Bangkok Style: Sunday Drive in a Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk, Bangkok, Thailand

When in Bangkok, one must Tuk Tuk

Known as a rickshaw in the west, the tuk tuk is the east’s primary form of transportation when facing the choking traffic of Thailand’s capital of Bangkok.

For more on the Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace: Click Here

For more on the Wat Arun and Temple of the Dawn: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Phra Kaew: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Arun and Temple of the Dawn: Click Here

Tuk Tuk

The Tuk-Tuk is synonymous with Bangkok. Named for its motor’s distinctive ‘tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk’ sound, it’s the best way to cruise through Thailand’s capital… as long as you don’t mind the choking-from-smog air. There’s no seat belt, no door, usually no-side gate for extra safety (though it succeeds in only making you ‘feel’ safe) and generally no rules. So I point, click and enjoy. And now through my lens, you can too!

Tuk Tuk


Tuk Tuk
Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk

Bike for Mom weekend was in full swing during this weekend in Bangkok. The Thai people love their Royal Family and they celebrate their birthdays in all sorts of ways. This year contained bike rides for the King and Queen whom they refer to as “Dad and Mom,” respectively. The ride took place on Sunday morning and thousands upon thousands of participants took part in it.

Tuk Tuk
Tuk Tuk

There are so many shopping options in Bangkok, making it a central hub for travelers and tourists from all around the region. For backpackers, the ability to engage in adventure travel in the heart of a big city is priceless… though you needn’t worry as those on a tight budget can get by on a few dollars a day.

For more on the Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace: Click Here

For more on the Wat Arun and Temple of the Dawn: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Phra Kaew: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Arun and Temple of the Dawn: Click Here

The Grand Palace at Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew Temple, Bangkok, Thailand

The Grand Palace is a highlight of Wat Phra Kaew 

Modern history meets ancient history at the Grand Palace of Wat Phra Kaew

For more on the Wat Phra Kaew and Temple of the Emerald Buddha: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Phra Kaew: Click Here

The Grand Palace

Having previously written about the Wat Phra Kaew in beautiful downtown Bangkok, Thailand, here is quickie on the Grand Palace of Thailand – located on the back end of the compound. The Grand Palace certainly gives credence to the name. Constructed during the reign of King Rama V from 1897 to 1903. The new palace, Phra Thinang Boromphiman (pictured above), was built over the site of an old armory after King Rama V had it demolished. The new palace was intended as a gift to the first Crown Prince of Siam, Prince Maha Vajirunhis. It was originally named Phra Thinang Phanumart Chamroon, however before the construction was finished the prince died of typhoid at the age of 16. Once completed the palace was handed to the next heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiravudh, who ascended the throne in 1910 as Rama VI. He later gave the palace its present name (Wiki). After seeing the Phra Thinang Boromphiman, you can literally turn around and see the original palace shining in the sunlight.

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace (Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang) served as the official residence of the kings of Siam (and now Thailand, for those who haven’t watched the play “The King and I”) since 1782. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) currently resides at Chitralada Palace but the Grand Palace is still used for official events. Several royal ceremonies and state functions are held within the walls of the palace every year. As mentioned in my previous post, the palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand and on this day it was easy to see why.

 The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace The Grand Palace The Grand Palace

Construction of the palace began on May 6, 1782, at the order of King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I), the founder of the Chakri Dynasty, when he moved the capital city from Thonburi to Bangkok. Throughout successive reigns, many new buildings and structures were added, especially during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). By 1925, the king, the Royal Family and the government were no longer permanently settled at the palace, and had moved to other residences. After the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932, all government agencies completely moved out of the palace.

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The palace complex is roughly rectangular and has a combined area of a massive 218,400 square meters (2,351,000 sq ft) surrounded by four walls. It is situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River at the heart of the Rattanakosin Island, today in the Phra Nakhon District. The Grand Palace is made up of numerous buildings, halls, pavilions set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards. Its asymmetry and eclectic styles are due to its organic development with additions and rebuilding being made by successive reigning kings over 200 years of history. The Grand Palace is currently partially open to the public as a museum, but it remains a working palace, with several royal offices still situated inside. After our walkthrough of the Grand Palace, we headed down the road to check out some other sites and grabbed a cab back to our hotel. As always, a quick drive through Southeast Asia can lead to its own little adventure.

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

    The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

For more on the Wat Phra Kaew and Temple of the Emerald Buddha: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Phra Kaew: Click Here

Wat Phra Kaew – Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Wat Phra Kaew stands out among all the hustle and bustle of Bangkok

Thailand’s crown jewel temple, the Wat Phra Kaew, features three massive pagodas in the Sri Lankan, Thai and Khmer styles.

For more on the Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Phra Kaew: Click Here

Wat Phra Kaew

Simply put, the Wat Phra Kaew Pagoda is a mix of three things: the spiritual center of Thai Buddhism, the former residence of the Thai Monarch – the Grand Palace, and a fairy tale. I’ll go more into detail, but that is the gist of what we’re talking about. That, and an incredible collaboration between religion, history and modern politics.

Wat Phra Kaew

Our trip starts out with the Temple Guards, who stand mightily by protecting tourists from taking photos without something clever in them. They did their duty with flying colors while I learned that Ethiopians are more afraid of horses than the Chinese or Koreans. There is a Genghis Khan joke in there somewhere, I just can’t find it. So after that discovery, we entered the packed compound and here it is ever more apparent that tourists have discovered Thailand whereas in Myanmar, locals still dare to tread. In a way it’s almost like looking into the future for Myanmar’s incredible sights as many tourists kind of cheapen the experience of the Far East… but then again, we’re here so… here are the crammed gates:

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew

After paying a small entrance fee and changing into long pants (insider tip: always wear long pants into religious sites in Thailand), we finally got a chance to take in the incredible and fantasy-minded Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The most sacred Buddha Temple in Thailand doesn’t disappoint in the least as three large pagodas surrounded by a more than mile long wall make for a once-in-a-lifetime skyline.  There are two main parts of the compound, the first of which contains three pagodas and the second contains the Grand Palace.

Wat Phra Kaew

The three pagodas of Wat Phra Kaew represent the changing centers of Buddhist influence. Phra Si Ratana Chedi is a 19th-century Sri Lankan-style stupa housing ashes of the Buddha. Phra Mondop, in the middle, is a library built in Thai style by Rama I, known for its excellently crafted Ayutthaya-style mother-of-pearl doors, bookcases containing the Tripitaka (sacred Buddhist manuscripts), human- and dragon-headed nagas (snakes) and statues of Chakri kings. The Royal Pantheon, to the east, was built in Khmer style during the 19th century. It’s open to the public for one day in October to commemorate the founding of the Chakri dynasty. All were closed while we visited as security was on high alert for the Queen of Thailand’s upcoming birthday (as a note, we left Bangkok the day before the bombing in downtown). Also to the north is a model of Angkor Wat, perhaps the most sacred of all Cambodian shrines. It was constructed by King Mongkut as a reminder that the neighboring state was under the dominion of the Thai. Thanks Wiki!

Wat Phra Kaew

Besides tourists, the first part of the Wat Phra Kaew compound is chock full of incredibly-detailed statues, figures and more. There is so much to see in the compound that you’d need a few days to take it all in. We tried, but again Thailand’s mini heatwave was baking this boy. So I’ll give a quick history lesson on this part and head to the Grand Palace after these pictures: According to popular belief, the Emerald Buddha is ancient and came from Sri Lanka. Art historians, however, generally believe that it was crafted in 14th-century Thailand. The much-revered Buddha image has traveled extensively over the centuries. The story goes that the Emerald Buddha was once kept covered in plaster in a monument in Chiang Rai, but a damaging lightning storm in 1434 uncovered the treasure.  The king of Chiang Mai tried very hard to procure the statute, but three times the elephant transporting the statute stopped at a crossroads in Lampang. Taking it as a sign from the Buddha, the statue was placed in a specially-built monumental temple in Lampang, where it stayed for 32 years. The next king of Chiang Mai was more determined, succeeding in bringing the Emerald Buddha to his city. It was housed in a temple there until 1552, when Laotian invaders took it. The statue stayed in Laos for 214 years, until General Chakri (later King Rama I) brought it back to the Thai capital at Thonburi after his successful campaign in Laos. In 1784, when he moved the capital across the river to Bangkok, King Rama I installed the precious figure in its present shrine, where it has remained as a tangible symbol of the Thai nation. It is feared that removal of the image from Bangkok will signify the end of the Chakri dynasty.

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew

 Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew   Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew   Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew

  Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew     Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew

Oh and of course the Emerald Buddha.

“It is not known when the statue of the Emerald Buddha was made, but it is generally believed that it was crafted in 14th-century Thailand. However, there are also claims that the statue originated in India or Sri Lanka. None of these theories can be firmly established as none of the historians could get a close look at the statue. The Emerald Buddha was found in Chiang Rai, Lanna in 1434, after a lightning storm struck a temple. The Buddha statue fell down and later became chipped, and the monks, after removing the plaster around the statue, discovered that the image was a perfectly made Buddha image from a solid piece of green jade. The image was moved a few time to various temples, first to Lampang, then to Chiang Mai, from where it was removed by prince Chao Chaiyasetthathirat to Luang Prabang, when his father died and he ascended the throne of both Lanna and Lan Xang, in 1551. The statue remained the it to his new capital of Lan Xang in Vientiane in the 1560s. The statue remained there for twelve years. King Chaiyasetthathirat then shifted it to his new capital of Lan Xang in Vientiane in the 1560s. He took the Emerald Buddha with him and the image remained in Vientiane for 214 years until 1778. In the reign of King Taksin, Chao Phya Chakri (who later became Rama I) defeated Vientiane and moved the Emerald Buddha from Vientiane to Thonburi where it was installed in a shrine close to Wat Arun. Chao Phra Chakri then took over the throne and founded the Chakri Dynasty of the Rattanakosin Kingdom, and shifted his capital across the river to its present location in Bangkok. The Emerald Buddha was also moved across the river with pomp and pageantry and installed in the temple of Wat Phra Keaw.” – Wiki

Wat Phra Kaew

The Grand Palace… coming soon.

For more on the Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Phra Kaew: Click Here

Wat Arun and Roll

Wat Arun Temple, Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok’s history comes alive at Wat Arun

The Wat Arun “Temple of Dawn” is a brilliant spot to take in some Thai Buddhism near downtown Bangkok.

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Arun: Click Here

Wat Arun

Caked in sunscreen on an atypically blistering day during Thailand’s rainy season, it’s easy to see why the locals are complaining of a heat wave… and why white boys from southwestern Ohio have a hard go of it traveling in Southeast Asia. Bangkok is only 45 minutes away by flight from Yangon, Myanmar, so a weekend in BKK it was! Our second day in Bangkok saw us travel to the outskirts of Bangkok proper to the Bangkok Yai district located on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The lovely Wat Arun brought us out of the Sukhumvit district in downtown and while unfortunately for us it was in the middle of a reconstruction period it was still worth the hour or so trek.
Wat Arun

Wat Arun, or to call it by its full name Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan, is a Buddhist temple named for the Hindu god Aruna. Meaning “Temple of Dawn,” the Wat Arun is one of Thailand’s best known and most ancient landmarks. Originally built around the beginning of the seventeenth century, it’s distinctive spires were built in the early nineteenth century during the reign of King Rama II.

Wat Arun

The compound itself is quite large, with several different temples all in a typically Thailand/Khmer-ish architecture. Something I’ve found quite interesting around Southeast Asia is that the Buddhist statues are all very similar while the architecture of each pagoda varies depending on the country you’re in. For example, Myanmar’s pagodas all have a very distinct gold-domed appearance while Thailand’s are covered in statues and intricate carvings and are colored primarily in a white-ish hue. This was particularly noticeable at Wat Phrae Kaew, but more on that in the next post.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

The main feature of Wat Arun is its central prang (Khmer-style tower) which is encrusted with colorful porcelain. The height is measured between 66.8 meters (219 feet) and 86 meters (282 feet) tall. Very steep and narrow steps lead to a balcony high on the central tower. The circumference of the base of the structure is 234 meters. The corners are surrounded by four smaller satellite prang. The prang are decorated by seashells and bits of porcelain which had previously been used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China. The presiding Buddha image, cast in the reign of Rama II, is said to have been molded by the king himself. The ashes of King Rama II are interred in the base of the image.

Wat Arun  Wat Arun Wat Arun

Next to the prang is the Ordination Hall with a Niramitr Buddha image supposedly designed by King Rama II. The front entrance of the Ordination Hall has a roof with a central spire, decorated in colored ceramic and stucco work “sheathed in colored china.” Basically, it’s incredibly colorful and detailed intricately. It is also a much welcome respite from the searing heat.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun  Wat Arun  Wat Arun

In addition to the towering stupas, a market, several shrines and monastery are all located in the compound. After taking in the incredible sights of the Wat Arun, we took a quick walk around the area (it’s a photographer’s dream) and then stopped off for a fresh coconut and on to the next stop on our journey… the awe-inspiring Wat Phrae Kaew.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun Wat Arun  Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Arun: Click Here

Bangkok Shop ‘Till you Drop

Terminal 21, Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok Shop UNTIL YOU DROP! Alt. Title – Leave the Mrs at Home!

It’s called Bangkok Shop ‘Till you Drop because lets be honest – after parties and ladies (and ladyboys) Thailand’s capital is a consumers’ paradise.

For some cool high-resolution photos from Bangkok: Click Here

Bangkok Shop

Everyone has heard the excuse “Sorry, my dog ate my homework.” It’s not funny or believable. The Burmese version of this joke is “Sorry the internet is out/incredibly slow in the entire country, turns out an internet cable was cut somewhere up north in the jungle.” Well, at least they didn’t say a tiger or elephant ate/stepped on it. Or something. Whatever, the internet’s back online for now so I can now share with ya’ll our trip to lovely Bangkok, Thailand. Going to hit it in three parts so here’s today’s rather short first installment on shopping.

Bangkok Shop

Bangkok is a a cash dump. I mean with every type of food imaginable, store imaginable, etc. you can literally blow your trip’s budget in a day. But hey, when you miss Starbucks’ coffee, $10 is no problem. In fact, I was happy to pay it #SkinnyLightCaramelFrappacinoForTheWin. Yeah, just like that. After getting our Starbucks’ fix, we headed down Sukhumvit way to the famous Terminal 21 Shopping Mall. Let me tell you, it was worth it.

Bangkok Shop

Each floor of the 9-story complex is themed for a different part/city of the world: the Caribbean, Rome, Tokyo, Paris, San Franciso, Istanbul, London and Hollywood. The intricate detail that went into each floor is incredible and the amount of stores… well there’s a lot.

Bangkok Shop Bangkok Shop

Most stores accept either Baht or US Dollars, so keeping track of the exchange rate helps. Money changers are aplenty in the mall along with free WiFi, however foreigners must register at one of two “gates,” whereas locals can register at any of the numerous computers in the complex.

Bangkok Shop

Bangkok Shop

Bangkok Shop Bangkok Shop

Bangkok Shop