Bangkok – The City of Angels
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and in the local Thai language is also known as Krung Thep, which literally means – The city of Angels. This city has all the trappings of a great tourist center, including Dazzling Temples and Palaces, Hotels of every breed and size, Ritzy Malls, Safaris and a Colorful Nightlife. Other features to experience in Bangkok are the unique Tuk Tuk rides, the lady- boy shows, kickboxing (Muay Thai) the various wellness centers and of course the famous Thai Massage which is a befitting highlight of this wonderful holiday!
Situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok became the capital of Thailand (then known as Siam) in 1782, when General Chao Phraya Chakkri took over as the first king of the Chakkri Dynasty. He and the other rulers who succeeded him remodeled the entire city by building a whole system of waterways or canals which covered most of the areas; built new temples, and remodeled and beautified the existing ones. World War II witnessed a spurt in tourists when the city became a popular destination for the US military personnel. The dark side to this popularity was that it gave rise to what Thailand and Bangkok is famous for today – its nightlife and a flourishing sex industry.
Inhabitants and language
Since the first era of the Sukhothal Dynasty, Buddhism has played a major role in the culture of Thailand. Like Lord Ganesh who is revered by most of the people of India, most of the inhabitants of Bangkok follow the teachings of Buddha and Buddha statues of various sizes and shapes can be found in all the houses. Most of the temples are also Buddhist and the Buddhist monks are highly respected by the Thais. Being a flourishing business center Bangkok is home to a large population of people who belong to China, Japan, India, Korea, America, United Kingdom and most other countries. However a majority of them are from Thai communities, hence Thai language is most widely spoken in Bangkok. Although their language is difficult as their words are spelt differently from how they are pronounced, most people there understand English. However it is advisable to write down the name of the place you wish to visit before hiring a cab or bus!
There is never a dull moment to be had in Bangkok. From its many Temples and Palaces to the grand Shopping Malls and from Safaris to its Exotic Nightlife, Bangkok is a city of multiple interests. Some of the places of attraction are mentioned below:
A former residence of the Thai Royal Family, the Grand Palace was constructed in 1782 when the capital of Thailand was shifted from Ayuthhaya to Bangkok. The opulent gold roof tops and the soaring pagodas along with its magnificent architecture make this the most stunning monument in Bangkok. Home to the Thai Royal family for more than 150 years, this structure is now open to the public, and houses some amazing treasures in its complex, including the Emerald Buddha Statue.
The heart and soul of Bangkok are surely the numerous temples, with their awesome architecture and golden decorations. Apart from being merely tourist attractions they play an important role in the Buddhist tradition. Known as Wats these temples are sacred precincts which houses the monks quarters, temple and an edifice housing a large statue of Buddha and also has a structure for conducting lessons. A few famous Wats are:
Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, this is one of the largest and oldest temples and houses one of the largest collections of Buddha statues. Although the construction began in 1788, it saw a lot of reconstruction and renovation, the latest being in 1982. This site was originally a center for Thai medicine and this is where the Thai Massage originated!
Another major attraction is the Wat Arun, which is a Khmer- style Buddhist Temple and is situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. Built during the days when Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand, the outstanding feature of this temple is its Central Prang (or Pagoda) which is eighty feet tall and is a symbol of mount Meru, the Centre of the Universe.
Located in China town, in Bangkok the Golden Buddha is the world’s largest gold statue and weighs about five and a half tons. Built during the Sukhothai dynasty in the 13-14 centuries, and later moved to Ayutthaya, this statue was covered with plaster and left unattended for more than 200 years to hide its real value. In 1957, while shifting the statue to another location, it accidently slipped from the crane and fell down causing bits of plaster to chip off, revealing the shining gold inside.
Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Saket (Golden Mount) and Wat sutat are some of the other famous temples in Bangkok.
Situated on the Northern outskirts of Bangkok, the Safari World promises the entire family, especially children, a whole day of fun packed treats. The most popular animal and leisure park in Thailand, this park is divided into the Safari Park and the Marine Safari. The Safari Park is the ultimate Safari experience and features hundreds of animals from across the world. Stretching eight kms and lasting for forty five minutes, this safari provides a unique encounter with rare and endangered species of the animal kingdom. With its myriad world class shows, the Marine Park is a huge attraction for the young and old alike. The sea lion show and the various stunt shows are worth a watch, but the most amazing is the Boxing Show by Orang Utans which is really worth watching! Coupled with amazing feats and humorous slapstick comedy, this show is non- stop entertainment at its best. After the show, for a price, these Orang Utans also oblige to have their pictures taken with the tourists.
A shopper’s Paradise, Bangkok offers the tourist a wide range of shopping experience from towering shopping malls to the hustle and bustle of busy street markets offering a vast variety of things to buy. The shopping malls are found all over Bangkok and offer excellent shopping experiences in cool air conditioned comfort. From the legendary MBK Mall, to the Emporium, Central World Plaza to the more up market Siam Paragon, these malls offer an excellent bargain for the most discerning shopper.
To witness a way of the local life in Bangkok it is worth visiting the Floating, Weekend and Night Markets, which in spite of being cramped and sticky mazes of never ending alleys, offer a great bargain. These markets sell anything from watches to knick knacks and from clothes to beautiful artifacts. The main night markets and weekend markets can be found in Pat Pong and Chatuchak.
A point to note is that while shopping in Bangkok, whether in a luxury Mall or at the Night markets, bargaining is a way of life and a good bargainer generally ends up paying only around a third of the quoted price!
Bangkok has a reputation for its active night life with the more famous areas being Patpong, Nana or Soi Cowboy and is dotted with bars and red light areas which feature regular shows by lady boys, pole dancers and excellent live music.