On my 1st day in Bangkok back in December of last year, I went for a walking tour at Ratchadamnoen Avenue or the Royal Avenue (the highway near Khao San Road). No bus, no tuktuk, no cab, just pure walk all day long. I have no idea where I’m going, I was just following my map. (You can get a free map of Bangkok at BKK airport at the ground floor Gate 8 or at second floor near 7Eleven).
Armed with a map, a book, a backpack, my good old camera and my tripod, I stopped by at 7 eleven to get some drinks and chips. I then headed towards the end of Khao San Rd and turned right upon seeing the Burger King, then crossed the highway (Ratchadamnoen Avenue or the Royal Avenue).
I walked towards the direction of the Democracy Monument for my first stop. It was constructed in 1932 to commemorate Thailand’s first constitution. A few meters away is the Queen’s Gallery. Gallery hours are 10:00 am – 7:00 pm daily (Closed Wednesday). The admission fee is 20 baht. The exhibitions change each month and feature some well know artist as well as younger Thai artist.
Across the Queen’s Gallery is Wat Ratchanatdaram, built during the reign of King Rama III in 1846. Loha Prasat (Metal Palace) one of its tourist attractions standing on its 36 meters high with 37 surrounding spires is the only one of its kind left in the world. The two other formerly built in India and Sri Lanka were already in ruins. Despite its name, there is no metal part in the structure except the lightning rods fixed to the pagoda tops. It is open daily from 9:00 AM- 5:00 PM. Nearby is a beautiful pavilion newly built for receiving guests of the state, and the Statue of King Rama III.
I went out of the temple through its gate on Mahachai Road, then I walked a few meters to another temple, Wat Thepthidaram. China’s influence is heavily reflected through the designs and decorations of porcelain and Chinese stone statues.
Walking back to the Royal Avenue, at the corner where Mahachai Road and the avenue meet is Mahakan Fort ( Phrakan Fortress) with a short section of the old city wall. Both were built by King Rama I. The fort was among the 14 erected to guard the capital. Unfortunately my Bangkok raw photos last December were corrupted. Pictures posted here were retrieved from my Facebook account.
After crossing Phan Fa Bridge just outside the fort, you will see at a short distance away on your right, a magnificent golden pagoda on top of a mount called Phukhao Thong (Golden Mount). It is located in the compound of Wat Saket. Built by King Rama IV, this gilded chedi houses a Buddha relic from India. You can reach the golden chedi by climbing a 318-step spiral stairway. On top, you’ll have a wide view of the older part of Bangkok. ( I didn’t climb the Golden Mount until I went back April this year). Walking back towards the Royal Avenue through the Phan Fa Bridge, you can see the canal. The canal by the way has boat rides bound to Siam area for 20 Baht.
I went back to Mahachai Road and walked further and ended up at F. Nakhon Road where I found Wat Ratchabophit. Built by King Rama V in 1869, it was in keeping with tradition that each monarch constructed a temple to mark his reign.
I was tired and starving already and luckily, I saw a pink tent full of eatery selling Thai foods. Again, I had no idea where I was. I kept asking and even showed every local I met my map but they couldn’t understand since the places on my map are written in English. Anyway, having tasted probably one of the most delicious side-walk foods in The City of Angels (at least for me). I started to walk again and ended at Lumphini Park and took a quick rest. Finally I could feel some fresh air on my face and I’m surrounded by trees not temples. I was at the park together with Thai elementary kids playing but we couldn’t understand each other.
Okay, so that was a wrong move but I enjoyed the park after getting lost anyway so it was worth it. Studying my map, after the Golden Mount, I would’ve walked back towards the Royal Avenue and continued walking past the Democracy Monument then passed the street where I first crossed after I left Khao San Road until I reached Dinso Road and walked further until I reach the Giant Swing. (I highly suggest you follow this route to avoid getting lost like me. )
Determined to find the Giant Swing from the park. I went searching for Tri Thong Road and thankfully, I found it! It was originally a huge arch with a swing underneath and was once used in Brahmanism ceremony, dedicated to the god Shiva. It was also used for a contest, the search for a man who could swing the highest to seize a money bag from the pole. But because of countless accidents and even deaths, the event was stopped.
Beside it is Wat Suthat, one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, with roof architecture like that of the Grand Palace. It is the house of the main Buddha image, Phra Si Sakayamuni the biggest and most beautiful 8 meter-high Sukhothai Buddha image.
I was amazed with the frescoes (wall paintings ) inside this temple which is regarded as one of the best in Thailand. Admission fee is 20 baht. The temple is open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.
Across the Giant Swing are some major buildings in Bangkok. On its right side is a quint street filled with rows of establishments that sells Buddha images. On the left there is a short narrow path leading to Phraeng Phuthon Community consisting of rows of 2-story shop houses painted in green and cream and built in the reign of King Rama V (1868-1910).
My last stop for the day was the must-see Rattanakosin Island, where the famous Grand Palace and Wat Po is located. (I’ll write a separate post of its walking tour).
I warn you, this is a bit tiring so you may want to opt to ride a cab or bus instead when you go back. Bus# 45 & Bus# 10 passes by Ratchadamnoen Avenue and from there you can just walk back to Khao San Road.
It may look as if it’s a long day but I really enjoyed each moment. I was a stranger straying in a foreign land, and the people I met could hardly understand me, but seeing those places, praying at a temple of a religion that’s different from mine, learning about the Thai culture, eating with the locals and walking with them is one of the best gift I’ve received on my birthday. There’s a lot more about Thailand that I have to learn, but I’ll take one step at a time, and this walking tour is just one of them.
Indeed, preservation of one’s own culture does not need contempt or disrespect for other cultures.
Temple Rules of Etiquette
If you are sitting on the ground, tuck your feet under you so that they are not pointing at anyone or anything.
Do not take pictures of people while they are praying and do not have your picture taken with a Buddha image.
Women and men will not be permitted into a temple wearing revealing clothes, such as tank tops and shorts or skirts that fall above the knees. If you find yourself in this predicament, most temples will have sarong on hand for you to borrow.
Take off your shoes before you enter a temple for they are considered unclean and it is a sign of disrespect to wear them into such a sacred place.
Women should never touch a monk or hand him anything directly. When offering alms, place it on a table for the monk to pick up.
Viewed 25990 times by 12643 viewers