Tag - metropolis

Central Thailand

Central Thailand
Central Thailand
Central Thailand
Central Thailand

Most visitors to Thailand begin their journey in Central Thailand. Although many find the bustling capital city of Bangkok a little bit too populated and overwhelming, there are many beautiful locations close by. Whilst in the metropolis, check out the large lush parks, chill out at a rooftop bar and take a trip down the river to discover the sleepy Mon settlement of Koh Kret, which is famous for its pottery kilns and abundant beauty.

There are 19 provinces in Central Thailand, of which most are widely visited by tourists and international travelers. Perhaps the most well known province is Kanchanaburi, famous for the Bridge over the River Kwai, tiger temple and stunning natural scenery such as the Erawan National Park.

There are also several beautiful beaches in Central Thailand, and Hua Hin should not be missed, especially during the Jazz Festival, when thousands of people flock to the beaches to listen to some of the best jazz music from around the world.

Dotted around the region are some enchanting islands and especially worth visiting is the pleasant beach area of Cha-am, which is just a two hour bus journey from Bangkok. However, the island is very popular with Thai people and can become very crowded on the weekends and during major holidays.

whilst lovers of history will find their heart’s desire amongst the interesting ruins of the Ayutthaya Historical Park and Nakhon Pathom, which is Thailand’s oldest city and features the largest stupa in the world.

Generally speaking, travel within Central Thailand is undemanding as there is a good road and rail network. Catering to tourist tastes and taste buds, this is a good region in which to take it easy and acclimatize to Thailand.

Phnom Pehn, Cambodia

Phnom Pehn, Cambodia
Phnom Pehn, Cambodia
Phnom Pehn, Cambodia
Phnom Pehn, Cambodia

Cambodia’s capital city is loud, dirty and rather violent on first glance, earning it the reputation as a ‘rough city’. However, scratch the surface and you will find plenty of pretty places to walk, good restaurants and interesting buildings. Although the residents are not as warm and welcoming as in the countryside, many people are willing to provide much needed advice and a friendly face.

Phnom Penh was largely destroyed during the time of the Khmer Rouge and is slowly being restored to its former glory. Also known as Riverside, Sisowath Quay is a pretty avenue running along the banks of the Mekong River and is an interesting place to walk in the evening when dozens of stalls set up selling everything from good meals to cheap souvenirs.

According to popular legend, the city was founded in the 14th century by an old woman named Penh who discovered a tree with a handful of Buddha images wedged in a niche. She recovered the images and had a hill – phnom in the Khmer language – built to contain them. The city grew from there into the sprawling metropolis it is today.  

A tour of Phnom Penh should lead you straight to the Royal palace with its Silver Pagoda and temple of the Emerald Buddha. Also known as Wat Preah Keo Morokat, the entire floor of the Silver pagoda is covered with over 5,000 silver tiles, each weighing 1 kilo. Inside is the Emerald Buddha, which was crafted from baccorant crystal and is one of Cambodia’s most famous images.

Opposite, the National Museum is home to some impressive Khmer sculptures, including many pieces previously at Angkor. This is a good place to get a feel for the ancient art work and various styles. Climb a hill at the centre of a small park near Sisowath Quay for spectacular views and to visit Wat Phnom with its resident monkeys.

To get an idea for the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, many people take a day trip to the Killing Fields, which are located at Cheoung Ek, about 17 kilometres south of Phnom Penh. Now peaceful, this is the place where the Khmer Rouge killed several thousands of their victims and visitors can explore the Buddhist stupa which is filled with human skulls.  

Another gruesome reminder is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which is the actual school building that the Khmer Rouge leaders converted to a prison. The museum contains a number of graphic photographs detailing the brutality and handwritten accounts by a few of the survivors.

On a lighter note, taking a cruise on the Mekong River is a great way to see the area, and many tour companies offer sunset dinner cruises. Before you leave Phnom Pehn visit Mekong Island and watch the traditional weaving.

In additional to the city’s many bars and nightclubs, evening entertainment is provided by the French Cultural Centre, who show regular movies.

Dusit Zoo

Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo

I am not usually a fan of zoos. The though of powerful and beautiful wild creatures confined to cramped, macabre-looking cages gives me the urge to storm into the nearest zoo and release the mighty beasts. However, for a long time my Thai friends had been singing the praises of Dusit Zoo. “You must go,” they would enthuse. “It is so wonderful.” Finally, my curiosity got the better of me. And so, feeling extremely skeptical and a little guilty, I found myself at the zoo entrance one Friday afternoon.      

As soon as I enter, I am greeted by the arresting natural beauty of the lake. Dozens of ducks and geese waddle on the grassy shore and float freely in the cool water. Over-hung with lush trees, the lake is a piece of Eden in Bangkok’s bustling metropolis.

Following the signs, I make my way over a bridge and find Bird Island. I push through the mesh-covered door and simply stare in amazement. I seem to be in the middle of a dense jungle! Overhead, birds and butterflies flutter and flap freely. In amongst the rich exotic plants, peacocks and other brightly-hued birds wander.

This is so far from the image in my mind that I feel my heart soar. As I explore, I find a few beautiful hornbills in cages. However, these cages are large and full of vegetation. As the graceful birds demonstrate, there is plenty of room for them to shake a tail feather.

Feeling elated, I leave Bird Island and find the gorgeous big black bears. They reside in a large, grassy compound. I am delighted to see that there are no cages in use here. Instead, the bears are surrounded by a moat filled with live fish; lunch on demand. The bears are enjoying a midday snooze, lazily stretching and wiggling their noses.

Next door, the mole-like sun bears are showing off their bellies by standing on their hind legs. They stay on a similar island, this time with a waterfall providing a natural shower.

Taking a left, I discover the impressive white Siberian tigers. They too live on a natural grassy island, sheltering from the heat in the shade of a natural rock cave.

So far I have been impressed by the zoo’s natural approach to animal captivity. However, when I wander through the tiger tunnel I am met by the more traditional zoo scenes; tigers, leopards and lions confined to somewhat small, metal cages. In one, a lioness is lovingly licking the back of her mate. She seems unaware of her cramped conditions, but my heart goes out to her nonetheless.

Feeling rather irate, I find one of the zoo workers and question him about the animals’ conditions. “Why are some of the animals in such natural-looking enclosures, whilst others are cruelly confined?” I demand angrily. “It is a shame, I know,” the friendly Thai man calmly replies. “But we are trying to change the cages. We must wait for more money, you understand?” The man points to the gorillas, who also relax on their own natural island. “In many zoos, these beautiful animals would have cages too, but not here. Here they are freer.” As I watch the gorillas swinging through the trees, I cannot help but agree.

Dusit Zoo covers an area of more than 47 acres and is home to over 300 mammals, 1,300 birds and 190 reptiles. It was formerly part of the Royal Dusit Garden Palace, or “Khao Din Wana” in Thai. Established by King Rama V, this was his private botanical garden.

In 1938, the Prime Minister of Thailand asked King Rama VIII to grant him the land so that he could open the zoo to the public. The king consented and, once it had been established by the Bangkok Municipality, the zoo was opened. It was turned over to the Zoological park Organization in February 1954.

The zoo has employed many field-trained zoologists, who have helped design the enclosures. The idea was to ensure that the instincts and behaviours of the wild animals were preserved as much as possible.

Wandering around the grounds, I come across the lemurs. These too are housed in mesh cages, although rather larger with tree trunks to climb and rope to swing from.

As I watch, a cheekily confident ring-tailed lemur springs onto the mesh right in front of my nose, making me jump!

A little further into the park, I come across a family of happy hippos wallowing in a large muddy pool. I watch transfixed as the male and female play with the tiny – well, tiny for a hippo – baby. The way their ears swivel is enchanting in way a way I could never explain.

After a lot of searching, I finally track down the elephants. Their enclosure is currently being transformed, although the keeper doesn’t know the plans.

Finally, it is time for me to leave. I cannot resist visiting the sun bears once more before I leave. One stands on his hind legs and wriggles his nose in farewell.

Information:

Entrance to Dusit Zoo costs just 100 Baht. It is open 9 am – 6 pm daily.

Getting There:

The main entrance is off Ratwithi Road. You can take many buses, including 70 from Chosen Road, 18, 28 or air-con bus number 10.   

About the author:

Kirsty Turner This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (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!