Little did we know that our stay in the downtown city of Bangkok wouldn’t go as planned… It turned out that the exact day we were in the city was the exact day that Thailand was holding its first “Bike For Dad” event. This was a huge cycling event in which Thailand’s crown prince personally led as many as 100,000 people on a 29km route around Bangkok. “Bike For Dad” was in celebration of the King’s 88th birthday (the second such ride held in Thailand last year, following August’s “Bike for Mom” which celebrated the Queen’s 83rd birthday). This inaugural event closed more than 100 schools for the day and around 80 some roads around the city, including major highways! We had to reschedule our Muay Thai match for a different location and day and many major tourists attractions were also closed. Traveling via the waterways were a nightmare, unbelievably congested and full, but many other transportation systems were not running or were closed off to some areas. Nonetheless, we were still able to explore this vast city of tourist attractions with its important cultural/historical sites, street vendors, love of martial arts, and popular waterways.
The Grand Palace really is a magnificent complex of buildings of great significance that truly make it a dazzling city landmark! Construction of the complex began in 1782 when King Rama I decided to move the capitol of Thailand from Thonburi to an area known as Rattanakosin Island on the east side of the Chao Phraya River. The complex is surrounded by 1,900m long walls and houses among other Royal residences, the throne halls, and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It housed the center of government and the Royal Court and became the center of the Kingdom. The Grand Palace served as the official residence of Thai Kings until the reign of King Chulalonkorn at the end of the 19th century. Today, the Palace is used for a number of Royal rituals, state banquets, and other official functions. The complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom.
The Royal Monastery is surrounded by walls covered with beautiful and very detailed paintings of the Ramakien, the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana. Large parts of the Ramakien were written by King Rama I and King Rama II. Many of the paintings tell scenes about the battle between good and evil. They were first created when the Palace was built in the 18th century and since then restored several times.
Wat Phra Kaew
More popularly known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew is regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. Located within the grounds of the Grand Palace, it enshrines Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), the highly revered Buddha image meticulously carved from a single block of jade. The Emerald Buddha is a Buddha image in the meditating position in the style of the Lanna school of the north, dating from the 15th century AD.
Raised on a series of platforms, no one is allowed near the Emerald Buddha except the King. A seasonal cloak, changed three times a year to correspond to the summer, winter, and rainy season covers the statue. A very important ritual, the changing of the robes, is performed only by the King to bring good fortune to the country during each season. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is beautifully decorated.
The construction of the Temple of Emerald Buddha started when King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I) moved the capitol from Thonburi to Bangkok in 1785. Unlike any other temples, it does not contain living quarters for monks. Rather, it has only elaborately decorated holy buildings, statues, and pagodas. The main building is the central ordination hall, which houses the Emerald Buddha. Even though its small in size, it is the most important icon for Thai people.
PAK KLONG TALAD- 24hr. Vegetable & Flower Market
Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad) is the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok. The market has all kinds of popular flowers and flora-related items, including some vegetables too! Flowers range from local species (jasmine, chrysanthemum, gerbera, orchids, lilies, roses) to imported species such as tulips, snapdragons, iris, lisianthus, delphinium, and more. Most of them are sold in packs of 50 or 100 flowers in each, and prices are amazingly cheap. Props and accessories for flower arrangements are also plentiful such as vases, flower pots, floral foam, ribbons, florist wire, twigs, and all kinds of decorative leaves. You will also notice that many of the vendors here offer flower arranging services. Previously arranged bouquets, flower garlands, and floral accessories for weddings or other special occasions. We caught glimpses of quite a few workers piecing together different arrangements.
During the day, Bangkok Flower Market is relatively sleepy, although you may catch a glimpse of wholesalers making deliveries or small tourist groups and visitors shopping around. Pa Klong Talad is open 24 hours but it is more lively in the afternoon/evening times. (We made it there just around lunch time). If you want to see the market in full action, it is said the best time to go is pre-dawn or at 3:00-4:00. They say the roadside transforms into bright and blooming colors, as the vendors receive floral goods from each flower-growing area in the country. Wholesalers bring in truckloads of freshly cut flowers, while traders and retailers come to buy their stock in bulk. I can only imagine how chaotic it must get at that time!
We just stuck to visiting in the early afternoon, observing and absorbing the surrounding atmosphere. Shops and vendors are housed inside two to three-storey shop houses on both sides of the main road. The market has a long history, all the way back to the reign of Rama I (1782-1809) when it was a floating market here. Later it changed into a fish market, before it became the kind of market it is today. It has been a flower market for over 60 years.
**Helpful insight: it has access to a river pier, so it makes for a great quick stop when combined with other historical attractions on your sightseeing list in the Old City.**
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!