronic gadgets, stationery, DVDs and furniture. Items here are considerably less expensive but still very fashionable, stylish and trendy. Roughly, the layout of MBK goes like this – all kinds of fashion items on the lower floors, electronics on floors three and four, and home furnishing as well as souvenirs on floors five and six. It has two food courts, and an entertainment complex on the top floor, ranging from a video game arcade, more restaurants, cinema complex and a karaoke.
If authenticity is not an issue, MBK is a great place to shop where you’ll find famous brands at lower prices. Just take the time to inspect each item for craftsmanship and quality. MBK is air-conditioned, so it is a comfortable place to shop particularly on rainy days and when the temperature outside gets too unbearable. Did we tell you that you can also haggle for lower prices at MBK?
The weekend Chatuchak Market is a popular tourist destination. It was once a haven for traders and wholesalers, but is now more famous for its more than 8,000 retail shops. The huge market covers 35 acres and even if you are a veteran shopper, you’ll still find it difficult to shop here, due to the crowd and the huge number of shops to visit. Not all the items have good bargain rates though, but it is a shopping destination where you will not come out empty-handed.
It could be a daunting task to venture into the Chatuchak Weekend Market for the first time, but if you take the time to learn its layout, you will have an easier time locating the stalls selling the items you are looking for. A shopping map is available and will be quite handy. There are 27 sections in all, selling items divided into 11 categories: clothing and accessories, handicrafts, ceramics, home décor and furniture, beverage and food, gardening tools and plants, art and gallery, pets and accessories, books, and collectibles and antiques. It also has a section on used clothing.
Cap off your Thailand sojourn by participating in the Songkran Water Festival, happening this year on April 13 to April 15. Songkran is a fun festival where international visitors can eagerly participate. Enjoy the friendly water fights as people douse each other with coloured and perfumed water, so be prepared to get very wet and multicoloured at that!
People in Thailand believe that water is a symbol or rejuvenation or cleansing and the observance of Songkran, where people throw water to other people, means to wash away all the struggles and misfortunes of the past year and have everything fresh for the new year. As the celebration ends, head off to one of the restaurants in Bangkok and enjoy some of the tastiest food you can find, most of them unique to the country. Try some green or red curry, Phad Thai, Tom Yum and a host of other Thai dishes and end your meal with a wonderful Thai dessert such as Mango Sticky Rice, Luk Chup, Roti, Khao Niew Bing or coconut ice cream.