Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 6:00am
Introduction to THAILAND
Date travelled: 26th January to 17th February 1998
Tour Operator: Kuoni
The Grand Palace in Bangkok, known as Wat Pho, should be the first place on any visitor's itinerary. Patterned after the ancient city of Ayutthaya, it is a huge compound surrounded by high white walls and occupying an area of about 260 hectares (2.6sq km). The palace consists of several buildings with highly decorated architectural details. The Royal Chapel, Wat Phra Kaeo, which is in the same compound, houses the Emerald Buddha, the most sacred Buddha image in Thailand. Photography is forbidden inside the building housing the Emerald Buddha.
The ancient city of Ayutthaya (full name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya), the Thai capital for 417 years, is one of Thailand's major tourist attractions. The 16th-18th century temple ruins at Ayutthaya in Bangkok date from 1350. Several kings of various Siamese dynasties reigned here until the city was conquered by the Burmese in 1767. Ayutthaya was named after the city of Ayodhya in India, the birthplace of Rama in the Ramayana and the ruins of the old city now form the Ayutthaya historical park, which is recognized internationally as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bangkok is a shopper's paradise and just about anything can be bought here if you know where to look. The night market at Patpong is the place to be. This maze of small stalls crammed into a few blocks in the southern end of the city is a bargain hunters dream. Be warned. Patpong is also known for its 'adult entertainment' and is not for the prudish.
This temple is Chiang Mai's most important and visible landmark, and overlooks the city from its forested mountain backdrop. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is 3,520 feet above sea level, and dates from 1383. The temple is approached on foot by climbing a steep Naga staircase comprising 290 steps. The less energetic may ascend by funicular railcars. The temple's golden pagoda contains holy Buddha relics, and attracts Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world throughout the year. Wat Traimit has a wonderful solid gold seated Buddha nearly 5 metres high and weighing five and a half tons. Situated at the top of a hill, with some 300-odd steps to climb to reach the temple. On a clear day the panoramic views of the city from the temple ground are truly spectacular!
40 miles north of Chiang Mai brings you to the town of Mae Taem and one of Chiang Mai's most famous attractions, the Elephant Training Centre. Inside a vast forested area, bisected by a river, mahouts teach elephants to drag logs, to respond to commands and to work the jungle. Until a logging ban was introduced in 1989, many of these elephants were used to drag timber down to the river, whence the logs would be floated down to saw mills further down stream. These days, the centre caters specifically to tourists, but still remains one of the great highlights of any trip to Chiang Mai. You can also see anything up to 30 elephants being washed and soaped down in the river. Great place for elephant trekking.
** Information on the travel pages was correct at the time of publishing. Passport & Visa information applies to UK citizens.