Bangkok, shall we say, has a reputation.
However, there is another side to Bangkok, that's not all temples and sex-tourists. For some reason though, Thais don't seem to be proud of this (Not saying they're proud of sex-tourism btw) and tend to hide a cool and funky light under any convenient bushel. It's actually a real shame because there is lots of cool and interesting stuff out there, but its never publicised, really. For example, there is loads of modern Asian art (in the broadest sense of the world) but trying to find out about it is a bit of a mare.
This is a great case in point.
If you're bored of the crowds of Grand Palace and the markets selling all eleven kinds of tourist tat then I can not recommend highly enough Chula Art Town. There is a big bit of it that's almost finished and I'll be going back to that soon, but don't let that put you off. It looks like they've taken the influence for it from the rebuilt hutongs of Beijing. Modern buildings, but with a clear Thai/Asian feel to them in a rabbit warren of streets. The ground floors of which (I hope) will be independent coffee shops and retailers selling all manner of what-have-you.
That was a by-product of our visit to the university district. We'd got wind of street art project sponsored by Chulalongkorn University and heard great things about it so off we went and it did not disappoint!
Thai beach destinations have a bit of reputation for seediness and if one goes to Pattaya or Phuket then that side of them is certainly on view. However, with just a little more effort, one kind find a much nicer side of things. Koh Chang is one of those. I have friends who went there before it had electricity and, whilst its a long way from that now, it gives an idea of how underdeveloped it is.
We particularly like the southern tip of the island around the small town of Bang Bao. This town (well tiny village would be giving it ideas above its station!) is based around a jetty leading into the bay with shops, restaurants and bars on either side and beaches either side of the bay. There is also a thriving diving community with some fabulous days to be had snorkelling and diving.
As most of the restaurants and bars are built on stilts over the water, they have holes in the floor that allow you to sit with your feet dangling just above the water. You sit on cushions at knee high glass table the basically covers the hole, which is nice.
Its not the most exciting place on the planet but it is, well, just nice!
One of the nice things about here is that on some evenings Sukhothai is lit up.
So, a nice simple post this time. A series of pics from the sights we had seen earlier on the Saturday but this time at night. The only problem with this is being bitten. If you do go and want to see it at (The day time ticket is still valid for re-entry btw), then bring the mozzy spray.
A year ago we bobbled up to Ayutthia for a couple days on our way up to Chang Mai. This used to be the capital of Thailand until it got sacked by those naughty Cambodians. Now, don't get me wrong, Ayutthai is great but Sukhothai is really amazing.
In Thai, Sukhothai means 'dawn of happiness' and the whole thing is a UNESCO world heritage site. . The ruins are spread across 70 sq KM and there are more than 190 separate ruins. This makes a bike an excellent way to see many of the ruins. All the hotels hire them out for about 50 baht (a quid) per day. The main site is the walled area that used to be the Royal palace.
Somewhat bizarrely, but obviously correctly, Wikipedia starts its introduction to the History of Sukhotahi as being before Ice Cream! I'm not making this up!. Historians now believe that this important trading town started its secession form the Khymer empire about 900 years ago. Traditional Thai historians considered the founding of the Sukhothai Kingdom as the beginning of the Thai nation because little was known about the kingdoms prior to Sukhothai. Modern historical studies demonstrate that Thai history began before Sukhothai. Yet the foundation of Sukhothai is still a celebrated event.
There is a small admission charge but its valid all day so you can have a cycle round, nip off for a refreshing coffee und kuchin and then todal back, wander, go home for a swim, and come back again. System works well.
Whilst the ruins are spectacular... particularly at night when, if you go at the right time they are floodlight (see next post), it is the quality of the carving that I really liked. For example, please see exhibit 1, below:
Well, its been a while! Not really been anywhere either in Bangkok or further afield so nowt to report.
It is now the hot season here and Thai new year (Song Kran). My daughter completed her PADI open water last year and really wanted to dive again. That, and given that is as hot as a furnace in Hell at this time of year in Thailand meant we decided we would head to an island for a bit of R&R (I remember when it was I&I, but hey ho!).
We didn't want a busy noisy place so looked for one of the quieter islands... Koh Mak.
Well, its been a while!
The temple dates back to the Ayutthaya era, when it was known as Wat Sakae. When Bangkok became the capital, King Rama I renovated the temple and gave it its present name. Phu Khao Thong (Golden mountain, ภูเขาทอง) is a steep artificial hill inside the Wat Saket compound. Rama I's grandson, King Rama III, decided to build a chedi of huge dimensions inside Wat Saket, but the chedi collapsed during construction because the soft soil of Bangkok could not support the weight. The hill was built out of the mud dug out to make the canal network around Bangkok. During the reign of King Rama IV, construction began of a small chedi on the hill. It was completed early in the reign of his son, King Rama V. A relic of the Buddha was brought from Sri Lanka and placed in the chedi. The surrounding concrete walls were added in the 1940s to stop the hill from eroding.
Friends of mine who took 'gapyahs' (to be fair none of them are gap-yah people.) after finishing university went to Koh Chang. No roads, no electricity, just some bloke with a boat who dropped you off on a sandy beach. We decided that we wanted a short break on one of the islands but hated the idea of Phuket and the like. In the end this seemed to be right up our soi.
A bit of diving, a bit of beach, a bit of pool-lounging, eating, a cheeky beer or two and doing nothing much at all. Not our normal trip but, variety is the spice and all that.
This end of the island used to be a fishing village. Most of the new buildings are built on stilts going out into the bay which makes it look lovely. You also feel that the verdant mountains are right on top of one. You can also enjoy your well earned beer looking down through a glass table-top and a hole in the floor straight into the sea, which is a little odd. Relaxing, but odd!
This is an amazing temple, well actually a series of temples. I think it's really a monastery rather than a single temple. The one below is only open to males and is truly spectacular. The pictures don't really do justice to the amazing murals on the walls all the way around it.
Although some of the smaller stupas have a touch of the seen better days/jerry built about them, this is one of the more iconic sights/sites of Ayutthaya, with the three stupas all in a row and all still standing.
Built in the 15th century it was the temple complex for the adjacent Royal palace. It once was home to a 16m high seated Buddha. This statue was covered in 143kg of gold but, surprise surprise, it was nicked and melted down by the invading Burmese.
This was getting to be hot work so time for an iced coffee and a cheeky piece of cake!
First morning in Ayutthaya and a (reasonably) early start to avoid the hordes.
This first isn't really a Wat any more but it does have an amazing, pretty massive (42m long) reclining Buddha.
Just over the road from Wat Ratchaburna is, what is probably the most photographed sights in Ayatthaya, Wat Maha That.
Again, it is demi-derelict, well, pretty much totally derelict, actually. I love the huge torso-less Buddha in the picture below.
There are numerous Stupas to wander around and, although this was one of the busier sites it was still not too over crowded despite being there on a bank holiday weekend.
Ayuttaya is an hour away by train from Bangkok and it only cost 80 baht for the 4 of us to get there (Less than 2 quid!). Not each! In total! It cost more to get to the skytrain from our house than from Bangkok to Ayuttaya.
Ayuttaya is the former capital of Siam and, in its pomp was one of the wealthiest cities on the planet. The kingdom that it was the hub of was larger than Britain and France combined. Then, it all went a bit Pete Tong. The Burmese invaded and much that was valuable was carted off to Rangoon or just destroyed. The island that was the centre of the old city is now a series of ruined Wats which make a fantastic day or two of wandering. Having arrived and enjoyed a spot of lunch, it was off to explore. The first surprise was that, for the time being, entrance was free to everything. RESULT! Could be something to do with the death of the King, but whatever the reason, you don't look a g h in the m.
Wat Pho is remarkable. It has sprawling grounds dotted with stunning stupas (see future post) and the amazing reclining Buddha. This is Bangkok's oldest and largest wat. It is surprisingly quiet and peaceful for all that.
As regular readers will know I do love a nice Buddha statue and this is a goody.
Wat Traimit in the heart of Bangkok's China town is home to the worlds largest gold statue. A 3m high gleaming gold Buddha worth something in the 10s of millions in gold alone.
The Grand Palace is aptly named. It is not done on anything you might call a small scale. This is probably a good thing because anything smaller would just be terrible. However, its size just makes it most impressive.
Here is just a collection of photos... Can't really add to the grandeur of it.
Next up will be some of the larger statues of the Palace.
Well that's our China adventure over. A new job in Thailand. Some great things to see and photograph here. First up then is the Grand Palace in Bangkok. We have been here a couple of times when he have come here on visits.
The Palace represents two things that are really important to Thais: their Royal family and Buddhism. They therefore make you dress appropriately. It does get busy so get there either early or late.
The whole complex should be hideously naff. However, it is all on such a grand scale it just takes your breath away. A really amazing place.
I suspect that there will be multiple posts on this as it somewhere we will take every visitor. So, to start with here are some statues.
I loved this line of statues
There are tonnes and tonnes of gold leaf used.
Some of the statues are on a much bigger scale...
This will be a blog about my latest shots and what I liked or was trying to do with them
I am a teacher of Economics and have worked in various schools in Europe & Asia. One of the things I love doing is getting out and about with my camera.