Thailand, fomerly Siam, is an extremely interesting southeast Asian country which is taking great pains to preserve its past glory. Bangkok, in particular, contains a wealth of structures which exemplify this Buddhist country. Check out my choices for the best seven of its many man-made wonders. A photo album will be posted subsequently.
1. Royal Palace, Bangkok. This grand complex, along the Chao Phraya River, contains a number of striking and significant buildings. Among them are the Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Chakri Mahaprasad Hall. This location was the official residence of the king from the 18th to the mid-20th century.
2. Wat Pho, Bangkok. Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, this religious center and place of pilgrimage is adjacent to the royal palace. The famous buddha is over 130 feet long and about 50 feet tall, covered in gold with inlaid mother-of-pearl. It is the oldest temple in the city.
3. Wat Arun. Bangkok. This temple, the Temple of the Dawn, is a large complex on the western side of the Chao Phraya River. Its central prang (tower) is extremely tall and is visible from a great distance because of its location on the river. The towers are decorated with shells and bits of porcelain which were used as ballast for ships coming from China.
4. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai. This popular pilgrimage site, just outside the city of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, dates from 1383 and is, perhaps, most famous for the legend of the White Elephant which inspired the king to build this shrine and temple.
5. Ayutthaya Historical Park, Ayutthaya. These ruins, recognized by UNESCO in 1981 and designated a World Heritage Site, preserve the remains of the royal palace of the former capital of Thailand (Siam) (1350 – 1767).
6. Wat Traimit, Bangkok. This temple is the home of the largest solid-gold buddha in the world. The buddha weighs 5 1/2 tons and is fifteen feet tall. It was cast in the 13th century, but was covered up with plaster for much of its life until accidentally dropped in 1955.
7. Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai. This temple is also a center for meditation and dates to 1345. It is located within the city walls and is a classic example of Northern Thia architecture.
Other sites considered:
Bridge Over the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi
Wat Benchamabophit, Bangkok
Vimanek Palace, Bangkok