Tuesday, December 10, 2019
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Posted by arnon_k On September - 23 - 2010

Grand historical sites dating more than two centuries to the early Rattanakosin period abound in inner Bangkok. Exploring the area on foot, starting with the main roads along the Emerald Buddha Temple and Wat Pho, and weaving through small sidelanes, one will find modernisation has fused well with history and things other we associate with that era.

The Rattanakosin era started in 1782 when King Rama I ascended the throne and built a new city on the eastern banks of the Chao Phraya River. His residence, the Grand Palace, shares the same compound as the Emerald Buddha Temple. Around the city he built 14 forts, reinforcing them with walls 3.6 metres tall and 2.7 metres thick.

But not all of them are on view today. Only two of the forts still remain standing and in good condition, too: Phra Sumen on Phra Arthit Road and Maha Kan on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue.

Around these historical places new communities have mushroomed. Phra Chan is the name of another fort from that time. Today it’s an road with a pier on its western end called Tha Phra Chan. Here you can find not only various types of food and snacks such as mataba (stuffed roti), crispy garlic bread and roasted duck with rice, but it is also a hub for all kinds of services. The area has three narrow walking alleys or trok packed with shops selling amulets and Buddha images.

Tha Phra Chan is also where you will find fortune-tellers. It is a place where you can buy or rent academic gowns, purchase herbal medicine or even order a pair of customised high-heeled shoes.

Crossing the Chao Phraya River from Tha Phra Chan to Wang Lang pier on the Thon Buri side, you arrive at what today is the Siriraj Hospital. The area used to be the location of the royal residence of Krom Phra Ratchawang Boworn Sathan Phimuk, King Rama I’s nephew and a high-ranking prince.

A must-visit spot here is the local market located in a small lane packed with stalls and shops selling food and beverage, Thai dessert, Japanese sushi and somtam papaya salad. It is also a happy hunting ground for trendy youngsters looking for second-hand goods like clothes and bags, cheap fashion accessories and T-shirts.

From Wang Lang cross the river back to Tha Chang on the Bangkok side. Literally, Tha Chang means elephant pier, so called because during King Rama I’s reign mahouts used to take elephants from the royal stable to bathe there. A short walk from the pier, you will find a gate leading to the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple.

Another landmark in the area is the Silpakorn University which boasts a gallery where works of art are on exhibition all year round. It’s also a nice place to give your tired legs some rest.

Immediately south of the Grand Palace, separated by a road, is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Pho. It boasts a 46-metre-long statue of reclining Buddha, yoga inscriptions, sculptures of demons from the Ramayana epic and giant rock sculptures sourced from China.

The temple is also popular among visitors for its highly acclaimed traditional Thai massage.


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