Land of Smiles offers plethora of heritage sites to explore

From Saurav Borah

BANGKOK/AYUTTHAYA: A trip to Bangkok offers various other attractions along with both ancient and modern must-visit sites the Thailand capital has in store for tourists across three seasons.
Apart from affordable road connectivity to inviting destinations such as Phuket, Pattaya or Krabi in the west coast, there are short journeys to impressive cultural destinations tourists can include in their tour schedule.
The first destination could be the Damnoen Saduak floating market, just about a 90-minute drive from the Thailand capital. Prior to reaching the destination, the banana plantains and the coconut trees beside the smooth highway do seem similar to the ones in the Northeast.
This must-visit site, the oldest among the many floating markets in Thailand, is a unique destination to behold as pirogues loaded with fruit, vegetables, orchids, Thai delicacies, decorative and utility articles, et al, gently snake their way on canals as they woo tourists to take home what they have to offer.
“There are motored ones too. But I suggest you take the manually operated boat which will give you chance to check and even buy the delicacies the sellers on the pirogues have to offer. But you have to do some bargaining to buy them,” said Anan, a travel guide in Bangkok.
In Bangkok, another must-visit heritage site for short-trip travellers is the Royal Grand Palace manned by disciplined guards in the ‘Buckingham Palace statue-like mode’.
The throne hall, the treasure hall, pavilions and ‘Wat Phra Kaew,” the chapel sheltering the precious jade Buddha statue gives first timers a slice of the unexpected testimonies of the Rattanakosin period and the masterpieces of Thai art.
The cloister of the temple shelters a mural depicting the story of Indian epic, ‘Ramayana’ (Thai version, Ramakein).
“Photography is not allowed inside the temple housing the Emerald Buddha. There is a section where only Thai people can pray while others are allowed to witness the gold-plated spectacle from a distance,” he said.
“The present king of Thailand does not stay in the palace anymore, even as the coronations take place here,” Anan said, referring to the changing times.
Now, Ayutthaya, the last capital of Siam, is also another heritage destination that Northeast travellers should pack into their schedules. Travellers who have been to the historic city of Sivasagar in Upper Assam will surely connect to the temples of the ancient Thai city which has over 450 temples.
The Wat Mahatat (the 14th century Temple of the Great Relics), located at the centre of Ayutthaya, is not just the symbolic centre where Lord Buddha’s relics were enshrined but also the residence of the leader of the Thai Buddhist monks.
“We also have the Wat Phrasi Sanphet and the Wat Chaiwattanaram in the vicinity. There would be over 450 temples in this ancient city,” said Anan.
A short drive away from Wat Mahatat temple is the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, a royal palace dating back to the 17th century. “Here, you have structures which are a mix of Western colonial, Chinese and Thai architecture,” he said.
In between the two-day trips to these sites, there are cozy restaurants which offer a plethora of sumptuous Thai delicacies such as ‘Tom kha kai’ (chicken with coconut), ‘Pad pak boong’ (stir-fried Morning Glory, which is a vegetable salad), ‘Pad cha’ (a squid dish) and ‘Tom yum kung’, a hot and sour soup usually cooked with shrimp.
With Nok Air, the twice-a-week flight launched last month from Guwahati, connecting the Thai capital to the gateway of the Northeast, now there’s more reason for travellers from the region to pack their bags for a short trip to the Land of Smiles.

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