Travel Articles Khao San Road

Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road. Introduction to Travel Articles Khao San Road.

Park Life

Bangkok Parks
Bangkok Parks
Bangkok Parks

I’ve often heard visitors to Khaosan Road complain that it is too developed, there are too many tuk-tuks and taxis and nowhere for them to relax and collect their thoughts in peace.

These people are obviously unaware of one of Banglamphu’s most beautiful and natural areas. For me, Santichaiprakan Park is a piece of Eden, a place to sit and read under the shade of a tree, watch the sun set or look on as groups of Thai teenagers and brightly-dressed backpackers do their thing.

As I wander through the park, I never know what sights await me. The park is situated on bank of the Chao Phraya River, and as I follow the zigzagging pathway a cool breeze blows across the river, welcome in the heat of the day. All around the park are benches so that people can sit and gaze out over the river. Many couples are doing just that, the natural setting acting as an enhancement for romantic feelings.

I pause for awhile under a huge tree tied with coloured scarves. This is the ancient Lam Phu tee, from which Banglamphu takes its name. The tree is believed to be more than 100 years old and is the last of its kind in the area. Nearby is another sacred tree – the Pho Si Maha Pho. The fruit, flowers and bark of this tree all have special medicinal properties.

The park was originally dominated by a sugar factory. 3.3 acres of this land were cleared and relandscaped as a public park to commemorate the 6th cycle of King Rama IX on December 5th, 1999.

Although often referred to as Phra Sumen Park, the official name is Suan Santichaiprakan. The name was provided by H.M King Rama IX and means: The Park with a Fort that Symbolised the Victory of Peacefulness.

It’s true that the fort has seen better days, but it is still an impressive structure. Situated at one end of the park, the octagonal brick and stucco bunker is 45 meters wide and a towering 18.50 metres tall.

Phra Sumen Fort, or Phra Sumeru Fortress as it is also known, was one of 14 forts built to defend against potential naval invasions. Now only two of these forts exist – the other being Mahakan Fortress, situated at Democracy Monument, near The Golden Mount. The fort is encircled by large cannons and has 38 rooms for ammunition and weaponry in its center.

As I wander around the fort, I come across a group of young Thai men playing Takraw, a special Thai game
similar to volleyball. Players cannot touch the ball with their hands but can use any other part of their body. Each team consists of three players and three contacts are allowed before throwing back the ball to the other side. I stand and watch for a few minutes as the players jump and twist their bodies into the air to smash the ball back at their opponents.

Around the other side of the fort near the river, an interesting event has just begun. People of all ages meet here at 6 pm each day to join this open air aerobics class. The class also draws a large number of spectators too as people of all nationalities gather to take in the site of dozens of lycra-clad bodies bending and stretching in the twilight.

The sun is nearly ready to set now. I walk through the park once more, past the dreadlocked backpackers playing bongos and wooden flutes under the trees. Their music makes an interesting accompaniment to the electronic beat of the aerobic class’ dance music.

I pause and watch a small group of jugglers practicing on a patch of grass. They skillfully twirl batons and throw balls into the air, twisting their bodies to catch the equipment with fluid grace. Nearby, a group of Thai teenagers are break-dancing, taking it in turns to impress each other with the latest moves.

The sun has begun to set now and I sit on a bench watching as it slips down the horizon.

Then it is back to Khaosan Road for a night of drinking, dancing and debauchery.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Mr. Thailand – Khao San Road’s Own Superhero

Mr Thailand, Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Mr Thailand, Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Mr Thailand, Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Mr Thailand, Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand

This man is not only a brilliant character and a great bloke, he’s a genuine entrepreneur. Mr. Thailand provides advertising services to some of Khao San Road’s establishments and has turned a rickshaw novelty into a paying job. In the process he’s made himself pretty famous! Kirsty Turner gives us the full details.

My Date with Mr Thailand

I’ve seen him around for years, driving his saamlor up and down Khaosan Road. With the music blasting from the saamlor’s speakers and flashing fairy lights, it’s pretty hard to miss him.

Then there’s the outfit. Like a colonial soldier crossed with Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Mr Thailand is one of the most interesting and unique characters in Khaosan Road.

My heart is beating slightly too fast as Mr Thailand takes my hand in his and helps me into the back of his saamlor.

It had never really occurred to me that beneath the crazy outfit and huge glasses Mr Thailand might be handsome, but as he flashes me a seductive smile I feel myself melt a little.

Mr Thailand reaches around and turns on the music. Everyone turns to look as we make our way down the road blasting out loud rock and pop music. This may not be the most romantic ‘date’ I’ve ever been on, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting.

We pull out into the busy Bangkok traffic, Mr Thailand turning around in his seat every few minutes to change the music and ask if I’m having fun. ‘Number 1 in Thailand, there is no number 2’, he tells me modestly.

I don’t want to be a backseat driver, so I let Mr Thailand call the shots and take me where he will. People wave and cheer as we glide slowly past. I try hard to hide my embarrassment, painfully aware that we are the main attraction.

Mr Thailand steers the saamlor slowly into Soi Rambhutri and I wait for the ground to open and swallow me up. Everyone is staring at us, not even bothering to hide their amusement. As backpackers salute me in my carriage, I try to console myself with the fact that in a few days they will have moved on and I’ll be able to show my face once more.

Unlike me, Mr Thailand is loving the attention. He stops and poses while backpackers take photos, making a point of greeting all the pretty women as he passes. Being with Mr Thailand is like stepping into the spotlight. Everyone knows him, from tuk-tuk drivers to pad thai sellers, and all greet him warmly.

As we go along, Mr Thailand points out his favourite places to eat street food and drink beer. He tells me that he loves drinking with Westerners, announcing that they are a lot of fun. The best part of his job, he says, is all the Westerners he meets. Make that all the Western women. When we stop, Mr Thailand shows me a selection of pictures of him posing with his arm draped around beautiful women.

Although he may look strange, I am quickly coming to the conclusion that Mr Thailand is one of the cleverest people around. The man – who mysteriously refuses to tell me his name or age – comes from Si Saket in Isaan, north-east Thailand.

Mr Thailand was working as a farm labourer, earning less than 100 Baht a day when he first visited Bangkok. He quickly realized that there was good money to be made, downed tools and relocated to the city.

Mr Thailand has now been living and driving his saamlor around Khaosan Road for five years. With no family ties either here or in his home town, he is free to peddle people around the city as he wants. The most popular destinations are Patpong and Sukhumvit, but Mr Thailand will happily take people anywhere they want to go. The fare depends on the generosity of the passenger but he generally receives 500 Baht for 1 hour of peddle power.

Our ‘date’ draws to a close as we stop in the middle of Khaosan Road. I somehow manage to ignore the backpackers’ stares as I climb down from my carriage. But Mr Thailand has one more humiliation in store. With a grin he introduces me to the stuffed parrot that sits atop his saamlor, motioning me to wai to it (putting my hands together and bowing a little in Thailand’s customary show of respect).

Then, with a toot of his plastic flower horn, Mr Thailand is gone. For anyone looking for a memorable experience and a moment in the spotlight, Mr Thailand will give you a ride you’ll never forget.

Getting to him:

If you want to find Mr. Thailand just wait around KSR and wait for all the head’s to turn – it’ll be him… His English is good enough and he is very willing to please. He’s a massive asset and brings a lot of joy to people’s lives, so be generous if you use his services!

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Wat Saket – the Golden Mount


Wat Saket near Khao an Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Saket near Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Saket near Khao San Road,Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Saket near Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Saket near Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Saket near Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand

I love everything about living in Bangkok: the hustle and bustle, the strange sights, even the strong smells. However, there are times when city life becomes overwhelming and I need to find somewhere to retreat for a while to soothe my senses. Whenever I feel this way, my thoughts turn first to Wat Saket, known as the Golden Mount; a large temple with a towering gilded chedi atop a hill situated just a ten-minute walk from Khao San Road.

It is nearly dusk and I find myself climbing the 318 steps that wrap themselves around the smooth white sides of Wat Saket. I find the staircase rather steep and I have to pause occasionally to get my breath back, trying to look as though I am simply enjoying the view. The Golden Mount was once the highest point in Bangkok. After being used to the flatness of Bangkok, the 80-meter climb can be rather challenging and I am glad to be tackling it during the cooler part of the day.

At three points, the stairs are broken by a short platform, and I pause on one of these to ring the large prayer bells. Striking the bells produces a deep, majestic tone, which resonates and carries out into the distance.

At the top of the stairs, I pause to take off my shoes and catch my breath, then enter the circular structure of the temple. Before climbing to the very top, I make my way into the center, where four niches mark the points of the compass and each hold a statue of Lord Buddha.

The center of the Golden Mount is lit by candles and smells strongly of wax and incense. The combined effect of the soft lighting and the heady scent makes me feel reverent and I pause to pay respect to each statue before continuing. This part of the temple contains some of the Buddha relics that were discovered in 1897 under the ruins of Pipraawaa near the frontier of Nepal.

Once I have slowly circled the centre of the temple I put my coin in the collection box and climb the short wooden ladder to the top. As I pass through a doorway, I am outside once more, the cool, fresh wind serving as my reward for having made the climb. The view from the top is spectacular – I can see right across Bangkok to the imposing structure of Biyoke Tower. Nearby the Chao Phraya river sparkles, spanned by the magnificent structure of the Rama IV Bridge.

At the base of Wat Saket, I can see the center of the temple compound, where a giant golden Buddha statue is housed in a bot – an open house-like structure – that has been extensively restored. The Buddha statue is situated in the samaadhi (contemplation) attitude with a disciple seated either side.

Situated in an enclosure at the front of the bot is a cutting of the sacred Bodhi tree, which was brought from Anuraadhapura in Northern Sri Lanka in 1818. This cutting is believed to be a grafting of the original Bodhi tree from Gaya in India where Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment. It is an honour to study and meditate at Wat Saket and the grounds contain accommodation for over 300 monks.

Wat Saket has a rich and interesting history. The temple’s full name is Wat Saket Ratcha Wora Maha Wihan, and it was commissioned in the late 18th century by King Rama I, making it one of the oldest temples in Bangkok.

The golden chedi was commissioned in 1800 by King Rama III. He wanted to build a replica of the large golden pagoda in the former capital of Ayudhaya, but the ground was too soft and the temple collapsed. The structure was left until the reign of King Rama ordered the restructuring of the temple and 1,000 teak logs to shore the temple and prevent it from sinking once more. During World War II, the Golden Mount was graced with concrete walls to prevent it from collapsing and extensive maintenance is carried out to keep the structure looking
pristine. The sun is starting to set as I descend from the Golden Mount. Before I leave, I pause and sit for awhile in the wooden gazebo placed halfway down the mount.Wat Saket is located near Democracy Monument on the Boriphat and Lan Luand Road Intersection.

The wat is open daily 8 am- 5 pm and although entrance is free admission to the chedi costs 10B, have a coin ready.The best time to visit is early morning or near closing, when the time to the top is cooler. During late October to Mid November Wat Saket comes alive the celebrate Bangkok’s temple fair. The festival lasts for nine days and features theatrical performances, circus shows, foods and souvenir stalls.

Getting There:

You can easily walk to the Golden Mount from Khao San Road. Simply walk to the Gulliver’s end and follow the road round to the right. You will now be on Ratchadamnoen Klang, a busy main road, with Democracy Monument in the center. Walk straight down the road and as you pass McDonald’s on your right you will see the Golden Mount up ahead.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Wat Arun

Wat Arun
Wat Arun
Wat Arun
Wat Arun
Wat Arun

For me, the Temple of Dawn always triggers images of adventure, heroism and, unfortunately, Indiana Jones. Even now, as I sail down Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River to visit the magnificent temple, the Indiana Jones theme tune is stuck in my head on repeat, an annoying side effect.

As the ferry rounds a bend in the river I am treated to my first glimpse of the Temple of Dawn, which is officially named Wat Arun after Aruna, the Indian god of the dawn.

Viewed from the river, Wat Arun is a stirring sight. Situated on the far side of the river it towers above the other buildings around it and looks very different to other Thai temples. Whilst the surrounding wats are short with shining gold roofs, Wat Arun looks greenish-grey from a distance and has an enormous bell-shaped tower, known as a prang, which stretches heavenwards.

I carefully step off the ferry at the Tha Tien pier and take another, much smaller boat across the flowing river to where Wat Arun waits. It costs just 4 baht to cross the river and the journey takes a couple of minutes.

I step gingerly from the bobbing boat onto a gently creaking and swaying metal pier and walk through a corridor into a large open garden.

I wander through the garden to the Ordination Hall, which contains the golden Niramir Buddha image said to have been designed by King Rama II. The way into the Ordination Hall is guarded be two gigantic demons, called yaksha in Thai. These demons stand either side of the entranceway and look very intimidating with their toothy scowls and huge swords. The white demon is named Sahassa Deja, while the green one is known as Thotsakan, who also appears in the Ramayana as Ravana.

I tentatively pass by the two demons and find myself in a courtyard of sorts, watched over on all sides by shining Buddha images. I wander through a doorway and into another, much larger courtyard, where many people are eating simple meals together at large tables.

I make my way through the courtyards around a small prang and through the garden to the main part of Wat Arun; the enormous 80 meter high central prang. I am surprised to see that this towering totem is covered with colourful pieces of porcelain, shaped into flowers and other geometrical shapes. In the past, this pottery was used as ballast by trading ships coming from China. The ballast was dumped when the boats filled up with goods in Thailand, so the porcelain is both a unique form of temple art and an ancient form of recycling.

The central prang is surrounded by four smaller prangs, marking the four main compass points. Around the base of these prangs are stone figures of ancient Chinese soldiers and animals as well as ornate bonsai plants.

One of the things that makes Wat Arun so interesting is the many styles it incorporates in its design. As well as the blending of Thai and Khmer styles in the central prang, there are also elements of Chinese, Japanese and Indian influences.

There are steep stone steps leading up each of the four sides of the central prang, which is divided into sections with platforms leading around each section. It is possible to climb up the first section, and those who make the effort will be treated with an interesting view across the river and surrounding area.

The temple dates back to the 16th century, when it was known as Wat Makok – the Olive temple. A highly revered temple, it had the honour of playing host to the mighty Emerald Buddha for a short time.

King Rama II started work on the central prang in the early 1800s. he also changed the temple’s name, which carries the full title of Wat Arunratchawararam Ratchaworamahavihara, a bit of a mouthful, to say the least!

The central prang was built to symbolise Mount Meru, where the gods reside in Hindu mythology. The four smaller prangs represent the four winds and are devoted to the wind god Phra Phai, who can be seen riding his horse atop each of the four towers.

Walking back down the stone steps is quite tricky as they are very steep and several are broken. Around the temple are several souvenir stalls, and I browse for a bargain before taking the ferry back across the river.

Within walking distance are the Grand Palace with Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Po, home to the Reclining Buddha and visiting these magnificent places of worship can make a good inclusion to a day of temple hopping.

The best time to see Wat Arun is at sunset, when the sky behind the temple comes alive with colour. The riverside restaurants just opposite make a good viewing spot. As the sky darkens, Wat Arun is illuminated by spotlights and the scene is very romantic, making this a great place from a date.

Information:

Wat Arun is open daily from 8:30 – 5:30.admission is just 50 baht for foreigners.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!