Bangkok: the Chao Phraya River and Dusit Park
Today was the day Rob and I had planned to visit Ayuthaya, which is about 70 kilometers north of Bangkok. Ayuthaya was the capital city of Thailand from 1350 to 1767 A.D. when it was destroyed by invading the Burmese army. The ruins there are now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and I had been looking forward to the visit. But the first rule of happy touring is flexibility, and we both decided that we simply were not interested in walking around the ruins in the intense heat. So I pulled out the guide book and found a new adventure closer to home.
|Shrine in Dusit Palace Park|
The Chao Phraya has been the primary thoroughfare for Bangkok for centuries. The riverbanks were lined with everything from modern skyscrapers to little wooden shacks. Grand old hotels displayed the elegance of an earlier time, and modern shopping malls catered to the consumerism of today's world.
|Skyscrapers and Hotels line the banks of the Chao Phraya|
|Tucked between the modern buildings are buildings from Bangkok's past|
|Old warehouses along the river|
|Modern apartments side by side with wooden shacks on stilts|
|A big shopping mall along the riverbank|
|Old houses along the river|
|The new and the old stand side by side|
|Skyscrapers of Bangkok|
|Water plants clog the riverbanks in some places.|
I caught a glimpse of the turrets and roofs of the Royal Palace, but it was not right on the riverbank, so it was a bit obscured by trees and other buildings. We will be seeing it later on our tour.
|The golden spires of the Royal Palace|
|Buildings in front of the Royal Palace|
|Near the Royal Palace|
|In front of the Royal Palace|
My trusty map showed me that the Thewet Pier would be just beyond the high cables of Rama VIII Bridge, and sure enough, there it was!
Just beyond the pier stood a line of tuk-tuks, the little motorized vehicles that zip tourists around the town. We had been warned to be careful of tuk-tuk drivers who offered "tours of the city" at very low prices. What they are really offering is a "tour" to a "gem shop" selling bits of cut glass at outrageous prices. But our driver knew that scam and assured us that he would take us to our destination with "no stops." We stooped under the very low roof of the cab and whizzed down a tiny street lined with nurseries containing every sort of tropical plant.
|A vendor sells tropical fruits on the Thewet Pier|
|Zipping down the road in a tuk-tuk|
|We enjoy our first tuk-tuk ride!|
Thank goodness we decided the take the tuk-tuk! On my map, the distance to Dusit Palace Park looked quite walkable, but it turned out to be several miles. We would have been dead by the time we arrived.
The main attraction in Dust Palace Park is the gorgeous Vimanmek Teak Mansion. It was built by King Rama V, whom you might know as Chulalongkorn, the young crown prince who was educated by Anna Leonowens of "The King and I" fame. When studying in Europe, he acquired a taste for some of the art and architecture of the west and erected a unique new palace combining eastern and western style and furnishings. The palace is built of golden teak wood and does not contain a single nail.
|Rob on the palace grounds|
|The Octagon tower of Vimanmek Teak Palace|
|Vimanmek Teak Palace|
|A little shrine on the grounds of the Palace Park|
Before entering the grounds, we went through several layers of security. First our bags were examined at an outer gate. We bought out tickets and then had to stow all of our belongings (including my camera) in a locker. Before entering the palace, we had to remove our shoes and then were patted down one more time. We had arrived a little too early for the English language tour, so we walked through the palace alone first. The entire house is surrounded by wide galleries, lined with windows that could be opened to the breezes in the days before air conditioning. Each room was filled with the furniture used by the several generations of Thai royals who made this their home - floral needlepoint tapestry covered the chairs, gorgeous floral carpets of white and rose covered the floors, and the cabinets were filled with china and bric-a-brac from around the world. Photographs of the royal family lined many of the walls.
|Our second tuk-tuk ride.|
|Monk on the pier. We have seen several monks around the city|