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he TRAVELIFE team captured the beauty and grandeur of Thailandâ€™s centuries old history and heritage best embodied by the Grand Palace. The reign of the Chakri dynasty royalties started the construction on some of the most magnificent palaces in the land, and as we sift through its royal courts and quarters, we were lost in its magnificence and found an enriching experience amidst its regal legacy. The Grand Palace is situated on the banks of Rattanakosin Island. It took us an entire afternoon to explore this enormous complex of differing architectures built by Chakri dynasty kings. At night, it is best viewed during a dinner cruise along Chao Praya River, where golden lights pour on its towering spires. Photography by WILLY SAW. Special thanks to TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND, EMBASSY OF THAILAND TO THE PHILIPPINES and THAI AIRWAYS.
A F USION OF EAST AND WEST The Ananta Sa makhom Throne Hall showcases the sea mless merger between European and Thai culture. Its exteriors and interiors reflect Renaissance designs created by Italian architects while housing the impressive “Arts of Kingdom” exhibition of the country’s beloved heritage items by the students of Chitralada Vocational Centre. Thais take as much pride in their arts and crafts tradition as much as they value their palaces.
LIF E AT THE RIVER Apart from its palaces, Thailand is also known for its many colorful markets. The Da mnoen Saduak is one of the countryâ€™s many floating markets. Overflowing with boats, we enjoyed a slow cruise on the manmade canal, leisurely passing by stalls of vendors selling spices, souvenir items, clothes, toys and bags. Back then, floating markets were more than just shopping areas. They were thriving communities where locals live and do business.
The TRAVELIFE TEAM basks in Bangkokâ€™s rich cultural heritage
angkok is a bustling city that can charm you with its details. Yes, it’s a topsy-turvy metropolis infamous for its standstill traffic – the “Bangkok Rush,” as the locals call it. Nevertheless, its floating markets, wonderful food, enviable river views and famous spa treatments are irresistible enough to keep us all coming back. The city’s many royal attractions certainly provide a most suitable backdrop for a weekend or a week of sightseeing, pampering, shopping, or just plain fun.
STARTING FROM THE TOP The Travelife team arrived in Bangkok one late afternoon for several days of exploration. Almost directly from the airport, we headed to the Baiyoke Sky Hotel to catch the sunset from the top. We navigated our way around tuk-tuks and drove past colorful stalls of street food until we stopped right in the center of downtown Bangkok at Rachaprarop Road, where Baiyoke Sky Hotel stand tall among its neighboring buildings. At 88 storeys, it is Thailand’s tallest building and it offers a most scenic 360-degree view of the city, day or night, from its revolving view point on the 84th floor. From here, we looked out onto the city we were set on discovering, eyeing the landmarks on our itinerary. You can see everything from this vantage point. Our excitement grew as we watched the orange horizon turn dim and Bangkok’s city lights came on in a stunning show of brilliance.
A HISTORY TO MATCH THE VIEW Aside from offering a panoramic view, the Baiyoke Sky Hotel’s observation deck on the 77th floor displays scenes from Thailand’s Rattanakosin Era. www.baiyokesky.baiyokehotel.com
A GOLDEN AFFAIR Thailand is known as the gemstone destination of the world, and our visit to Bangkok was just in time for the grand celebration of the annual Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair, held every February and September. Foreign and local exhibitors showcase original creations using precious and semi-precious stones. Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra cut the ceremonial opening ribbon at the gala night. This was followed by cultural performance featuring the best of traditional and contemporary Thai costumes and jewelry pieces.
HISTORY OF THE GRAND PALACE The Grand Palace was built in 1782 after King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I), founder of the Chakri dynasty, moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok. The palace rests on a rectangular island called Rattanakosin, which is bordered by the Chao Phraya River on the west. While the Grand Palace is the official residence of the royal family, it also served as the country’s administrative and religious center during Thailand’s period of absolute monarchy. Following its abolishment, the royal family transferred its residence to Dusit Palace while retaining the palace as a ceremonial residence. It is now a museum and a tourist attraction.
GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS No matter how many times one sets eyes on Thailand’s Grand Palace, it is still impressive at first sight. At precisely 218,400 square meters and with towering spires piercing through the sky, the palace is dramatically breathtaking even from afar. We entered the Grand Palace from the outer court nearest to the entrance and made our way to its spiritual center. This is Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where a giant green jade statue of the Buddha is housed. This temple is covered with colorful mirrored tiles patched with gold finish, with several Garuda birds latched around it. Meanwhile, inside the dim, candle-lit room, we bowed three times to pay our respects to the Emerald Buddha, with our knees and forehead touching the floor. The Buddha was wearing its summer attire of a diamond encrusted golden robe when we visited
KEEPING TRADITION Her Majesty, Queen Sirikit of Thailand, established the SUPPORT Foundation that gives agricultural families a supplementary income, while helping to preserve Thailand’s traditional arts and crafts. Training programs on weaving, basketry, embroidery, and silverware, among others, are undertaken to sustain knowledge about creating Thailand’s most valued arts and crafts. Artisans who excel are recruited to produce masterpieces for the “Arts of the Kingdom” collection. This involves creating replicas of the royal throne, barge, sivikakarn (covered palanquin) and embroidered screens depicting scenes of Thai culture. www.artsofthekingdom.com
As we walked around the Grand Palace, we imagined days long past, of a royal court living out the traditions and legacy of exotic Siam.
No matter how many times one sets eyes on Thailand’s Grand Palace, it is still impressive at first sight.
CENTER OF POWER The Central Court is the largest and most important of all courtyards as the residential and state buildings are located here. Within this lies an inner court which used to be occupied by kings, queens, and consorts. It’s said to be similar to a town, complete with shops, schools, and government offices.
BANGKOK BY WATER Eager to see more of Bangkok, we booked a river boat for a dinner cruise for the nth time. This is perhaps the most touristic activity in Bangkok, but we love doing this as often as we can anyway. We’d already been mesmerized by views of Bangkok from the sky. Now this was a wonderful way to see the city from a different angle, and to observe the action on a river that is very much the lifeline of the city. We boarded our boat at the River City Pier on a cool evening that was perfect for sitting outside on the open-air deck. With the wind blowing on our faces, we set sail to see Bangkok from another fascinating angle. It seems this city with million-dollar views from the sky and the water, also has a million facets to offer those with the patience to uncover these. n
WALLS WITH A STORY The Ramakien gallery tells the story of the Indian epic Ramayana on Wat Phra Kaew’s walls. Originally painted in 1783, the 178 panels are have been carefully restored and maintained to preserve their luster.
KICK IT, BANGKOK STYLE Muay Thai or Thai boxing is a sport that combines lethal assaults with fluid dancing. Known as the “Science of Eight Limbs,” Muay Thai fighters apply eight different points of contact to attack their opponent.
FUSION OF ASIAN AND EUROPEAN
The Throne Hall is a two-storey white marble structure with a central dome under which the Royal Throne is positioned. Constructed by Italian architects during King Rama V’s reign, the hall functioned as the People’s Party’s headquarters during the 1932 Revolution. It was also the venue for the first National Assembly that same year, and then for a Parliament House soon after until 1974.
UNCOVERING THE SECRET TO A GREAT MASSAGE Learn about Thailand’s ancient tradition of healing and modern treatment, alongside spiritual and natural meditation. The Oriental Spa and Ayurvedic Penthouse is a wellness seminar that promotes a nourishing lifestyle. Their program includes a facial, massage, and Ayurveda treatments that balance the mind, body and soul. www.mandarinoriental.com
A BALANCE OF FLAVORS
Capture Thai cuisine’s authentic flavors by getting to know the local ingredients and learning to create heavenly Thai dishes from the best chefs and cooking schools Thailand has to offer. The Blue Elephant offers a hands-on cooking experience and participants are encouraged to fry, chop, and grind every ingredient to make a real Thai dish. A oneday group course as well as private classes are available. www.blueelephant.com The Baipai Thai Cooking School conducts classes in an open-air kitchen, which is the focal point of a pleasant two-storey house with a relaxing vibe.www.baipai.com
BANGKOK ON STAGE
Siam Niramit produces one of the world’s best cultural shows, featuring the country’s history and spiritual heritage in three acts. Enjoy scenes of Siam’s diverse culture, and get a better understanding of traditional Thai beliefs. The shows take place in a comfortable 2,000-seat theater, and there’s also a traditional Thai village showcase and a courtyard offering rides on elephants. www.siamniramit.com.
THE BEST OF BANGKOK Experience Thai culture, even for a weekend.
CULINARY CRUISING The Banyan Tree offers a delicious sail aboard the teak boat “Apsara” which cruises along the Chao Praya River ,while you feast on authentic Thai specialties and observe the bustling river life in Bangkok. www.banyantree.com
THE ART OF EIGHT LIMBS The Siam, currently Bangkok’s most talked-about boutique hotel, is also the first to have a luxury Muay Thai gym in Bangkok. It has a variety of training programs that help students master the art of eight limbs. After your workout, the Siam’s executive chef can prepare a personal menu based on your very own diet plan, to make sure you get the healthiest meals. www.thesiamhotel.com You can also experience the country’s national sport ringside and watch competitors defend their title either at Ratchadamnoen Stadium or Lumphini Stadium.
ORIENTAL SPA The Mandarin Oriental preserves the ancient healing techniques of Thailand at its world-famous The Oriental Spa, while adding state-of-the-art treatments and hydrotherapy facilities to its spa program. Guests are transported across the Chao Praya by boat, and then welcomed with a soothing tea and a private consultation with a professional therapist. www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok
STRAIGHT TO THE TOP The Vertigo and Moon Bar of Banyan Tree Bangkok is considered one of the world’s best roof top bars. It’s also the first of its kind in Asia. Devour a juicy premium steak while enjoying a panoramic view of the city at its open-air grill and bar. Don’t forget to gaze at the stars while sipping the famous Vertigo Sunset cocktail – you’re much closer to them now. www.banyantree.com/en/bangkok
THAI COOKERY The Mandarin Oriental is also the home to Bangkok’s finest cooking school. Food enthusiasts who want to learn to make delectable Thai recipes first-hand can enroll at this prestigious institution for the duration of their stay. This is perhaps the most luxurious cooking experience in Bangkok. www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok
explore NAVIGATE YOURSELF: BANGKOK
NEED TO KNOW Bangkok (or Krung Thep Maha Nakhon to locals) is the capital of Thailand. Bangkok’s strategic location near the mouth of the river served as a custom outpost with forts in the 15th century, thus playing an important role in Siam’s economic growth all the way until the present. It is also the largest city in Thailand, with a population of over eight million. TRAVELER’S CHECKLIST ASEAN passport holders are eligible for 30 days stay in Thailand. For more information, visit the Royal Thai Embassy at 107 Thailand (Rada) Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City. Tel (63)(2) 815-4219 to 20 | www.thaiembassymnl.ph CURRENT EXCHANGE RATE 1 US$ = 31.37 Thai Baht (THB) HOW TO GET THERE Direct flights from major Asian cities to Bangkok are offered by Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines. WHEN TO GO Bangkok has a tropical climate with occasional rainstorms. The best time to visit is from late November to mid-January when the weather is cooler. You may with to avoid the rainy season from July to October.
THE SIAM Located on a riverside, The Siam has among the largest rooms in the city. It also has a highly-rated Thai restaurant operating out of a historical antique teak house, and a private pier with a riverfront bar to relax and unwind. Travel up and down the river on its private boat to avoid traffic. www.thesiamhotel.com
WHERE TO STAY MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL Bangkok’s grande dame offers elegant accommodation, excellent dining and a famous afternoon tea in its bejewelled lobby. www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok
CHAKRABONGSE VILLA Chakrabongse Villa, which was once the residence of a Thai prince, offers historical rooms and authentic Thai food. www.thaivillas.com
ANANTARA BANGKOK SATHORN An ideal urban escape at the heart of Bangkok’s business district, this hotel’s contemporary design blends with a stunning panoramic view of the city. bangkok-sathorn.anantara.com
AMARI WATERGATE BANGKOK Situated in the city’s dynamic Pratunam neighborhood, this fivestar hotel is well-located for exploring the city and discovering shopping bargains. www.amari.com/watergate ROYAL ORCHID SHERATON HOTEL The hotel boasts of luxury resort-style accommodations located along Chao Phraya River. Its unique “Y” shaped property allows all rooms to view the waterway. www.royalorchidsheraton.com MADUZI HOTEL AND YACHT IN BANGKOK, THAILAND A boutique hotel located in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area, Maduzi embodies a tranquil setting with all forty rooms tastefully appointed. On display are the owners’ personal collection of teapots, rare antiques, and frescoes. Aside from the unique cultural mix of Thai heritage and modernity in its design and decor, Maduzi extends its services very personally, with a presence of members of the owning Thai family. For gourmets, Japanese Chef Yuya Okuda is preparing his fine French cuisine in a casual, informal setting at Maduzi Restaurant. www.secret-retreats.com/maduzi
explore NAVIGATE YOURSELF: BANGKOK
WHAT TO DO THE KHLONGS TOUR Explore the Thonburi Khlongs in style by hiring a colorful long-tailed boat to catch a glimpse of old-fashioned life is like in Thailand. SHOPPING IN BANGKOK A favorite weekend destination for locals and tourists alike, the famous Chatuchak market operates on Saturdays and Sundays, and boasts of over 15,000 booths selling everything from local handicrafts and antique wood carvings , to plants and animals. www.chatuchak.org
WHAT TO EAT
SOUL FOOD MAHANAKORN Taste regional Thai cooking amidst cool surroundings at Soul Food. Many ingredients are carefully sourced from small farms in the north of Thailand, with a preference for free-range, organic, and fair trade products. Itâ€™s also a bar that serves cocktails and plays cool music. www.soulfoodmahanakorn.com
NAHM Nahm is regarded as one of the worldâ€™s best restaurants. Created by Australian chef David Thompson, whose Nahm London restaurant won the first Michelin star for a Thai restaurant, this restaurant in Metropolitan Hotel offers sophisticated Thai cuisine adapted from centuries-old Thai cookbooks. www.comohotels.com/metropolitanbangkok
EAT ME This art gallery-cum-restaurant serves international cuisine with a touch of Asian flavors. Enjoy a sumptuous meal against a backdrop of modern and industrial-style interiors while gazing upon artworks created by international and local artists. www.eatmerestaurant.com
VISIT THE STUNNING ARCHITECTURES Two of the must-see architectural landmarks in Bangkok are the ancient Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and the Grand Palace.