Sunday, July 30, 2006


Yesterday, Max and I visited Muang Boran, also known as the Ancient City. Located about 30 minutes outside of Bangkok, this attraction is billed as the Gateway to Thailand's Cultural Heritage.

Situated on a sprawling 320-acre compound (which when viewed from above resembles the shape of Thailand), the Ancient City features reconstructed historical buildings and smaller-scale reproductions of famous landmarks like the Grand Palace and other famous temples:

The famed Floating Market:

And the Giant Swing.

This is also a great place to look at ruins:

Sample Thai art:

See fine examples of traditional Thai homes and architecture:

Climb a mountain for a spectacular view:

And gaze upon statues and fountains based on Thai legends:

Of course, there are no shortage of Buddha images in the Ancient City.

Because several of the 116 spots of interest located in Muang Boran are indeed reproductions, some guidebooks dismiss this place as a tacky tourist trap and compare it to places like Las Vegas or Disney World. I found these comparisons a little off base and likened the place more to Greenfield Village in my hometown of Dearborn, Michigan (my friends and family back home will understand the comparison). Both places offer an insight into past history laid out in an accessible manner that's perfect for sight-seers.

There are several ways to get around the Ancient City. We chose to ride bicycles (you can borrow them for free). Because Max could not find a suitable bike out of the three or four hundred that were available, we opted for a bicycle-built-for-two. It was too small for me and didn't have any brakes, but it still made for a fun mode of transportation.

You can also rent golf carts, take a guided tour on a trolley or simply drive your car through. I would only recommending walking if you have the strong desire to drop dead from heat exhaustion.

We spent four hours at the Ancient City, but one could easily spend an entire day there if you wanted to read every sign and soak up all the culture and historical insights. I really enjoyed the place and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in a one-stop Bangkok sight-seeing trip.

Monday, July 24, 2006


I had some down time last week before we moved to our new house, so I decided to visit a few more temples, the first being Wat Suthat.

This is a significant temple because it's the home of Thailand's largest and earliest cast bronze Buddha statue.

It is also the place where you can find Bangkok's tallest viharn (religious hall), and of course, there are plenty other Buddha images as well:

Another unique feature here are the carved wood door panels on the main entrance. They are said to be the work of King Rama II, thus they are valued deeply by native Thais.

In addition, the ashes of Rama VIII (the current King's older brother) are buried in the base of the main Buddha image.

Wat Suthat had a few unique features that I haven't yet seen at the other wats I've visited, including a statue of a very skinny Buddha:

Painted wooden monks worshiping Buddha in another chapel:

And what appears to be happy sailors guarding the exterior of another building (the others usually have soldiers or warriors).

Outside of the temple complex are the remains of the Giant Swing. In a former ceremony to celebrate the rice harvest, men used to swing on it and try to grab bags of money from a pole, but too many of them fell to their deaths. That's why you don't see a swing there, just the arch.

Wat Srakes is another important monastery in Thailand's modern history, but it is completely overshadowed (literally) by the Golden Mount. This giant spire was originally conceived by King Rama III, continued by Rama IV, but not completed until the reign of King Rama V. For that reason, it is considered the most precious property of the Thai nation.

The reason it took so long to complete is that the ground around the whole area was too soft and couldn't bear the weight of the structure. The original structure collapsed and a 262-foot (80-meter) artificial hill was built on top of its remains. King Rama IV himself actually helped lay the stone foundation so that the project could be continued. The area around the ground is now home to a lush garden and cemetary.

A winding staircase that goes around and around the hill takes visitors to the top. Along the way there are many bells and chimes to ring, which makes this a great place to take kids as they are always looking for an excuse to make some extra noise (well at least mine are).

Once you get to the first terrace, you are allowed inside a golden chedi (or pagoda).

You then have to take an extremely narrow staircase (watch your head) to the top of the Golden Mount.

When you finally get to the top pavilion, you have spectacular view of Bangkok and Wat Srakes.

I didn't have time to actually visit the Wat, but I'm sure I will in the future.

Until then...