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Just after entering the Wat Phra Kaeo we saw the golden Phra Siratana Chedi, a 19th-century Sri Lankan-style stupa supposedly housing ashes of the Buddha.

Just after entering the Wat Phra Kaeo we saw the golden Phra Siratana Chedi, a 19th-century Sri Lankan-style stupa supposedly housing ashes of the Buddha. (click to enlarge)


Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Po was built by Rama I in the 16C and is the oldest and largest Buddhist temple in Bangkok. The enormous Reclining Buddha is 46m long and 15m high, with each foot 3m high and 5m long. The statue is brick, covered with layers of plaster, and gold leaf. The most striking part of the statue is its soles, which are decorated with 108 auspicious patterns inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

The soles of the enormous Reclining Buddha in Wat Po are decorated with 108 auspicious patterns inlaid with mother-of-pearl. (click to enlarge)


Wat Benchamabophit, called the Marble Wat because of the white Carrara marble of which it's constructed, is an early-20C temple designed by Prince Narai, the half brother of Rama V. It's the most modern and one of the most beautiful of Bangkok's royal wats. Unlike the older complexes, there's no truly monumental wihaan or chedi dominating the grounds. Many smaller buildings reflect a melding of European materials and designs with traditional Thai religious architecture. Even the courtyards are paved with polished white marble.

Wat Benchamabophit is called the Marble Wat because of the white Carrara marble construction. (click to enlarge)


The great chedi at Wat Yai Chai Mongkol in Ayutthaya was built in 1592 to celebrate King Naresuanís single-handed defeat of the then Burmese Crown Prince after an elephant back duel.

The great chedi at Wat Yai Chai Mongkol in Ayutthaya was built in 1592 to celebrate King Naresuanís single-handed defeat of the then Burmese Crown Prince. (click to enlarge)

Updated: February 2009. Click on an image to see the FULL size with a caption.


Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, known in Thai as Krung Thep (city of angels), is the capital of Thailand and is its largest city with a population of somewhere between 7 and 10 million, maybe even 15 million. The city is exotically set on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, which provides a welcome transportation alternative to the hot congested city streets.

After the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese Kingdom in 1767, the newly declared King Taksin established a new capital in the area of then-Bangkok, which became known as Thonburi.

For those of us going to the mountains of Nepal and from Nepal to Tibet, Bangkok is one of the main gateways, and deserves a few days. I found it's a bit better at the end of a trek or trip, when the lively city seems to provide a welcome respite from the rigors of cold, altitude and solitude.

There are some great day trips near Bangkok. My favourite is Ayutthaya. From its establishment in 1350 by King U-Thong (Ramathibodi I) until its fall to the Burmese in 1767, Ayutthaya was Thailand's capital and home to 33 kings and numerous dynasties. At its zenith and until the mid-18th century, Ayutthaya was a majestic city with three palaces and 400 splendid temples on an island threaded by canals -- a site that mightily impressed European visitors. Then, in 1767, after a 15-month siege, the town was destroyed by the Burmese and today there are but groups of crumbling ruins and rows of headless Buddhas where once an empire thrived. The temple compounds are still awe-inspiring even in disrepair and a visit here is memorable.

You can also visit the famous Bridge Over The River Kwai immortalized in the 1957 World War II war film based on  the historical construction of the Burma Railway in 1942-43. On the same tour you can stop at Nakhon Pathom to see the very large 120m Phra Pathom Chedi.


My Top 5 Memories Of Bangkok

1. The Grand Palace, featuring Wat Phra Kaew (The Temple of the Emerald Buddha) - Wow! I was blown away on my first visit in 1991. Stunning! One of the world's best. The gold. The architecture. The statues.

2. Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) - the largest temple in Bangkok and named for its huge and majestic reclining Buddha measuring 46 metres long and covered in gold leaf

3. Wat Benchamabophit (The Marble Temple) - beautiful white Carrara marble in a fairly new temple, set in beautiful grounds

4. Ayutthaya - the former capital of Thailand is just an hour north of Bangkok

5. Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) - stands majestically next to the Chao Phraya River. It looks better from the river than up close.