When you arrive in the city center, you can’t miss the colours…unless you’re blind of course! Pink cabs, blue busses, orange houses, yellow buildings, green facade for shops,…everything is coloured! Quite a difference from my hometown, where everything is (or at least seems) gray…
Bangkok looks a lot like New York or Hong Kong. It’s a modern city, growing at a fast pace! Big avenues, lots of skyscrapers, huge shopping malls, crazy traffic in the streets,… well, you get the idea. There’s one main difference in this modern cityscape, the Skytrains and Skywalks. I think all cities in the world should have these elevated walkways called Skywalks. So practical!
Surprisingly enough, all historical sites were left untouched by all this modernization fury. I visited the city’s top-rated historical/touristic sites: Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Vimanmek Palace complex and Phra Phrom. I also went several times on boat rides (cross-river ferries and water taxis, also known as longtails) on the Chao Phraya river. This river runs through the city, and then empties into the Gulf of Thailand. It’s a major transportation artery!
……………………………………………..On the east bank of the Chao Phraya River stands the Grand Palace, a rectangular complex of buildings, halls, pavilions, gardens and open lawns surrounded by walls. The King no longer lives within the walls of the palace, but it is still used for official events, royal ceremonies and state functions. Actually, the Grand Palace is world-wide known for the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew, a royal chapel situated within its walls. I actually wrongly thought that it was a Buddhist temple…but later learned that it’s a chapel and that there are not a single monk living there! Inside the Wat Phra Kaew lies the famed Emeral Buddha.
On the west bank of the Chao Phraya River stands a Buddhist temple, Wat Arun (meaning “Temple of the Dawn”), named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. Why Dawn? because of the first light of the morning that apparently “reflects off the surface of the temple with pearly iridescence”.
My third touristic visit was the Vimanmek Teak Mansion, a former royal palace and the world’s largest golden teakwood mansion (I had to see that!). The construction of the 72 rooms, began in 1900 and was completed on March 27, 1901. But King Rama V used it as a royal palace for only 5 years! I guess he needed a place to stay until the completion of his other big palace, Amphorn Satharn Villa (done in 1906). And besides, building huge palaces is a normal, ordinary event for a King, right ?!?
Fun fact about this amazing palace: Not a single nail was used during its construction! I love it!
In 1982 (the best year ever 😉 ), Queen Sirikit asked permission of King Rama IX to renovate Vimanmek Palace for use as a museum to commemorate King Rama V. Nowadays, you can see many of his personal photographs, art and handicrafts. It was really interesting to see some of the old family pics, to see what they were wearing at the time, and how they were posing in front of the camera… so serious! Unfortunately, I have no pics to show you the inside of this museum since we are not allowed to take any (and I am a good girl following the rules!).
My fourth touristic visit was Wat Pho, a Buddhist temple. This temple is definitely a Buddhist one as I double-checked that info. It’s also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage! Wat Pho is actually the largest and oldest wat of Bangkok, with 16 gates guarded by Chinese stone giants. Really impressive! But the main attraction is the Reclining Buddha (15 m high and 43 m long) Inside this temple, there are also 108 bronze bowls for the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified like flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers and altar accessories. People drop a coin in each of these bowls as a good-luck fortune. Just stunning!
………………………………………………………………My fifth and final touristic visit was Phra Phrom, the four-faced Brahma (Hindu god) statue at the Erawan Shrine. Worshipers offered incense, candles, jasmine flowers or jasmine garlands and young coconut milk (with water in them). They placed these offerings before all four heads of Phra Phrom because each side of Phra Phrom offers different blessings. Another common way of worship is to place wooden elephant statues on the altar to honor him. Nearby the altar, you can hear Thai classical music played and watch Thai dancers.
………………………………………………………………In my mind, Bangkok will be the city where I spent my New Year 2012… the streets were crowded of people cheering Happy New Year!! Fireworks were all over the city!! And, while staring at it, I felt a bit nostalgic! It reminded me of my childhood’s new years spent with my parents and their group of friends. Traditions were to eat 12 grapes in time with the 12 chimes of midnight (Spanish unique tradition), to break old things as a few cups, bowls and plates by throwing them in our courtyard (Italian tradition), to spy on the grown-ups getting drunk and to watch the beautiful fireworks. I remember us, the kids, getting so exited to see the fireworks. As I grew up, I celebrate New Year with my group of friends, and we have our own traditions, our little rituals/habits, … I’ve always had a blast/a crazy night out…but I definitely love fireworks too 🙂
“2011 was a great year!! May 2012 be a year filled with love, friendship, laughs, happiness and wonderful (travel) memories for you all!! Happy New Year!!”