Highlights of Thailand – Part 1

We visited Thailand as part of a three week trip through Asia, which also included Cambodia and Vietnam. Although there is so much more that could be visited in Thailand we concentrated on three locations:

  • Bangkok (including a day trip to Ayutthaya)
  • Chiang Mai
  • Railay Beach (across the bay from Phuket, on the Andaman Sea)

All three places were wonderful and are highly recommended. I will do a post on each major location. Thailand is a great country to visit (friendly people, relatively inexpensive, great food and amazing sights) and someplace that we’d love to visit again. In particular, the beaches and islands of the Andaman Sea are beautiful and alone are worth the trip.

Central Bangkok

Since we only had a couple days in this huge city, we decided to spend one day in Bangkok itself and then one day in Ayutthaya, the old capital city (now in ruins), about a two hour train ride north of Bangkok (I’ll do a separate post on this fascinating place).

Since many of the main sights in Bangkok are along the Chao Phraya River, which runs through the center of Bangkok, we took the “hop on, hop off” river boat (known officially as the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat) and got off at several stops going one direction, and then enjoyed the ride all the way back to our starting point.

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One of the typical tourist river boats – lots of open air seating.

There is a subway (metro) stop (Saphan Taskin Station) near where you catch the boat, making the transportation connection easy.

Below are a couple of key stops along the river:

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

This is a major Buddhist temple complex, a symbol of Bangkok and one of the tallest temples (76 meters) in the city.

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A view of Wat Arun and the surrounding buildings.

Wat Arun was built in the early 1800’s. It is decorated in thousands of tiny seashells and Chinese porcelain.

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The main edifice of Wat Arun.

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Detail of decorations of Wat Arun.

As the name implies, the views of this temple are best in the morning or evening.

The Grand Palace

Don’t miss the Grand Palace. Because we were visiting right before the New Year holiday, we were told by locals that the Palace was closed, but as we soon learned, this was a scam (they wanted to take us other places) and the Palace was indeed open (note: weekdays only).

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The main residential palace at the Grand Palace complex.

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The Grand Palace grounds contain a large number of interesting structures–some ornamental, others are functional and used for state events.

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Another view of the Grand Palace grounds.

The exterior décor of the palace buildings is quite spectacular and feels a little surreal; it gives one the idea of the wealth of Thai royalty.

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View of the exterior walkway around the Ordination Hall.

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Detail of the exterior decorations of the Ordination Hall.

The most important structure here is the Ordination Hall, which houses the Emerald Buddha.

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The Emerald Buddha (very small and hard to tell, but he sits at the top of the golden altar). I snapped a quick picture.

Note: It’s a good idea to wear long pants and modest shirts the day you visit the Grand Palace, otherwise you will have to stand in a long line and rent a pair of long pants and cover-ups, which is a hassle and takes time. We had to do this, and while the process worked it was a bit of a pain.

Temple of the Golden Mount (Wat Saket)

This was not a stop on the river, but is pretty close to the Grand Palace. We took a tuk tuk (motorized rickshaw) out to the temple, which sits on a small artificial hill, constructed in the early 1800’s. There is a fair held here in November of every year, following a Buddha relic worshipping ceremony.


My wife and son getting a tuk tuk ride.

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The Golden Mount Temple.

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Lifelike miniture images of Buddhist monks at the Golden Mount with offering bowls below each.

Since Bangkok is flat, it doesn’t take much elevation to get a good view of the city. The temple itself was not all that exciting, but the walk up the hill was enjoyable as were the views from the top.


A panoramic view of Bangkok from the Golden Mount.

Lucky Buddha

We made a quick stop here, with the local folks showing us how to make a proper offering at this Buddhist temple. It’s more or less a scam, but was still fun.

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My son making offerings at the Lucky Buddha.

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Another view at the Lucky Buddha temple.

Asiatique Pier

This a major hot spot for restaurants, shops and fish pedicure services. Nice setting on the river.

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A Bangkok evening hot spot along the Chao Phraya River.

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My daughter getting a fish pedicure at the Asiatique pier.

Just taking the boat ride along the river is entertaining as well. Here are a few views along the river…

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A view along the Chao Phraya river – a mix of the old and new.

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A typical scene along the Chao Phraya River.

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A view of the Bangkok skyline from the Chao Phraya river.